You are here

Scholarship Enables Graduate Student to Study New Pathways of Carbon Flow Through Aquatic Food Webs

04/26/13 Portland, Ore.

Michelle Maier knows a thing or two about fungal parasites infecting microscopic algae cells. Some may actually benefit the food chain by providing more nutrients to fish and other animals.

Maier taking readings at SATURN-04Maier taking readings at an observation station (SATURN-04) in Astoria.A recent Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) Scholar Award will support Maier’s research into identifying and quantifying new pathways of carbon flow through aquatic food webs and aid in determining their importance in predicting how fish may respond to changes in environmental conditions that accompany river regulation through dams and climate change.

Michelle Maier is a Ph.D. student studying environmental science in the Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction (CMOP) at Oregon Health & Science University’s Institute of Environmental Health. She was one of 85 doctoral students nationwide selected to receive a $15,000 Scholar Award from the Philanthropic Educational Organization. She was nominated by Chapter DN in Portland, Oregon.

“My research project is to understand which environmental conditions support interactions between microscopic organisms that promote healthy fish populations,” Maier says. “I want to determine how food material is transferred at the microscopic level through algae, fungi, and animals in rivers.”

The scholarship supports Maier’s project that focuses on describing how environmental variables (temperature, light, river flow) influence microscopic biological communities in river ecosystems. This research will help guide decision makers on how best to sustain fish populations in aquatic systems altered by humans.

"We are extremely pleased that the scholarship provided by PEO will support Michelle's efforts to determine the influence of microbial parasites on carbon flow through aquatic food webs upon which many organisms, including fish, depend," says Tawnya Peterson, an OHSU assistant professor and Maier’s thesis advisor.

The P.E.O. Scholar Awards (PSA) was established in 199l to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral level degree at an accredited college or university.

The P.E.O. Sisterhood, founded January 21, 1869, at Iowa Wesleyan College, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, is a philanthropic educational organization interested in bringing increased opportunities for higher education to women. There are approximately 6,000 local chapters in the United States and Canada with nearly a quarter of a million active members.

Written by Jeff Schilling