Quantifying the Resilience of Aquatic Ecosystems

I received my Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Toronto (2013-2017) working with Drs. Keith Somers and Don Jackson. The objectives of my PhD were to answer two primary questions:

  1. How do you measure the resilience of freshwater ecosystems?
  2. Are freshwater ecosystems in Ontario resilient to disturbance?

Resilience was first described in ecology by Holling (1973) as a property of ecosystems related to how those systems respond to environmental disturbance. Since its introduction to ecology, ‘resilience’ has grown to be a leading framework for managing freshwater ecosystems. However, a challenge for implementing such frameworks is how to measure resilience. In my PhD thesis, I first demonstrated the utility of distance-based metrics in multivariate ordinations for quantifying the relative resistance and resilience of communities to disturbance (Lamothe et al. 2017). I then utilized that approach and characterized the relative resistance and resilience of freshwater zooplankton communities to changing environmental conditions (Lamothe et al. 2018). I supplemented the species-based approaches taken in the first two chapters of my thesis with a chapter of functional diversity, and quantified the functional redundancy of freshwater fishes across nearly 7,000 Ontario lakes (Lamothe et al. 2018). After defending my thesis, I went on to publish a remixed version of the introduction to my thesis, where I conceptually link ordination trajectories and the ball‐and‐cup diagram and then demonstrate how distance‐based measures calculated from ordination scores can be used to evaluate the relative resilience of ecological systems (Lamothe et al. 2019).

My Ph.D. research was a small piece of a large collaborative effort (NSERC Canadian Network for Aquatic Ecosystem Services) headed by my co-supervisor, Dr. Donald Jackson. Check out our work at: www.cnaes.ca. As a part of this network, I collaborated on couple primary publications – one providing a graduate student view on the pros and cons of actively engaging in scientific research networks during graduate school (Lamothe et al. 2018) and the other reviewing the complexities of regulating ecosystem services, a branch of ecosystem services that help to maintain biosphere integrity, human safety, and the provision of most other ecosystem services (Sutherland et al. 2018).

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