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Lake Ecosystems

We are using stable isotopes and chemical techniques to understand the role of zooplankton in supporting the food webs of lake systems.

Sarah FitzPatrick, a Ph. D. student is investigating the food web structure of Lake Erie and the role of phytoplankton and zooplankton in the development of "dead zones" in the lake.

Pete Smyntek, recently graduated with a Ph.D. and studied zooplankton in the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes of New York State, and several lakes in the English Lake District.

Undergraduates are involved in an ongoing study of a meromictic lake located near Syracuse. Green Lake and Round Lakes are excellent examples of meromictic lakes and we are studying the food web structure and the role of photosynthetic bacteria in supporting an ecosystem.

We are also studying the importance of Mysis relicta in Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain. Heather Conway (now at Oregan State) studied the fatty acid and lipid content of these animals to determine possible reasons for their population decreaes in many lakes.

Our work on lake systems is published in several journals:

Smyntek, P. M., Teece, M. A., Schulz, K. L., and Thackeray, S. J. (2007) A standard protocol for stable isotope analysis of zooplankton in aquatic food web research using mass  balance correction models. Limnology and Oceanography,52, 2135-2146. [PDF]

Murry, B. A., Farrell, J. R., Teece, M. A. and Smyntek, P. M. (2006) Effect of lipid extraction on the interpretation of fish community trophic relationships determined by stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes.  Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 63, 2167-2172

Invasive species

Invasive species in lakes are increasing at an alarming rate and their effect on the ecosystem and also the organisms that rely on these systems is poorly understood. We have a multidisciplinary study with Kim Schulz, a limnologist at ESF, investigating the effects of invasive zooplankton on the food webs of the Great Lakes.

Zebra mussels and more recently quagga mussels, have invaded many lakes in the N.E. USA. The effect of these benthic filter feeding mussels on the phytoplankton and higher trophic level organisms of lakes is poorly understood. We are using a combination of stable isotope and chemical techniques to further understand the effect of these invasive organisms on the lake ecosystem.

Green Lake in central NY
Photo by Kim Schulz
Invasive zebra and quagga mussels