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About ICF

Laura McMullen

Senior Manager, Freshwater Ecology
Laura (Ph.D.) is a natural resources expert with more than 10 years of experience helping clients tackle challenging freshwater environmental problems with innovative thinking and technology. 

Laura is an expert in aquatic ecology with over 10 years of experience assisting clients with freshwater ecosystem evaluations. She works with local, state, and federal clients to assist with watershed restoration planning, salmon recovery, and incorporating freshwater mussels into restoration and construction planning. She is also involved in the evaluation of the effects of flow regimes on river ecosystems and support for aquatic resources portions of environmental impact statements.

Laura’s work encompasses a wide array of aquatic project support, especially in the Pacific Northwest. This includes environmental DNA (eDNA) and snorkel surveys, assisting clients with federal and state funding strategy and grant application support, supporting environmental and historic preservation reviews, and ecosystem modeling and metrics support.

Laura is an expert in salmonid habitat modeling and creative quantitative data analysis and modeling solutions to freshwater resources problems. She directed and managed watershed-level modeling projects using our proprietary salmonid habitat model, the Ecosystem Diagnosis & TreatmentSM (EDT), for the Chehalis, Puyallup, and Lewis river basins in Washington; the Johnson and Tryon Creek and Umatilla and Willamette river basins in Oregon; and the San Joaquin River in California. The EDT modeling addresses client needs, including multidam system management, environmental impact statement modeling support, Salmon-Safe certification support, salmon recovery planning, culvert removal prioritization, watershed-wide restoration planning under climate change, and evaluation of dam removal scenarios.

Recently, Laura worked with local nonprofit partners writing successful grant applications that received funding to start a multiyear native freshwater mussel monitoring and habitat evaluation project in the Willamette Basin of Oregon. She managed the project team and conducted rigorous eDNA surveys for floater mussels (Anodonta spp.), western pearlshell mussels (Margaritifera falcata), and western ridged mussels (Gonidea angulata), which are under evaluation for a potential Endangered Species Act listing. The work included surveying “hot spots” identified from the eDNA analysis to gain a greater understanding of the habitat needs that can inform land owners, restoration practitioners, and freshwater system managers in protecting mussels and improving their habitat.

Laura’s work in rivers and her expertise in ecosystem-level effects of flow regimes began in graduate school when she was part of an interdisciplinary team studying the effects of experimental floods on a Sustainable Rivers Program project. The team contributed to an adaptive flow management plan while also conducting novel before-and-after control-impact studies at a watershed scale. Laura’s work focused on the invertebrate population and community responses to flood releases.

Earlier in her career, Laura was a member of a National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) working group on environmental flows and experimental flood science and practice.

Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Texas A&M University and earned her doctorate in zoology from Oregon State University.

"As modern, quantitative environmental scientists, we must also remember the reverence and respect we need to hold for earth’s diversity and evolutionary history, and the diligence we must exhibit in doing our best work to restore what has been lost and preserve what is still here."
  • Ph.D., Zoology, Oregon State University
  • B.S., Biology, Texas A&M University
  • “Conserving the Gems of Our Waters: Best Management Practices for Protecting Native Western Freshwater Mussels During Aquatic and Riparian Restoration, Construction, and Land Management Projects and Activities,” Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2019.
  • “Synergistic Effects of Climate Change and Agricultural Intensification on Steelhead Oncorhynchus Mykiss in the Interior Columbia River Basin,” Climate Research, 2019.
  • “High Mortality and Enhanced Recovery: Modelling the Countervailing Effects of Disturbance on Population Dynamics,” Ecology Letters, 2017.
  • “Quantifying Invertebrate Resistance to Floods: A Global-Scale Meta-Analysis,” Ecological Applications, 2012.
  • “Large-scale flow experiments for managing river systems,” BioScience, 2011.
  • “Ecosystem Effects of Environmental Flows: Modelling and Experimental Floods in a Dryland River,” Freshwater Biology, 2010.