From my earliest memories, I have always loved the small, wiggling things: worms, minnows, the wide variety of life called “bugs.” As it turns out, these small, wiggling things are also crucial to understanding how marine and freshwater ecosystems function. From my undergraduate work in salt marshes and coral reefs, to my current explorations of Indiana streams, I still get a thrill when I turn over a rock and reveal a hidden world of invertebrates.
I came to DePauw University in 2016, after studying aquatic and marine science at Brown University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Stanford University.
Lines of Research
INTEREST A (ONGOING) - Biodiversity and function of Indiana Streams
INTEREST B (ONGOING) - Urbanization as an ecological filter
It is clear that human activity changes biodiversity; at a global scale we are driving species extinct, and at a local scale we see weedy invaders overtaking native species. Over the past two decades it has also become clear that when biodiversity changes, so do important functional aspects of ecosystems. In other words, losing a few species might cause an entire ecosystem to work differently.
My overarching research program investigates the relationship between human impacts, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning in Indiana streams. Virtually all streams in Indiana are impaired, due to agricultural runoff, clearing of trees from stream banks, and diversions of stream water. In my lab we explore the consequences for stream ecosystems, focusing on species such as Lirceus fontinalis, that feed on leaf litter and algae.
Sarah Congress DPU '20 & Leia Hudgins DPU '19: “Investigating the Abundance of Lirceus fontinalis and its Feeding Preferences” [Link to student research poster]
Annie Dixon DPU '18, Mike Littau DPU '18, & Lexi Miller DPU '18: “Benthic Macroinvertebrates used as Water Quality Indicators” [Link to student research poster]
Human settlements are inextricably tied to sources of freshwater, such as springs and streams. However, as cities develop and landscape is increasingly covered in cement and asphalt, our use of the land had dramatic consequences for streams and stream biodiversity.
As part of a collaboration with researchers at St. Joseph’s University and Duke University, I am exploring how a species’ traits influence its success in urbanized streams in North Carolina. Our goal is to use trait-based community analysis to identify ecological mechanisms underlying community response to stressors.