Department of Biology









Aquatic Ecology Laboratory


  • Current Projects

    - RiverPACE: A Nationwide Riverine Pharmaceutical Assessment, Collection and Education project. Collaborators: Dr. Jesse Becker and Dr. Tom Lauer, Ball State University. Funded by the Discovery Group. 

    - Spatial and temporal variation in pharmaceuticals concentrations in central Indiana freshwater and effects on microbial activity and aquatic organisms. Funded by Indiana Water Resources Research Center, United States Geological Survey, Indiana Academy of Sciences, Lilly V, Ball State University faculty grant and Ball State University student research grants.

    - Spatial and temporal variation in pharmaceutical concentrations in near-shore habitats of Lake Michigan.  Funded by Indiana/Illinois Sea Grant.  Collaborator:  Dr. Tom Lauer, Ball State University.

    - Quantifying herbicide and pesticide abundance in central Indiana freshwater and assessing influence on freshwater ecosystems through immersive student learning opportunities.  Funded by Ball State University Immersive Learning grant and Ball State University student research grants. 

    - Development of Microelectrode Instrumentation (MI) for novel assessments of microbial biofilms in ecological applications.  This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation IDBR(EAGER)-1011787.

    - Microbial biofilm dynamics in Devils Hole, Nevada, for assessments of the endangered Devils Hole pupfish habitat.  Funded by the National Parks Service. Collaborator:  Dr. Kevin Wilson, National Park Service. 

    - RUI: Human and disease impacts on aquatic communities:  effects of trematodes and nanomaterials on freshwater benthic interactions.  Funded by the National Science Foundation DEB-0949746.  Collaborator:  Dr. Randall Bernot, Ball State University.

    - West Nile Virus Surveillance in Indiana.  Funded by a Indiana State Department of Health sub-award from the Center for Disease Control.  Collaborators:  Dr. Randall Bernot, Ball State University; Dr. Bryan Price, Indiana State Department of Health.

    - Long-term water quality analyses in the Upper White River Watershed.  Funding by the Discovery group. 

  • Previous Projects

    - Influence of Urban Hardscapes on Water Quality.  Collaborators:  Randy Bernot, Martha Hunt and Meg Calkins (Landscape Architecture).  Funded by the Ball State University Enhanced Provost Initiative. 

    - Nitrogen cycling in agricultural streams.  Funding provided by Indiana Academy of Sciences and Louis Stokes Fellowship. 

    - Factors influencing preferential uptake of nitrate-nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen, and organic-nitrogen by stream heterotrophs and autotrophs.  Funded by Ball State University New Faculty Research Grant. 

    - Lotic Intersite Nitrogen eXperiment (LINX). 

  • Statement of Research Interests

I have an insatiable desire to pursue my own education through research of innovative ecological questions.  My main research interests lie within the realm of environmental biogeochemistry.  My doctoral research included a thorough investigation of microbial-mediated nitrogen cycling in tall grass prairie and agriculturally-influenced streams.  Through this research, I demonstrated that stream substrata heterogeneity was of prime importance in maximizing nitrogen processing in stream ecosystems.  Furthermore, increases in nitrogen cycling rates observed in agricultural systems, due to increased substrate availability, did not compensate for increased nitrogen loading.  My post-doctoral research focused on controls of nitrogen flux rates in freshwater ecosystems influenced by a gradient of agricultural and urban activities.  These land-use types result in very different ecosystem responses due to variation in temporal and spatial patterns of physiochemical parameters as well as variation in contaminants and landscape alterations.  Thus, as is many times the case, multiple projects have been stimulated by this research and I plan to continue studying anthropogenic influences on nutrients in freshwater ecosystems well into the future.  New research directions currently being pursued include assessments of trace organic contaminants (herbicides, pharmaceuticals) in freshwater ecosystems and studies of microbial biofilm biogeochemistry in extreme environments.

The effects of environmental change can be measured in many different ways, some of these methods I regularly employ in my research and others I am just beginning to develop.  The use of isotopes (particularly 15N and 13C) has been an excellent tool in my research to assess both the role of different forms of nitrogen and carbon within an ecosystem as well as the sources of these nutrients.    Additionally, I have constructed and regularly utilize light, flow, nitrogen, and oxygen microelectrodes to examine interstitial and microbial dynamics in both laboratory and field situations.  I will continue working with micro-electrodes to explore the mechanisms of ecosystem fluxes observed in field situations and am expanding this work through construction of nitrous oxide and nitrate microelectrodes to enable fine-scale analyses of flux rates in many different ecosystems.  Both isotopic methods and microelectrode capabilities have fostered my collaborations with a wide range of researchers utilizing these innovative methods to study a multitude of questions. 

As a scientist, my ultimate goal is to understand.  However, most ecological questions demand collaborative efforts to gain understanding.  I am currently involved in several collaborative efforts with Universities in Indiana and nationwide that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and my efforts are grounded in the philosophy that only with interdisciplinary approaches can we address current and future ecological issues.