Tom Bansak

Tom navigates a boat away from the cabin

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 Flathead Lake 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 Master’s degree in 1998, Tom stayed on at the Bio 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 courses in ecology, natural resource management and policy that are accredited through the University of Montana. During this period, Tom also taught in Glacier National Park for the Glacier Institute and in Utah for the Canyonlands Field Institute, put on river ecology seminars for raft guides, guided whitewater rivers commercially, and explored many of the great rivers of the Western US on his own.

At the beginning of 2005, Tom returned to the Bio Station as a Research Scientist. From 2005-2009, he was the Research Coordinator for the North American component of the Bio Station’s large international project, the Salmonid Rivers Observatory Network (SaRON), which focused on the ecology of large in-tact salmon rivers of the Pacific Rim. This position had Tom based in Terrace, British Columbia for the field seasons (May-October) conducting and supervising 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 more local projects. Tom designed and installed LakeNET, a network of environmental sensors (weather stations and water quality profilers) around Flathead Lake. 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 Flood Plain research site on the Middle Fork Flathead River. He continues to oversee the maintenance of both sensor networks.

Tom contributes greatly to the education and outreach components of the FLBS Mission. He regularly gives presentations in schools and to the public and writes articles about the Bio Station, its research, and the ecology of the Flathead watershed. He assists with our summer courses, gives tours of the Bio Station, hosts visiting groups from local schools and elsewhere, and coordinates our public events. Through these education and outreach efforts, Tom promotes ecological understanding and the importance of science-based conservation of Flathead Lake and the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

Tom also serves as a Bio Station representative at natural resource management meetings and workshops, providing scientific insight. This includes the Flathead Basin Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Work Group, which strives to increase awareness about the threats of AIS (such as zebra and quagga mussels) and to prevent their arrival and spread.

Since late 2012, Tom has been playing yet another role: Development Coordinator. Working with the FLBS Director and Faculty, he oversaw efforts to raise $1 million for the Bio Station’s Flathead Lake Monitoring Program as part of the Flathead Lake Monitoring Challenge Grant. Since completing that particular challenge, Tom has been working to raise funds for all aspects of the Bio Station, including research and monitoring, scholarships, education programs, facilities, and personnel.


Informative Articles



  • 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)
Tom Bansak fishes (samples) a BC stream
Angling for salmon during some rare spare time



© 2015 FLBS, UM
updated: 9/2/2015 3:32 pm