Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Systems Ecology

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

John Kimball

Commitee Members

Marco Maneta, Paul Lukacs


Machine Learning, Aquatic Invasive Species


University of Montana


The urgent decision-making needs of invasive species managers can be better met by the integration of biodiversity big data with large-domain models and environmental data products in the form of new workflows and tools that facilitate data utilization across platforms. Timely risk assessments allow for the spatial prioritization of monitoring that could streamline invasive species management paradigms and invasive species’ ability to prevent irreversible damage, such that decision makers can focus surveillance and intervention efforts where they are likely to be most effective under budgetary and resource constraints. I present a workflow that generates rapid spatial risk assessments on aquatic invasive species by combining occurrence data, spatially explicit environmental data, and an ensemble approach to species distribution modeling using five machine learning algorithms. For proof of concept and validation, I tested this workflow using extensive spatial and temporal occurrence data from Rainbow Trout (RBT; Oncorhynchus mykiss) invasion in the upper Flathead River system in northwestern Montana, USA. Due to this workflow’s high performance against cross-validated datasets (87% accuracy) and congruence with known drivers of RBT invasion, I developed a tool that generates agile risk assessments based on the above workflow and suggest that it can be generalized to broader spatial and taxonomic scales in order to provide data-driven management information for early detection of potential invaders. I then use this tool as technical input for a management framework that provides guidance for users to incorporate and synthesize the component features of the workflow and toolkit to derive actionable insight in an efficient manner.



© Copyright 2022 Sean C. Carter