Long-Term Fish Monitoring in Large Rivers: Utility of “Benchmarking” across Basins

By David L. Ward, Andrew F. Casper, Timothy D. Counihan, Jennifer M. Bayer, Ian R. Waite, John J. Kosovich, Colin G. Chapman, Elise R. Irwin, Alexa J. McKerrow, Jennifer S. Sauer and Brian S. Ickes

In business, benchmarking is a widely used practice of comparing your own business processes to those of other comparable companies and incorporating identified best practices to improve performance. Biologists and resource managers designing and conducting monitoring programs for fish in large river systems tend to focus on single river basins or segments of large rivers, missing opportunities to learn from those conducting fish monitoring in other rivers.

“Benchmarking” is a formal process of comparing your own business processes to those of other companies and then working to incorporate identified “best practices” to improve performance.

We briefly examine five long-term fish monitoring programs in large rivers in the United States (Colorado, Columbia, Mississippi, Illinois, and Tallapoosa rivers) and identify opportunities for learning across programs by detailing best monitoring practices and why these practices were chosen. Although monitoring objectives, methods, and program maturity differ between each river system, examples from these five case studies illustrate the important role that long-term monitoring programs play in interpreting temporal and spatial shifts in fish populations for both established objectives and newly emerging questions. We suggest that deliberate efforts to develop a broader collaborative network through benchmarking will facilitate sharing of ideas and development of more effective monitoring programs.