Hydrobiology

HydrobiologyHydrobiology also termed hydroecology is the study of the biological communities inhabiting surface and subsurface waters. The discipline encompasses study of physical, chemical, and biological factors governing the structure and function of communities having microbial, plant, and animal components. In addition, hydrobiology studies the impact of human activities on biological communities and the role of biota in the recovery of disturbed ecosystems. This option is appropriate for students who wish to study aquatic biology and ecology, wetlands ecology, surface water quality, biological remediation of contaminated surface and groundwater, restoration and reclamation of aquatic habitats, soil-plant-water relationships, and ecotoxicology.

Because of the critical problem of biosphere degradation resulting from human activity, several scientific areas have emerged at the forefront of hydrobiological research. Two of the most important research areas are environmental monitoring and bioremediation. The challenge is to understand how the total ecosystem functions in both natural and human-managed landscapes and how interactions between biota and their environment create and modify ecosystem structure and function. Gaining a better understandingat scales ranging from the biochemical and molecular to the community levelof the effects of environmental and anthropogenic stresses on biota and how biota modify their environment in response to stress is essential to developing and applying remediation and restoration strategies.

LYR_juv1.jpgMicroorganisms play crucial roles in nutrient cycling and energy flow in managed and unmanaged ecosystems, and they are responsible for the destruction of many pollutants in contaminated environments. The study of biodegradation of pollutants, and its application in the bioremediation of contaminated sites, is one of the most rapidly developing and significant areas of research in hydrologic science. Although considerable emphasis is placed on developing "super-bugs" that can degrade pollutants, perhaps the more challenging and often overlooked research questions concern what governs rates of biodegradation in the environment. Microorganisms capable of degrading pollutants are frequently present in soil and the subsurface, and issues such as pollutant concentration and availability, environmental conditions, and interspecies interactionsnot the absence of degradersare factors preventing effective degradation. Also, the ability to quantify biodegradation rates is important in the prediction of pollutant fate and transport in the environment.

Faculty: Goldman, C.R.; Largier, J.; Pasternack, G.B.; Schladow, S.G.; Ustin, S.L.; Viers, J.; Zhang, M.