Director of the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory; Professor of Aquatic Ecology in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources with a secondary appointment in the Department of Biology; Fulbright Scholar 2017-2018

My research interests focus broadly on food web dynamics, with specific interests in how animal behavior and environmental conditions affect trophic interactions. I work in systems ranging from small, hyper-eutrophic ponds to large, deep oligotrophic lakes, and on organisms ranging from phytoplankton to apex piscivores. My active areas of research include the influence and impact of diel vertical migration on invertebrate population structure, how cyanobacteria blooms influence energetic pathways, the impact of spatial resource subsidies on winter food web interactions, and the role of environmental disturbance on phytoplankton biodiversity. For more information see my google profile.

Undergraduate and Graduate Students, Technicians, and Post-Docs

Ben Block Walleye Picture.jpg

Ben block

BSc in the Department of Biology (co-advised with Dr. Ellen Marsden)

Research topics that I am primarily interested in focus around the lake ecosystem level. How trophic levels interact with one another, how food webs are constructed and vary with seasonality, and how lake ecosystems will respond to climate change are all large scale questions I focus on. Specifically, I am interested in seasonality and how food webs change as the seasons change. I will conduct the majority of my research during the winter months to compare and contrast changes that occur in food web structure, predator-prey interactions, animal behavior and more, between summer and winter months.


Rosalie Bruel

Post-Doc in the Rubenstein School

My research initially focused on how heavily anthropogenised ecosystems respond to climatic perturbations. I have worked on lowland and high-altitude lakes at different temporal scales (millennial to sub-hourly resolution) on different responses (physical, chemical, biological). Currently, I am developing a food web model for Lake Champlain. The objective is to quantify how changes in food web structure affect the system functioning. Specific questions include spatial and temporal aspects: (1) Does the heterogeneity of Lake Champlain promote various equilibria? (2) Does the spatiality reflect several thresholds in environmental parameters? (3) What changes in environmental conditions allowed the natural recruitment of lake trout to start in the 2010s after decades of no recruits? (4) How might possible changes in fish stocking policies  impact the Lake Champlain food web?

Wilton burns

PhD Student in the Rubenstein School, VT EPSCoR (co-advised with Dr. Andrew Schroth, Geology)

My research is focused on understanding how extreme events (e.g. rain, drought, wind, etc.) affect the biogeochemsitry and water quality of Lake Champlain. I’m particularly interested in Missisquoi Bay and Saint Albans Bay because these locations historically have severe cyanobacteria blooms during the late summer. For my PhD work, buoys with sensors attached will be moored in the bays and collecting data on a host of water quality parameters from May to November. The sensors collect data once an hour, 24 hours a day, so I will combine these high-frequency data with weekly nutrient analysis, phytoplankton counts, meteorological data, and river discharge to better understand how extreme events affect the timing and severity of phytoplankton blooms. 


Rosaura Chapina

PhD Student in the Rubenstein School

My research interests include population genetics, food web interactions and how they are being affected by climate change. I am specifically interested in behavioral ecology and investigating if environmental stressors have an impact on Mysis behavior. I am assisting on a project where the spatial variability and the drivers of Mysis partial diel vertical migration will be analyzed.


Ariana Chiapella

Post-Doc in the Rubenstein School (starts in October 2019)

I am broadly interested in the effects of anthropogenic stressors on aquatic food webs – particularly on the impacts of introduced species and contaminants. My research projects typically employ an interdisciplinary approach to answer questions that help inform ecosystem management. Previously, my work has primarily focused on the impacts of fish stocking and the accumulation of atmospherically deposited mercury in mountain lake food webs. For my postdoctoral research, I am using diet tracing techniques to delineate carbon energy pathways in Lake Champlain’s forage fish community, in anticipation of an impending quagga mussel invasion. By understanding the basal energy pathways that support the lake’s fish communities, this research will help managers better adapt to the arrival of quagga mussels, and protect the resiliency of Lake Champlain’s fisheries.

