Jack Stanford


Professor of Ecology

Send Email: jack.stanford@umontana.edu

Office Phone:  406-982-3301   x236

About Dr. Stanford

Jack has worked at FLBS since 1971 and his research and education activities have taken him all over the world. But his heart is in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem where he has worked on everything from microbes to grizzly bears. When not fully engaged in ecology he is steep and deep in the backcountry, fly fishing the flats, or climbing some ridge or another just to see what's on the other side.

Professional Experience and Education

  • Professor of Ecology, 2015-current
  • Jessie M. Bierman Professor of Ecology, The University of Montana, 1986-2015.
  • Director, Flathead Lake Biological Station, 1980-2015.
  • Associate Professor of Biology, University of North Texas 1974-80.
  • Ph.D. (Limnology): University of Utah -1975
  • M.S. (Limnology): Colorado State University - 1971
  • B.S. (Fisheries Science): Colorado State University - 1969

Research Interests

I am an ecologist. I study the many interacting natural and cultural factors and disturbances that determine the distribution of species and productivity within large landscapes and their ecosystems.

I work mainly in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem encompassing the headwaters of the Columbia, Saskatchewan and Missouri-Mississippi Rivers in western Montana and southern British Columbia and Alberta. The crown jewel of this area is 480 km2 Flathead Lake and its 22,000 km2 drainage basin.

Flathead Lake is perhaps the most pristine large lake in the temperate region of the world. Since 1973 I have directed research at the Flathead Lake Biological Station demonstrating trends in basic limnological measures, such as annual nutrient loading, water clarity, primary productivity, phyto- and zooplankton species composition and biomass dynamics. Lake productivity is determined by natural (floods, droughts and wildfires) and human (accelerated nutrient and sediment inputs, flow regulation and introductions of non-native species) disturbances. This work has expanded to other glacial lakes in the Flathead Basin to study the influences of invading non-native species on food webs and nutrient cycling.

My concurrent studies of mountain rivers focus on groundwater and floodplain ecology. Penetration of river water into alluvial flood plains forms shallow aquifers that are inhabited by complex food webs. Upwelling of ground water from these aquifers back to the surface creates wetland or riparian mosaics on the flood plains that are hot spots of biodiversity and bioproductivity. Since 1999 this work has expanded to extremely remote and notably pristine rivers in British Columbia, Canada, and Kamchatka, Russia, where processes and biodiversity are influenced dramatically by marine nutrient subsidies from salmon runs. I use these studies to mediate conservation of pristine rivers and to determine restoration strategies for rivers that have been functionally altered by dams, water diversions, pollution and other activities.

I also have a developing interest in systems ecology – untangling the complexities of natural and cultural interactions in large landscapes. This includes analysis and modeling of processes, such as climate change, governance and valuation and use of ecosystem services that are critical to human well being.

Past Research Projects


Salmonid Rivers Observatory Network (SaRON)

- Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Bonnie with her salmon

The primary goal of the SaRON project was to quantify biophysical processes producing the Shifting Habitat Mosaic (SHM) and associated biodiversity in a suite of observatory rivers, in context of influences on salmonid population structure and productivity. Read more...


Riverscape Analysis Project (RAP)

- Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Most wild Pacific salmon begin their lives in freshwater rivers – in the same rivers to which they eventually return to spawn and die. The quantity, quality and complexity of freshwater habitat directly influence the production potential and survival rate of wild salmon. The Riverscape Analysis Project determines and ranks freshwater habitat abundance and production potential of Pacific salmon rivers. Read more...


Limnology of Flathead Lake (with B.K. Ellis)

- funded by State government and private donations
Flathead Lake from Yellow Bay hill

We are currently synthesizing the 30+ year Flathead Lake water quality database into at least 3 major publications. The synthesis will include long-term patterns of water, light and heat flux; food web change mediated by the introduction of non-native biota; and determinants of the long-term pattern in primary productivity. Read more...

Mentorship of Graduate Students

Graduate training of ecologists is a primary focus of my profession, and 47 students have completed advanced degrees with me since 1974. I welcome inquiries about available graduate fellowships and research assistantships. I generally accept one new student per year.

