Tom Bansak

Research Scientist / Development Coordinator

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Office Phone:  406-982-3301   x229

Tom is one of our river enthusiasts. After working on streams as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, Tom moved to Montana in 1996 to earn his Master's degree at the Biological Station.  His thesis examined the effects of nutrient-enriched groundwater on algal production on the Nyack Flood Plain of the Middle Fork Flathead River.  Also during that time, he discovered his passion for paddling whitewater.  Following the completion of his degree in 1998, Tom stayed on at the Station as a researcher on water quality studies, particularly the long-term monitoring of Flathead Lake.

In 2000, Tom switched gears from research and dove headfirst into environmental education.  For five years he taught field ecology courses, informing students of all ages about the wonders of our freshwaters and the threats that they face.  His main position was as an instructor (and then a Board Member) for the Wild Rockies Field Institute (WRFI), a non-profit based in Missoula that offers university-accredited courses in ecology and natural resource management and policy.  During this period, Tom also found time to teach in Glacier National Park for the Glacier Institute, to lead educational rafts trips in Utah for the Canyonlands Field Institute, to put on river ecology seminars for raft guides, to guide whitewater rivers commercially in Montana and Idaho, and to explore many of the great rivers of the Western US on his own.

At the beginning of 2005, Tom returned to the Station and to the realm of river research, as an FLBS Research Scientist. From 2005-2009, he served as the Research Coordinator for the North American component of the Station’s large international research project, the Salmonid Rivers Observatory Network (SaRON), which focused on the ecology of large in-tact salmon rivers of the Pacific. This position had Tom based up in Terrace, British Columbia for the field seasons (May-October) conducting and overseeing research operations on rivers of North Coastal BC and Southeast Alaska including the Skeena, Kitlope, Taku and Stikine Rivers.

Since 2009, Tom has been engaging local projects. Tom coordinated and completed the design and installation of the LakeNET network of environmental sensors (weather stations and water quality profilers) around Flathead Lake as part of our Virtual Observatory and Ecological Information Systems (VOEIS) project.  Recent data from LakeNET is available online at the FLBS Weather Center.  Tom also designed and installed RiverNET, an environmental sensor network at our long-term Nyack floodplain research site on the Middle Fork Flathead River. He continues to oversee the maintenance of both sensor networks.

Tom also contributes to the Station’s education and outreach components of the FLBS Mission. Tom serves as the Station’s representative to the Flathead Basin Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Work Group which is trying to increase awareness of the threats of AIS (such as zebra and quagga mussels) and to prevent their arrival and spread in the watershed.  He assists with our summer session courses, and often hosts visiting groups from local schools and elsewhere, giving presentations to them about river and lake ecology, the history of the Station, and the Station’s past and present research efforts that contribute to the understanding and conservation of Flathead Lake and the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

Recently, Tom has taken on a new role as Development Coordinator for the Flathead Lake Monitoring Challenge Grant, dedicating a portion of his time to work with Drs. Jack Stanford and Bonnie Ellis to raise the required $1 million match for the FLBS Lake Monitoring and Research Fund.

 

Education

  • M.S. 1998. Aquatic Ecology. Flathead Lake Biological Station, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT
  • B.A. 1994. Environmental and Evolutionary Biology. Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
  • H.S. 1990. Groton School, Groton, MA
  • Resume (PDF, 28Kb)

Angling for salmon during some rare spare time