Research Assistant Professor

Dr. Williams grew up around the Appalachian foothills of Coshocton, Ohio (an old Erie Canal town). As a youth, he enjoyed water, fishing, being outdoors, and playing soccer. During his last quarter of undergraduate study, he discovered Limnology, the study of inland waters, which led him to work as a commercial fisheries biological observer through the National Marine Fisheries Service on the Bering Sea (Alaska). As an observer, he was curious how fishing operations impacted the microbial food web of the ocean but did not have the training to answer these questions.

Dr. Williams went to Florida International University (Miami) to study microbial food webs and earned his Ph.D. in 2008. Prior to joining the Rubenstein School, Dr. Williams completed two Postdoctoral Research positions (the first at Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario) and the second at Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa)) and served as an Assistant Professor at The College of Brockport. As a Postdoc, Dr. Williams shifted from marine to freshwater systems, where he studied how land use change and human disturbances impact aquatic carbon and nutrient cycles at ecosystem scales. As an Assistant Professor, Dr. William's research focused on coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes and understanding how human activities and restoration influence there carbon cycles. Throughout these scientific adventures, he has maintained a love of soccer and is looking forward to finding a pickup game soon.

Current Research

Humans have fundamentally altered ecosystems and their elemental cycles. Dr. Williams' research programs seeks to understand how human activities drive water quality and the type and amount of detritus (i.e., organic matter) cycled through aquatic ecosystems. This research aims to understand how our ecosystems have changed in response to human disturbances, so that we can restore and manage ecosystem function to best meet human demand and environmental sustainability.

Dr. Williams is currently collaborating with Dr. Helen Baluch (University of Saskatchewan) to understand the impact of natural organic matter levels on drinking water quality and the formation of carcinogenic, disinfection by-products. The goal is to help water treatment plant officers manage their reservoir (Buffalo Pound) and treatment process to provide the best water resource for southern Saskatchewan residents. In addition, Dr. Williams is collaborating with Drs. Roxanne Razavi and Lisa Cleckner (Hobart and Williams Smith Colleges' Finger Lakes Institute) to study methylmercury cycles across the New York Finger Lakes. His interests in the project revolve around determining how dissolved organic matter composition and concentration influence methylmercury accumulation in aquatic food webs.

Clay Williams

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Instructional programs: Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources
Research: Effects of human activities & natural mechanisms on aquatic biogeochemical cycles & microbial ecology


  • Ph.D. Biology, Florida International University, 2008
  • B.S. Zoology, The Ohio State University, 2000
  • B.S. Psychology, The Ohio State University, 2000


  • 802-656-1718
Office Location:

Aiken 211