Current Research

paula_researchProcesses that Change Ecosystem Structure and Function

Using Algae and Macroinvertebrates to Answer Ecological Questions

I use algae and macroinvertebrates to answer ecological questions and solve environmental problems, i.e. in response to nutrients, pollution, invasive species or disturbance.

* The ecology of wet walls, an understudied habitat: I am working with A. Catenazzi, a herpetologist at San Francisco State University, on the ecology (and biodiversity - see below) of wet wall algae along an elevation gradient in wetwall_researchPeru. This bio-rich area is predicted to experience shifts in temperature and rainfall patterns with climate change and wet wall algal taxa may help to track these changes and predict impacts on other organisms.

* Disturbance in freshwater ecosystems: In collaboration with Dr. Kupferberg (U.C. Berkeley) and Dr. Lind (USDA Forest Service) we are exploring the impacts of the invasive alga Didymosphenia among Sierra Nevada rivers (regulated and unregulated) and the implications for the yellow-legged frog tadpole.

* Impacts of acidification on ecological integrity:  My discovery of high numbers of morphological deformities in diatoms from high altitude springs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park led to the addition of these areas to park monitoring programs. In the future I hope to work with the National Park Service to examine the source of these deformities to determine the potential role of high altitude areas in tracking park health and changes in acid rain patterns.

Taxonomy, Biodiversity and Ecology

I am focused on documenting and understanding algal ecology and biodiversity from understudied and threatened habits, and on furthering our taxonomic understanding of key algal groups, especially the acidophilic diatom Eunotia.

* Biodiversity of wet wall algae:  I am documenting the biodiversity of algae from wet walls along an elevation gradient in Peru. To date, we have identified, and are working on descriptions of species new to science from eunotia_researchthis bio-rich area of the world.

* The acidophilic diatom genus Eunotia:  These acid loving diatoms are in need of more taxonomic work, especially in North America, where they are commonly used as indicators of different acidity levels in aquatic ecosystems.  I continue to work with this genus to help address gaps in North American diatom taxonomy and I would love to hear from you if you have any interesting Eunotia.

I compiled a comprehensive, image-rich monograph on the biodiversity and taxonomy of the Eunotia from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including descriptions of species new to science. These and other Eunotia species are being added to an on-line diatom identification guide & ecological resource that is currently being developed by diatomists in North America for use by water resource managers, ecologists, taxonomists, analysts, systematists, students, and the public.