I am an aquatic ecologist with strong interests in place-based research, education, and outreach, particularly in the Laurentian Great Lakes region. Recent research topics include 1) prevalence, persistence, and abrupt shifts of invasive species populations, 2) detection and quantification of organisms using environmental DNA, and 3) food web impacts of aquatic invasive species.
In 2015, a group of my UW-Madison limnology undergraduate students discovered the first zebra mussel ever recorded in Madison's Lake Mendota. In response, I launched a multi-year benthic monitoring program to document the invasion and its impacts on the relatively understudied benthos of Madison's Lake Mendota, "the most studied lake in the world."
Populations of organisms at low abundance are often ignored or undetected in ecosystems, but invasive species highlight the importance of these populations given their ability to abruptly shift to high abundance. I am exploring the emerging molecular technique of environmental DNA (eDNA) detection and quantification to find answers to ecological questions that have been obscured by detection thresholds of traditional sampling methods.