My research interests are broadly in the field of freshwater ecology and span a breadth of topics from population genetics to community ecology. Like many naturalists, I grew up around my study system, freshwater lakes, and have always found these ecosystems to be particularly fascinating. Freshwater ecosystems provide a wealth of vital services to society, but are also some of the most undervalued and threatened systems on Earth. As such, my research is geared towards building a better understanding how freshwater ecosystems operate in the face of anthropogenic disturbance and how effective our efforts are to restore or maintain these systems.
#Informing Species at Risk Recovery Efforts
As an NESERC Visiting Fellow with Fisheries and Oceans Canada at the Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (GLLFAS) my research is directed towards better informing recovery efforts for freshwater fish listed under the Species at Risk Act. The Species at Risk Act (2002) is federal legislation designed to protect species at risk of extinction and aiding in their recovery. Once a species has been list, a recovery strategy is drafted that provides goals and strategies for aiding in the recovery of that species. Ultimately, the purpose of the any recovery strategy is to stop the decline of the at-risk species and, through protection, hopefully increase their status.
My first project at GLLFAS is directed towards the Eastern Sand Darter, Ammocrypta pellucida, a species currently recognized as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act. Canadian populations of Eastern Sand Darter have experienced severe declines since the 1970s and 1980s due to habitat degradation from urban and agricultural development, stream channelization, and invasive species (COSEWIC Report 2009). In the Ontario population of Eastern Sand Darter Recovery Strategy, 7 short-term (5-10 year) recovery objectives were provided (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2012). One of those objectives is to investigate the feasibility of population supplementation or repatriation for populations that may be extirpated or reduced.
Population supplementation is the act of releasing individuals of a species to an area where known populations are currently residing with a goal of increasing the size of at-risk populations. Repatriation describes the act of releasing individuals of a species to an area where the species had historically occupied but are presently extirpated. Both strategies can be extremely challenging in practice and understanding what makes these efforts successful and predicting their success in advance is fundamentally important. As such, my work is now directed towards using existing data on Eastern Sand Darter to better understand the potential of population supplementation and repatriation efforts for this species.
#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:
- How do you measure the resilience of freshwater ecosystems?
- 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. In Press). Finally, 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 (In Peer-Review).
My Ph.D. research was a small piece of a large collaborative effort (Canadian Network for Aquatic Ecosystem Services) headed by my co-supervisor, Dr. Donald Jackson. Check us out at: www.cnaes.ca and a paper that I collaborated on here.
#Largemouth Bass Population Dynamics
I received my M.Sc. in Biological Sciences at Arkansas State University (2011-2013) under the guidance of Dr. Ronald Johnson studying Largemouth Bass. Largemouth Bass are the most popular freshwater sport fish in the United States and recreational angling is a highly important economic activity. Several Arkansas reservoirs have been stocked with Florida bass (FB; Micropterus floridanus) for decades due to the conjecture that FB have superior growth characteristics compared to the native Northern Largemouth Bass (NLMB; M. salmoides), and therefore improve recreational and sport angling. In my thesis work, 1,350 bass were sampled for microsatellite analysis from seven Arkansas reservoir bass populations to determine levels of FB introgression among populations. I showed that the relative level of FB introgression among reservoirs was highly variables. Reservoirs subjected to renovation with rotenone treatment and subsequent stockings of FB had the highest frequencies of FB alleles, whereas reservoirs stocked with FB on top of a resident NLMB population had the lowest frequency of FB alleles. I published a few papers related my my research: one related to the stocking and incorporation of FB in small arms of large reservoirs (Lamothe et al. 2012) as well as investigating the differential representation of FB among trophy largemouth bass in Arkansas (see photo below: Lamothe and Johnson 2013). The final paper from my Master’s thesis describes the lack of size differences seen between FB, NLMB, and their hybrids among most Arkansas reservoirs stocked for over 20 years (Lamothe et al. 2016).
#Conservation Genetics of Waterbirds
I received my B.Sc. in Biology from Eastern Connecticut State University (2007-2011) where I did an Honours Thesis on the population structure and genetic variability of waterbirds, specifically European Black Terns (Chlidonias niger niger), with Dr. Patricia Szczys. My results showed that although we have seen declines in European Black Terns population numbers, genetic variability has remained high. I also determined there to be moderate levels of genetic differentiation between European populations, which coincides with the banding records of European ornithologists. We had a paper published in the Journal of Ornithology in 2017 resulting from this research. Check it out at this link.