Projects Led by Lab Members

Most graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the lab develop their own projects separately from Kathy’s work.  Here is a sampling of some of the ongoing projects:

  • Science communication.

We are starting to move into projects involving science communication, in separate projects led by graduate students Andy Vacca and Kaitlin McDonald. Andy’s dissertation included work to evaluate how harmful phytoplankton blooms are portrayed by the newspaper media, while Kaitlin led a research proposal to determine whether micro-influences can be deployed to inform social media users about ticks and tick-borne disease using the principles of Inoculation Theory (per Dartmouth colleague Josh Compton).

  • Evaluating the distribution and abundance of ticks in the Upper Valley – and thinking about the community context in which ticks occur.Ticks preserved in ethanol in a 50 ml centrifuge tube

Kaitlin McDonald is sampling ticks at multiple sites in forested, transitional, and meadow sites to determine what environmental factors correlate with tick abundance in space and time. She’s also working with our ecology teaching staff to determine whether camera traps can be used to evaluate meso-predator abundance and thus top-down pressure on key tick hosts, like mice and chipmunks.

  • Evaluating how thermal environments affect the performance of individual organisms and populations.

    Eastern brook trout during spawning in the Dead Diamond Driver (photo by Keith Fristchie)

    Grad student Keith Fritschie has established a research program to understand how stream temperatures — as influenced by groundwater inputs — impact the very early life history of native brook trout in the streams of Vermont and New Hampshire.  See Keith’s website for more details.

  • Determining the effects of road salt on freshwater lakes.

    Sampling the salinity experiment during Summer 2018 – having fun despite the rain (photo by Alex Conway).

    Postdoctoral researcher Jennie Brentrup and undergraduate Alexandra Conway ’20 conducted a field mesocosm experiment to study how increased salinity impacts the structure of freshwater zooplankton communities.  Jennie is also working with David Lutz in Environmental Studies and undergraduate Rafa Rosas ’20 to build low-cost conductivity data logging stations that can be deployed year-round to track pulses in salt concentration following wintertime rain-on-snow events and during spring snowmelt.

  • Determining how methylmercury exposure alters the physiology and behavior of stream crayfish populations.

    Andy poses with WISP interns Alexandra Urquiza ’20 and Phoebe Cunningham ’20 in front of their poster from the crayfish experiment.

    Studies of the effects of methylmercury on invertebrate neurobiology and physiology are still in their infancy, and Andrew Vacca sought to fill that gap in his first dissertation chapter. Surprisingly, Andy found no effects of dietary methylmercury in crayfish growth, survival, or predator avoidance behaviors.  See Andy’s website for more details.

  • Investigating the landscape limnology of Greenlandic lakes and ponds.

    Jess Trout-Haney collects zooplankton from a lake in Greenland in 2016 (photo by Ruth Heindel).

    Former graduate student Jess Trout-Haney spent at least a month each summer collecting data and samples to address three key questions:  (1) What is the distribution, abundance, and ecological importance of colonial Nostoc cyanobacteria in lakes? (2) Are cyanobacteria in these waters toxic and, if so, in which food web compartments are they found and are there landscape- or lake-specific factors that contribute to observed toxicity? (3) Are cyanotoxins passed into other aquatic organisms or even onto land? See one of the news stories about Jess’s work for more details, or her first publication (it’s open access).