Joe Hightower

Contact Information

Office Address
Applied Ecology
225A David Clark Labs
NC State University
Raleigh, NC 27695

Phone Number

Fax Number


Twitter: @JHightower_

Joseph E. Hightower

Assistant Unit Leader, North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
Professor, Applied Ecology


1984 – Ph.D., University of Georgia

Research Interests

Weir used to monitor fish migration

My research is focused in two areas: (1) developing new methods for studying fish population dynamics, particularly abundance and mortality; and (2) ecology and restoration of anadromous fishes (species that live in the ocean but spawn in coastal rivers). Methods for studying population dynamics include use of tagging and telemetry to estimate mortality rates and use of hydroacoustics to estimate abundance and site occupancy. Research on anadromous fishes has focused on abundance, migratory behavior, spawning ecology and effects of dams.

Current Projects

Movement and mortality of spotted seatrout in North Carolina: a combined conventional tag and telemetry approach.
North Carolina Fishery Resource Grant and North Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Co-PIs Jeff Buckel (NCSU), Ken Pollock (NCSU), and Beth Burns (NCDMF). NCSU PhD student Tim Ellis.  2009-2013.

Sources of mortality and movements of weakfish tagged in North Carolina.
North Carolina Marine Resources Fund. Co-PI Jeff Buckel (NCSU), Collaborators Lee Paramore (NCDMF) and Barbie Byrd (NOAA).  NCSU PhD student Jacob Krause. 2013-2017.

Assessing mortality, tag reporting rate, and movement patterns of Albemarle Sound-Roanoke River (AR) striped bass using conventional, passive integrated transponder (PIT), and telemetry tagging techniques..
North Carolina Marine Resources Fund. Co-PI Julie Harris (USFWS). Post-doctoral researcher Jody Callihan. 2010-2014.

Riverine movements of shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NCSU PhD student Jared Flowers. 2010-2014.

Evaluation of fish passage following installation of a rock arch rapids at lock and dam #1, Cape Fear River, North Carolina.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Post-doctoral researcher Joshua Raabe.  2012-2014.

Characterizing habitat suitability for American shad in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Post-doctoral researcher Joshua Raabe. 2011-2013.

Graduate Students

Tim Ellis (co-advised)
Jared Flowers
Jacob Krause (co-advised)
Paul Rudershausen (co-advised)

Selected Publications

Nelson, T. C., P. Doukakis, S. T. Lindley, A. D. Schreier, J. E. Hightower, L.R. Hildebrand, R.E. Whitlock, M.A.H. Webb. 2013. Research Tools to Investigate Movements, Migrations, and Life History of Sturgeons (Acipenseridae), with an Emphasis on Marine-Oriented Populations.  PLoS ONE 8(8): e71552. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071552.  Online here.

Flowers, H. J., and J. E. Hightower. 2013. A Novel Approach to Surveying Sturgeon Using Side-scan Sonar and Occupancy Modeling.  Marine and Coastal Fisheries:  Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 5:211-223. Online here.

Hightower, J. E., and K. H. Pollock.  2013. Tagging methods for estimating population size and mortality rates of inland striped bass populations.  Pages 249-262 in J. S. Bulak, C. C. Coutant, and J. A. Rice editors. Biology and management of inland striped bass and striped bass hybrids. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 80, Bethesda, Maryland.

Hightower, J. E., K. J. Magowan, L. M. Brown, and D. A. Fox. 2013. Reliability of fish size estimates obtained from multibeam imaging sonar. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management. Online here.

Hightower, J.E., J. E. Harris, J. K. Raabe, P. Brownell, and C. A. Drew. 2012. A Bayesian habitat suitability model for spawning American shad in southeastern United States rivers. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 3(2):184–198. Online here.

Harris, J. E., and J. E. Hightower. 2012. Demographic population model for American shad: will access to additional habitat upstream of dams increase population sizes? Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Services 4:262-283. Online here.

Link to NCSU Scholarly Repository