Research in Conservation Biology

Austin Best ’22, Donna Hanna ’22, and I have some fun on Captain Dave’s boat during routine environmental monitoring in Hudson-Raritan Bay in June 2021. Students in my lab work together on multiple projects, and we function as a research team (AKA: Lab Family).

My students and I identify as both conservation biologists and restoration ecologists. Conservation biologists are guided by an underlying set ethical principles, including the belief that species and ecosystems should be preserved, ecological complexity and evolution should continue, and biodiversity has intrinsic value.  Through their research, conservation biologists aim to achieve three primary goals: 1) to document biodiversity on earth, 2) to investigate human impacts on species and ecosystems, and 3) to develop practical approaches to conserve and restore species and ecosystems. Restoration ecology, which is a relatively new multidisciplinary field of study, is considered a branch of conservation biology. Grounded in theory and experimentation from the ecological sciences, restoration ecology provides the science essential to the practice and art of ecological restoration, which can be defined as the process of assisting the recovery of a degraded ecosystem.  

Overview of Research in my Lab

Student research in my lab uses a combination of environmental monitoring, modeling approaches, social science methods, and controlled experiments to advance understanding about the impacts of human activity on aquatic ecosystems, including freshwater and coastal marine systems and wetlands. We are also interested in the science and application of ecological restoration of aquatic ecosystems.  Click on the links below to learn more about each of our projects.  

Current and Ongoing Projects:

1. Hudson-Raritan Bay Water Quality and Bioinvasions. Learn more about our Raritan Bay research.


Sam Gleich ’17 and I talk about the set-up for a microcosm experiment to investigate the interactive effects of nutrient enrichment and acidification on phytoplankton assemblages in Raritan Bay.

2. Bushkill Creek Restoration. Learn more about dam removal and freshwater mussel restoration in Bushkill Creek.

Under the guidance of John Wilson of the Geology Department, Caroline Bottega ’19 and several other lab fam members extract sediment cores for heavy metal and PCB analysis from behind one of the dams along Bushkill Creek.

3. Amphibian Conservation. Learn more about our research on amphibian conservation and habitat restoration.

Tessa Broholm ’17 counts spotted salamander egg masses in a natural vernal pool within Jacobsburg State Park.














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