Baylor University has much to offer students interested in aquatic ecology. Baylor has identified aquatic ecology and environmental science as key areas of emphasis in its research. In turn, Baylor has dedicated tremendous resources in support of aquatic science. One example of this is the recent completion of Baylor's new Sciences Building, a 500,000 square-foot research and teaching facility. The Baylor Sciences Building includes over 150 state-of-the-art research laboratories as well as modern teaching labs and classrooms.
The Aquatic Ecology Lab is affiliated with the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research (CRASR), an interdisciplinary aquatic research center that unites aquatic scientists from the departments of Biology, Environmental Studies, Geology, and Chemistry. Housed in the new Sciences Building, the Center boasts a large research lab complete with current instrumentation for conducting a full suite of water, soil, and plant chemistry analyses.
Yet another exciting resource for students are the Lake Waco Wetlands, constructed by the City of Waco as mitigation for a 2 m increase in the level of Lake Waco. Located approximately 20 minutes from campus, this 180-acre wetland complex offers many opportunities for research and teaching, including an education center, a 1,500 square-foot research laboratory, and self-guided walking tours. Immediately adjacent to the wetland complex is the North Bosque River, a watershed that is receiving intense study because of heavy nutrient inputs from dairy farms and waste water treatment facilities upstream. Lake Waco, a large reservoir formed by the Bosque River, is also very close to campus.
Perhaps the most significant research resource for the lab is our outdoor experimental stream facility. Named in honor of the Baylor mascot, the BEAR (Baylor Experimental Aquatic Research), the facility is a product of a rare collaboration between a major university and a municipality (City of Waco) and rivals any experimental stream facility in North America in terms of size (30,000 square feet), replication (12 streams), and realism (20-m long streams stratified into riffle, glide, and pool habitats using natural substrates to mimic local streams). The BEAR is well suited for testing specific hypotheses about the effects of nutrients and other contaminants on stream ecosystems and offers many opportunities for students to link experiments with field studies...opportunities you simply will not find at many other institutions.
Our lab's research focus is broad and interdisciplinary. Succinctly, we do freshwater science to inform policy. Most of our research is anchored in basic science but conducted to help decision makers make informed policy decisions. The best, most recent example, is our work on estimating a numerical phosphorus criterion for the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas (see "Oklahoma and Arkansas select Baylor Professor to Settle Long Running Dispute").
The lab's research interests span a variety of disciplines, including community and landscape ecology, biogeochemistry, and environmental science and policy. The interdisciplinary nature of our research is attractive to many funding agencies and is particularly well suited for the participation of both undergraduate and graduate students in the field and my laboratory. Check out About the Lab and Research Projects for details about what we're up to. For more technical details, I also encourage you to peruse the Publications page
Baylor currently offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in the Department of Biology for students interested in aquatic ecology.
Although Baylor offers the M.S. degree in Biology, an increasing number of students funded by the university are enrolled in the Ph.D. program. The Biology graduate program requires students to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) at least one year. Students may remain on a TA for no more than 5 years. However, most students are funded by a combination of teaching and research assistantships during their four-to-six year period of study for the Ph.D. degree. Level of funding is merit based, but you will find that Baylor offers very competitive TA and RA stipends, starting at $24,000 and up to $32,000 per year for the most outstanding applicants through stipend enhancements provided by the Graduate School. The greater Waco community also has a modest cost-of-living, so your stipend will go much farther here than in many other regions of the USA.
The lab is currently home to three graduate students: Daniel Hiatt (PhD-BIO), Brittany Perrotta (PhD-BIO), and Zach Moran (PhD-EEES). (see People for detailed bios).
Stephen Cook graduated with a PhD in August 2019. He is currently a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Oklahoma. Moncie Wright graduated with the PhD in Biology in December 2018. She is a senior environmental consultant with CMD Smith, Inc., in Austin, TX. Caleb Robbins graduated with a PhD in August 2018 and is currently a postdoc on a large NSF Macrosystems project at the University of Kansas, under the direction of Prof. Jim Thorp. Jeff Back was awarded a PhD in December 2013; he is now an Instrument Specialist and lab manager of CRASR. Jason Taylor graduated with a PhD Biology in December 2011. Jason completed a postdoc at Cornell University before taking a Senior Ecologist (permanent, federal) position with the USDA National Sedimentation Lab in Oxford, MS. Matthew Dekar, a postdoctoral fellow with expertise in intermittent stream ecology and stable isotope analysis of food webs, started in June 2010 and accepted a permanent position as a senior fisheries biologist with the USFWS in Lodi, California in 2012. He is currently in a similar position in the Atlanta, GA area withe the USFWS. Leanne Baker (co-advised with Cole Matson) worked on nanoparticle experiments in our stream mesocosm facility for 2 years and published one paper. She is currently working as a technician at the University of Waterloo.
M.S. graduates have also secured full-time positions closely aligned to their interests. Lauren Housley (MS, '16) is a Water Quality Biologist with the NC Division of Water Quality in Raleigh, NC. Becky Shaftel (MS) is a Research Associate with the Natural Heritage Program at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, David Lang (MS) is a lecturer in the Dept of Biology at the University of Houston, Charles Stanley (MS) works with the Klamath National Forest as a biologist, and Pam Kostka (MS) is a NEPA specialist with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Los Angeles, CA.
We also have undergraduate honors or university scholar students, as well as summer undergraduate fellow researchers, working on various projects.
We welcome the opportunity to speak with students who wish to learn more about research opportunities in the lab, and are happy to put you in touch with other Biology students who can tell you more about their experiences at Baylor.