Research in the Pennuto Lab
My lab has been active in several research areas over the years and I continue to accommodate students with diverse interests. Although my research activities have been influenced significantly by geography, I am firmly centered in aquatic ecology. I think of my activities as ‘the funded stuff’ and ‘the unfunded stuff’.
Invasive species effects: The
Great Lakes have experienced hundreds of species introductions, mainly
inadvertent, since the turn of the century. The range of effects invasive
species have on
Great Lakes nutrients, Cladophora, and invasives: Over the last few years we have had projects or parts of larger projects examining nutrient effects on nearshore habitats in Lakes Ontario and Erie. These projects are providing insights into the resurgence of nuisance Cladophora blooms in the lower lakes and its correlation with Dreissena mussel and round goby establishment.
Mercury in Great Lakes food webs:
Lastly, my lab has had several mercury contamination projects funded. We have
investigated mercury transfer from emerging benthic insects to riparian zone
spiders and the potential for lateral dispersal through the riparian zone. I
have also contracted on projects examining the movement of mercury through
riparian food webs (Sudbury River, Massachusetts), in crayfish of New England
lakes/rivers, and crayfish of the
Symbioses: Symbiotic interactions can be broadly thought
of as interactions between pairs of species in close proximity to one another.
My lab has investigated the ecology of insect ectosymbionts in the Chironomidae
(aquatic Diptera) and their associations with fishfly (Megaloptera:
Corydalidae) and stonefly (Plecoptera) hosts in streams of
Ecological stoichiometry: Aquatic ecologists, primarily limnologists, re-invigorated stoichiometric approaches into ecological thinking recently. Basically, we can think of organisms and ecosystems as large chemical reactions that ultimately balance inputs and outputs. Research seems to indicate that many heterotrophs are fairly homeostatic in their elemental ratios. Most elemental ratio research focuses on C, N, and P since these three elements are 3 of the most abundant 6 elements in living organisms (the other 3 being H, O, and Ca), and they are elements that are known to potentially limit growth in aquatic systems. My lab is investigating ontogenetic changes in C:N:P ratios in aquatic organisms and using C:N:P ratios to document nutrient movement in and out of streams associated with seasonal migrations of invasive fish (round goby).
Predator avoidance behavior: My lab uses both amphipods and crayfish as model systems to investigate the role of predator avoidance behavior in life history evolution. In this research we are adding to the understanding of learned avoidance by rearing animals that are never exposed to predator scent and then exposing them to scents of different predators with or without conspecific alarm cues.