Herpetologist Highlight: April

posted in: News 0

Herpetologist Highlight

Name: Freya Rowland

Age: 34

Website / Twitter Handle / Instagram: @freshwaterfreya

Where do you work? I work for the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research, and I am employed by the University of Michigan. My postdoc advisor, Dr. Craig Stow, is a NOAA employee, and I am based at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Position: I am a postdoctoral fellow.

How did you get there?

I did my undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin and was lucky enough to get involved in research at the Center for Limnology working with two (then) graduate students of Dr. Steve Carpenter, Drs. Oonsie Biggs and Amy Kamarainen. They allowed me to be part of a research project in its entirety. I helped plan sampling, prepped sample bottles, sampled lakes, enumerated zooplankton, and helped write the manuscript.

Immediately after graduation, I started a M.S. in the labs of Drs. Mike Vanni and María González. My master’s work examined how light and nutrient variation affects food chain efficiency, and I wanted to add in a benthic food chain. Dr. Michelle Boone was on my committee, and she recommended I use bullfrogs as my benthic consumer. I find it ironic that my interest in amphibians was sparked by the much-maligned bullfrog, but I spent hours watching the tadpoles swim and brainstorming future research ideas that would incorporate them.

I knew I wanted to get a Ph.D., but I decided to take some time away from academia to work in the real world. I spent three years working as an urban hydrologist at governmental agencies in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I sampled ponds, streams, lakes, and stormwater to determine pollutant loads being exported downstream. I enjoyed the applied nature of this work, but I realized that my interest in acquiring new skills and conducting research was driving me towards doctoral studies. I knew that Michelle had worked with Dr. Ray Semlitsch for her Ph.D., but I didn’t think I had much of a chance because I had zero amphibian ecology experience. Ray was the first person I emailed about Ph.D. positions, and I didn’t expect a reply. I was thrilled when he accepted me into his lab at the University of Missouri.

While at Missouri, I used pond ecosystems to ask some basic questions about food webs and subsidies. I explored bottom-up and top-down effects in ponds, I examined how leaf litter affects small aquatic ecosystems, and I looked at shifting food web interactions with increasing leaf litter inputs into ponds. I also had the good fortune of being part of a larger effort researching source-sink dynamics of pond-breeding salamanders on the Fort Leonard Wood military base in Missouri. Moreover, I was able to complete several side projects with graduate students and undergraduates in the Semlitsch lab during my time in Missouri.

As I was finishing my Ph.D. this past fall, I saw an advertisement for my current postdoc position. It is a great fit in many ways. For my job talk, I presented pond research that probably weirded out all of the Great Lakes scientists. My undergraduate and master’s work was in Limnology, and my Ph.D. was in a strong population and community ecology lab that emphasized quantitative skills — as a result, the jump from studying ponds to modeling harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie and what determines their toxicity was less difficult than it might seem. I am still getting used to the massive scale of the Great Lakes, however, as that quite a bit different from ponds.

Read more

Leave a Reply