Water sustains our planet, yet the future of our freshwater resources is tenuous, given the pressures of wasteful water abuse and climate change. Our research is aimed at creating a more resilient future for our freshwater lakes and wetlands.
The Aquatic Ecology Laboratory is a research group directed by Dr. Evelyn Gaiser within the Institute of Environment at Florida International University (FIU). The goals of our research include identifying ways in which lakes and wetlands transform over long time periods. We have a particular focus on algae, especially diatoms, which produce 30% of the world’s oxygen, serve as indicators of ecosystem change, and are at the base of aquatic food webs.
We also hope to inspire the public by engaging in outreach activities to build an informed citizenry.
Aquatic ecosystems, particularly their algal communities, can serve as sentinels of environmental changes occurring at local to global scales. Our research focuses on how algae regulate the dynamics of ecosystems and how changes in the abundance of algae species can be used to diagnose sources of environmental change. The lab focuses on four main research areas:
Algae as metrics of water quality and quantity
Algae are crucial early indicators of ecological changes related to habitat degradation or restoration. Species of diatoms and other algae and cyanobacteria often exhibit preferences for low or high pH, salinity and nutrient concentrations, among other factors, and can even regulate water quality. Our research focuses on these uses of algae in the Everglades and other coastal wetlands subject to sea level rise, land use change, and large-scale restoration in the context of the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research Program and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. These microscopic life forms need to be conserved and studied as key pieces of the Everglades "ecological puzzle."