Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Skye Harris, a junior from Newton, N.J., has received a David M. Nalven ’88 Research Assistantship for work this summer involving the dynamics of organisms in Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, N.Y.

Each year, the Nalven Fund enables a student to engage in ecological/environmental research with a faculty mentor in the biology department during the summer.

Harris will be working with Nancy Waters, associate professor of biology, who has been involved for a number of years in evaluating the relationships between macrophytes (aquatic plants) and the macroinvertebrates (animals that lack backbones and are large enough to be seen without magnification) that live in, on, and around them.

“The quality of teaching that I have received not only from Dr. Waters, but the entire biology department staff, has been excellent, and really made me want to get involved and pursue research in the field of ecology,” says Harris.

Onondaga is an unusual urban lake suffering from both municipal and industrial input of contaminants during the last century. The amount and diversity of aquatic plants in the severely polluted body of water are substantially lower than in a comparable lake system. Harris and Waters will make three trips to the lake over the summer to collect samples of both native and introduced macrophytes.

Harris will assume responsibility for the entire project. She is learning how to design, execute, and analyze such work this semester through the class Biology 401: Independent Research. Harris will make a trip this spring to locate potential sampling sites in the lake. She will prepare all equipment, sampling gear, and protocols for each collection over the summer. Harris also will develop systems to preserve and maintain selected macroinvertebrates for future use.

The research project will examine the relationship between macroinvertebrates and their macrophytic substrate (food material) over the course of a normal growing season in Onondaga Lake.

“Of particular interest are the differences exhibited across species and morphologies of macrophytes,” says Waters. “For example, fully submersed macrophytes are generally thought to support more and different kinds of invertebrates than emergent ones by virtue of the higher cellulose content maintained by emergent macrophytes. Likewise, among submersed vascular macrophytes, those with more finely dissected leaves expose greater proportionate surface area to microbial and, ultimately, macroinvertebrate colonization. Therefore, the species of macrophytes found in a given freshwater system play a major role in contributing to macroinvertebrate community structure.”

Harris is a teaching assistant in the biology department and a member of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection. She participated in concert choir during her sophomore year.

Categorized in: Academic News