Faculty, staff, and students with expertise in aquatic ecology, lake studies, and fisheries biology are conducting research on a broad array of topics including food web dynamics and eutrophication in Lake Champlain, sources and control strategies for nonpoint source pollution in agricultural and developed watersheds, ecology of toxic cyanobacteria blooms, nonnative and invasive species impacts on aquatic ecosystems, fish population dynamics and restoration, and climate change impacts in arctic and local watersheds and potential adaptation strategies. The UVM research vessel Melosira and state-of-the-art research laboratories in the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory on the Burlington waterfront support this work.
Faculty Research Program Descriptions
William "Breck" Bowden: Arctic system science; watershed science and managment
Breck's research focuses on stream ecology, hydrology, and biogeochemistry in a watershed context. Specifically, his work includes long-term ecological research in Alaska, the effects of permafrost degradation in the Arctic, and how influences of different stream inputs affect nutrient concentration in changing seasons and climate. Breck is also interested in how scientific knowledge is used to inform management and policy decisions. He works in partnership with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation to develop scientifically supportable and easily understandable stream management objectives.
Ellen Marsden: Fisheries; native fish restoration; aquatic exotic species
Ellen's work involves fisheries restoration and ecology. Currently, her research focuses on lake trout early life history and spawning behavior, genetic studies of species after lake habitat fragmentation, and lamprey out-migration behavior. Additional research includes impacts of invasive alewife, identification of the stream origins of parasitic lamprey, invasive species in the Champlain Canal, and population dynamics of lake whitefish.
Mindy Morales-Williams: Biogeochemical nutrient cycling, algal and microbial ecology, and harmful phytoplankton blooms in freshwater and coastal systems
Mindy is a limnologist specializing in phycology and biogeochemistry. Her research interests include phytoplankton community ecology, cyanobacteria bloom dynamics, land-water linkages, and effects of eutrophication on carbon cycling in lake ecosystems. She investigates how fine scale physiological and ecological mechanisms feedback to drive ecosystem and landscape scale processes.
Donna Parrish: Fisheries ecology
As leader of the Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Donna’s research focuses on restoration of native fishes, acoustical sampling, and energy flow in ecosystems. Her current projects involve Atlantic salmon survival with fluctuating temperature related to climate change, the impacts of invasive alewife on rainbow smelt and the Lake Champlain ecosystem, and Stonecat populations in Vermont.
Kristine Stepenuck: Impacts of land use on water quality, citizen science and volunteer monitoring, understanding outcomes of monitoring and community outreach efforts
Kris' research includes assessing impacts of land use on water quality, comparing volunteer to professional water monitoring methods, and assessing outcomes of volunteer water monitoring and other citizen science programs. She engages in outreach and research that integrate public engagement with water resources knowledge and social action.
Jason Stockwell: Aquatic food webs
Jason's research interests focus broadly on aquatic food webs. He is specifically interested in how animal behavior and environmental conditions affect food webs. His work takes him from small, hyper-eutrophic ponds to large, deep oligotrophic lakes, and he studies organisms ranging from tiny phytoplankton to large fish-eating animals. His active areas of research include the influence and impact of diurnal vertical migration on invertebrate population structure, how cyanobacteria blooms influence energetic pathways, the impact of spatial resource subsidies on winter food web interactions, and the role of environmental disturbance on phytoplankton biodiversity.
Clayton Williams: Effects of human activities and natural mechanisms on aquatic biogeochemical cycles and microbial ecology
Humans have fundamentally altered ecosystems and their elemental cycles. Clay's 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.