Applying to FLBS/UM Graduate School


Selected Publications

Full listing of FLBS publications

Most cited papers (selected from Full listing link above):

  • Stanford, J. A., M. S. Lorang and F. R. Hauer. 2005. The shifting habitat mosaic of river ecosystems. Plenary Lecture. Proceedings of the International Society of Limnology 29(1):123-136.
  • Tardiff, S. E. and J. A. Stanford. 1998. Grizzly bear digging: Effects on subalpine meadow plants in relation to mineral nitrogen availability. Ecology 70(7):2219-2228.
  • Stanford, J. A., J. V. Ward, W. J. Liss, C. A. Frissell, R. N. Williams, J. A. Lichatowich and C. C. Coutant. 1996. A general protocol for restoration of regulated rivers. River Research and Management 12:391-413. (most cited paper published to date in this journal)
  • Spencer, C. N., B. R. McClelland, and J. A. Stanford. 1991. Shrimp stocking, salmon collapse and eagle displacement: cascading interactions in the food web of a large aquatic ecosystem. BioScience 41:14-21.
  • Stanford, J. A., and J. V. Ward. 1988. The hyporheic habitat of river ecosystems. Nature 335:64-66.
  • Ellis, B. K. and J. A. Stanford. 1982. Comparative photoheterotrophy, chemoheterotrophy and photolithotrophy in a eutrophic reservoir and an oligotrophic lake. Limnology and Oceanography27(3):440-454.
  • Stanford, J. A. and A. R. Gaufin. 1974. Hyporheic communities of two Montana rivers. Science 185:700-702.


Most recent papers:

  • Helton, A. M., G. C. Poole, R. A. Payn, C. Izurieta and J. A. Stanford. 2012. Relative influences of the river channel, floodplain surface, and alluvial aquifer on simulated hydrologic residence time in a montane river floodplain. Geomorphology. In press.
  • Helton, A. M., G. C. Poole, J. L. Meyer, W. M. Wollheim, B. J. Peterson, P. J. Mulholland, E. S. Bernhardt, J. A. Stanford, C. Arango, L. R. Ashkenas, L. W. Cooper, W. K. Dodds, S. V. Gregory, R. O. H. Jr, S. K. Hamilton, S. L. Johnson, W. H. McDowell, J. D. Potter, J. L. Tank, Suzanne M Thomas, H. M. Valett, J. R. Webster and L. Zeglin. 2011. Thinking outside the channel: modeling nitrogen cycling in networked river ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 9(4):229-238.
  • Wu, H., J. S. Kimball, N. Mantua and J. Stanford. 2011. Automated upscaling of river networks for macroscale hydrological modeling. Water Resources Research 47(3):W03517.
  • O'Neal, S. L. and J. A. Stanford. 2011. Partial migration in a robust brown trout population of a Patagonian river. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society140(3):623-635.
  • Ellis, B. K., J. A. Stanford, D. Goodman, C. P. Stafford, D. L. Gustafson, D. A. Beauchamp, D. W. Chess, J. A. Craft, M. A. Deleray and B. S. Hansen.  2011. Long-term effects of a trophic cascade in a large lake ecosystem.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108(3):1070-1075.
  • Morris, M. R. and J. A. Stanford. 2011. Floodplain succession and soil nitrogen accumulation on a salmon river in southwestern Kamchatka. Ecological Monographs 81:43-61.
  • Whited, D. C., J. S. Kimball, M. S. Lorang and J. A. Stanford. 2011. Estimation of juvenile salmon habitat in Pacific Rim rivers using multiscalar remote sensing and geospatial analysis. River Research and Applications Online in advance of print via DOI: 10.1002/rra.1585.



  • 2012 – Conservationist of the Year (with B. K. Ellis), Montana Environmental Information Center
  • 2011 – Lifetime Achievement Award, International Society for River Science
  • 2005 - All time "Grizzly Great," The University of Montana
  • 2004 - Award of Excellence, Society for Freshwater Science
  • 2000 – Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science
  • 1997 - Distinguished Scholar Award, The University of Montana
  • 1996 - Mershon Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Montana Academy of Science
  • 1991- Gold Trout Award for Professional Service, West Slope Chapter, Trout Unlimited
  • 1989 - Fellowship, Foundation for Research Development, Republic of South Africa
  • 1980 – Jessie M. Bierman Professorship – a distinguished chair at The University of Montana.
  • 1980 - Fellowship, Nordic Council for Ecology, Oslo, Norway


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updated: 2/29/2016 11:09 am