Aquatic Ecologist, Florida International University, Miami FL
We need to understand the patterns of natural phenomena to learn how best to coexist in nature
As an undergraduate researcher in the stream ecology laboratory at Loyola University Chicago, I learned that it is through detailed observational and experimental data, with sound scientific reasoning, that we can make truly informed decisions about environmental management. I tested the effects of different dam release regimes in the Grand Canyon Colorado River system by analyzing the diatom communities grown under varying temperatures and velocity fluctuations in artificial streams. The results of this project contributed to a larger study that has management implications for Glen Canyon Dam. I developed a love of studying diatoms and decided that a career in ecology would be a satisfying goal.
I am now a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree at Florida International University under the guidance of Dr. Evelyn Gaiser. As a research assistant, I help collect and analyze diatom samples from across the Everglades landscape as part of a project called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. For my master’s thesis, I am examining how diatom communities are changing over time and quantifying how they respond to important environmental variables. I plan to use this information to develop maps to assist water managers easily visualize regions of the Everglades that should be prioritized in restoration efforts. From a more theoretical standpoint, I want to understand why diatom communities contain the species that they do and whether they are affected by dispersal ability - even though they are microorganisms.