Dr. Chuck Theiling, PhD
RESEARCH AQUATIC ECOLOGIST
Chuck Theiling is an interdisciplinary large river ecologist with 30 years’ experience on Illinois and Mississippi Rivers ecosystem monitoring, management, and restoration in the river-floodplain and watersheds. Chuck worked closely with ERDC scientists since graduate school and moved from Rock Island District to ERDC in 2017 to emphasize innovative civil works management opportunities in Beneficial Use of Dredged Material in commercial markets and restoration projects and to develop hydroponic nutrient reduction systems for HABs mitigation on Corps projects. Understanding the influence of Corps of Engineers navigation and flood control systems has been the driving factor for Environmental Flows investigations that began in 1991 and have expanded to the Minnesota River Basin and other rivers through the Sustainable Rivers Program.
Current EWN Projects:
Environmental Pool Management – A collaboration with Rock Island District and the Sustainable Rivers Program (SRP) to present Lake Red Rock EWN case studies and collect water quality data. Four USACE funding elements support various parts of a comprehensive biophysical evaluations of water management actions. EWN will build a web page for other SRP participants to learn about new management alternatives.
Beneficial Use of Dredged Material
- Riverine Island Design – Restoration island construction and dredged material placement are important Corps of Engineers missions independently, but when integrated as an EWN practice there can be considerable cost savings. Project design criteria and construction practices differ depending on local conditions which can include firm sand in riverine impoundments, soft substrates in riverine backwaters, high current velocity channel borders, and tidal influences.
- Upper Mississippi River Beneficial Use of Sediment Investigations – Ecosystem Restoration and Navigation Operations have built many islands from dredged material using a common method of layering backwater mud over sand from navigation dredging to create habitat islands. The projects are generally successful but there is variability in vegetative planting success. District resources evaluate vegetation response, EWN supports researching the role of soil development on vegetation outcomes. Pilot studies initiated under ERDC-U in 2020 have led to sampling on a dozen project and local reference sites. UMRR projects are testing other soil alternatives like blended soils and compost amendments.
- Water Level Management – Dam operations often have flexibility to support multiple objectives beyond their primary purpose. Upper Mississippi River navigation dams have been used to support enhance wetland development within operating constraints or with pre-planning since 1994. The practice was operationalized on the Lake Red Rock flood control project following Environmental Flows planning in 2016. Current pool management supports enhanced fish spawning, shorebird habit, wetland expansion, fall waterfowl feeding, and reptile overwintering.