Russell Dauksis


Coming soon


Jonathan Doubek

Post-Doc in the Rubenstein School

Broadly, my research focuses on how multiple environmental factors affect phytoplankton and zooplankton communities in lakes and reservoirs, and what implications may be for the management of these ecosystems. I use a combination of field sampling, analyzing large-scale and long-term datasets, and interdisciplinary and international team science to address research questions. Specifically, for my postdoctoral research, I will assess how storms can impact lakes on multiple geographic, temporal, and spatial scales. I am working with an international team of scientists within the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), the Centre de Synthèse et d'Analyse sur la Biodiversité, and the USGS John Wesley Powell Center to quantify the effects of storms on phytoplankton communities and assess what phytoplankton taxa and functional groups might be favored under stormier conditions.



PhD Student in the Rubenstein School

My research interests include aquatic ecology, environmental toxicology, and understanding how chemical substances affect organisms and ecosystems. My doctoral dissertation focuses on enhancing the knowledge on impacts of cyanobacterial blooms on different parts of the environment, including water, fish, and air. I’m using a combination of existing data in a global analysis and new data from field sampling to address these issues. By learning more about the increased presence and effects of cyanobacteria in multiple areas of the environment, I will help identify and characterize potential routes of human exposure to cyanobacteria toxins. I will also broaden the knowledge on nutritional considerations of cyanobacteria blooms on fish, ecological impacts of harmful cyanobacteria, and environmental patterns in cyanobacteria and their bioactive chemical products.


Sadye Goldfarb

BSc Student in the Rubenstein School

I currently work with Jonathan Doubek to study the impacts of hypoxia on zooplankton migration. Throughout this project, we will collaborate with scientists through the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network and develop a worldwide understanding of how ecological change affects zooplankton. My research interests include aquatic ecology, the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, and wildlife conservation.



PhD Student in the Department of Biology

I am interested in winter limnology, specifically community and food web ecology in plankton communities under ice. As precipitation patterns are altered and temperatures increase with climate change, temperate lakes may experience decreased snow cover and subsequent increased light penetration, as well as decreased ice cover. These changes may lead to higher inoculum concentrations of some phytoplankton groups (e.g. cyanobacteria) as they emerge from winter, potentially leading to higher magnitude or frequency of harmful algal blooms later in the year. I use a combination of lab work, field experiments, and quantitative methods to explore these hypotheses related to how winter severity influences plankton communities throughout the year.


PhD Student in the Department of Biology

My research interests focus on population ecology and how climate change is affecting habitat and population structures of aquatic ecosystems. I’m currently working towards quantifying and modeling environmental variability influencing cisco recruitment bottlenecks in Lake Superior. Cisco and other related Coregonid species worldwide have experienced population declines due to fishing pressure and environmental changes that appear to have reduced recruitment. The reason for declining recruitment is unknown, but winter ice conditions appear to play a role in recruitment success and ice and water temperature regimes have changed over the past 20 years. I am tracking cisco egg development from the post-spawning egg stage to hatching under various environmental treatment levels to identify the mechanistic relationship between each factor and egg hatching rates and survival.

Former Graduate Students & Post-Docs

Hannah lachance

MSc, Rubenstein School, 2019

Current Position: Technician, USGS Great Lakes Science Center, Lake Ontario Biological Station


Brian o’malley

PhD, Rubenstein School, 2018

Current Position: Research Fishery Biologist, USGS Great Lakes Science Center, Lake Ontario Biological Station


PhD, Rubenstein School, 2016

Current Position: Post-doc at Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) in Switzerland

Victoria Pinheiro

MSc, Rubenstein School, 2015

Current Position: UX Content Designer, AI Team, Microsoft


Post-doc, Rubenstein School, 2014-2015

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Rollins College


MSc, Rubenstein School,  2015

Current Position: PhD student, Department of Biology, University of Vermont


MSc, Rubenstein School, 2014

Current Position: Science teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy