Erin Miller, Fifth Year Masters

Releasing surrogates into an urban stream to study retention rate
Releasing surrogates into an urban stream to study retention rate

I came to Clark as a sophomore transfer student in the Fall of 2007, beginning research in the Foster/Baker lab. As an Environmental and Conservation Biology major I have been constantly trying to link my biological studies with environmental issues, and in my junior year embarked on a project evaluating the conservation policies that protect three-spine stickleback populations in British Columbia. Also in my junior year I had the opportunity to travel to Bermuda with a research course at Clark, and developed a project evaluating the impacts of marine pollution and coastal development on a soft coral species.

It took me these couple years and several projects until I finally realized that my research goals lie mainly in aquatic ecology and environmental management. In the summer of 2009 I worked with Dr. Baker conducting surveys of endangered freshwater fish species in western Massachusetts streams, with support from the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program of Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife. In the summer of 2010 I obtained an internship at Lycott Environmental, Inc., working as a SCUBA diver to help in the control efforts of the invasive aquatic plant Eurasian Watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) in lakes in the Adirondacks.

left: Silver Brook- one of Erin's study site. Right: Diving in Lake George, NY
left: Silver Brook- one of Erin’s study site. Right: Diving in Lake George, NY

Current research interests: My current work as a fifth year masters student is centered on organic matter dynamics in headwater stream systems. I am specifically interested in the retention of coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM), which is important because in stream retention of this material is the basis of the food web in headwater streams. My project focuses on the retention of CPOM in highly impacted urban streams and more pristine forested streams. In the summer of 2010 I conducted fieldwork that included evaluations of headwater geomorphology, surveys of riparian vegetation, and quantification of watershed land use with GIS methods. To supplement this data collection I conducted experimental releases of CPOM surrogates to evaluate the differences in retention of CPOM in headwater streams of forested areas and urban areas. This research aims to determine which environmental variables distinguish between differing rates of CPOM retention in urban and protected areas. Ultimately, I am not just interested in the ecology of freshwater systems, but how ecological processes in these systems are impacted by urbanization and development. I am interested how development impacts the ecological functioning of freshwater systems through physical and chemical alterations to watersheds. I am also interested in how species invasions impact aquatic systems, population stability, and assemblage structure. Overall I am interested in how knowledge of the impacts of development on ecological systems can be incorporated into management strategies and environmental policy.

Outside the lab:
As an undergrad I was a member of Dance Society and Hip Hop Collabo, and I am still an active member of both campus groups. Other hobbies include digital photography, hiking, skiing, rock climbing, and baking.

Transfer Achievement Scholarship, 2007-2009
Heritage Summer Fellowship, 2009