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Dr. Jennifer Brentrup

Aquatic Ecologist | PhD, Miami University

Dr. Brentrup’s research currently focuses on forecasting the timing and severity of cyanobacterial blooms in lakes. At Cary Institute, she is collaborating with Dr. Weathers and Dr. LaDeau, as well as the near-term ecological forecasting initiative (NEFI) to use Bayesian methods to build a spatially explicit model with long-term data from multiple sites to forecast Gloeotrichia echinulata density in a low-nutrient lake.

Current Research

High cyanobacterial densities in lakes are a growing concern due to their ability to produce toxins and surface scums, but their abundance is often highly variable in space and time. Near-term ecological forecasts that include partitioned uncertainty estimates are advantageous for water resource managers who benefit from advanced warning of potential blooms to mitigate the negative impacts to water quality, fisheries, and recreation on lakes. Using a long-term dataset of Gloeotrichia echinulata densities at four locations in a low-nutrient lake, Dr. Brentrup is fitting Bayesian state-space models to test the effect of incorporating multiple sites and spatial processes on cyanobacterial density predictions and uncertainty estimates. By including environmental covariates such as water temperature, wind speed, and wind direction, Dr. Brentrup will test whether a lake-wide model will improve predictions for both low-density growth and rare, large bloom events. Identifying the aspects of the model with the highest uncertainty will help scientists target their sampling methods to better understand the connections between sites, and the role of different environmental drivers in bloom development.

Previous Research

Jennie graduated from Colby College with a degree in biology and concentration in environmental science. She completed her Ph.D. at Miami University in aquatic ecology focused on understanding the ecological consequences of decreases in transparency in lakes from a range of climatic factors, including increases in dissolved organic carbon. Through an NSF-IGERT fellowship, Jennie deployed buoys with high-frequency sensors in three lakes and collaborated with other scientists in the Global Lake Ecological Observatory (GLEON) to study seasonal changes in phytoplankton vertical distribution. As a post-doc at Dartmouth College, her research focused on under-ice carbon cycling in low-nutrient lakes, and the effects of road salt on zooplankton and phytoplankton communities as part of a GLEON global salt experiment. Jennie was also a post-doc at the University of Vermont where she studied the impacts of extreme storm events on phytoplankton community dynamics in over 40 lakes across the globe. In addition, she was previously a visiting assistant professor at St. Olaf College teaching classes on limnology, environmental studies, biology, and macrosystems ecology and data science.