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Aquatic Ecology Lab at WSU Vancouver


Welcome to the Aquatic Ecology Laboratory at Washington State University!  The Lab is co-directed by  Dr. Stephen M. Bollens and Dr. Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens with an active and diverse research team consisting of graduate students, undergraduate researchers, research technicians and high school science teachers conducting summer research. We are based on the WSU Vancouver campus, located in the Portland Metropolitan Area.

Our research is broadly concerned with the ecology of marine, estuarine and freshwater phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish, and spans the sub-disciplines of behavior, population biology, community ecology and ecosystem dynamics. Our research often has an applied aspect to it, touching upon such areas as conservation biology, restoration ecology, fisheries oceanography, and global change. We employ a wide variety of approaches to “doing science,” including field (observational), modeling and experimental techniques.

Our group is highly collaborative and Dr. Bollens and Dr. Rollwagen-Bollens often co-advise their graduate students.  However, each Co-Director is the lead for one or more of the Lab’s current research themes.

Dynamics of Harmful Algal Blooms (Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens, Lead)                               We are interested in the biotic and abiotic factors that influence the development, timing, magnitude, and taxonomic composition of harmful algal blooms in freshwater, estuarine and coastal ecosystems.  Our recent focus has been on freshwater cyanobacteria blooms in the Columbia River Basin, across a eutrophication gradient.  In particular, we have studied the dynamics of cyanobacteria blooms in Vancouver Lake, a large, shallow eutrophic lake that is a highly valued recreational resource in Clark County, WA.

Ecology, Behavior and Impact of Aquatic Invasive Species (Stephen Bollens, Lead)        Our research in this area ranges from observational studies of invasive species abundance, distribution and composition in critical freshwater and estuarine habitats of the Pacific Northwest, to experimental programs to investigate the ecological interactions among native and invasive taxa, with particular focus on the impacts of invasive species on at-risk and economically valuable fish and invertebrate species (i.e. salmon and shellfish).

Locations of other recent projects include San Francisco Bay and the coastal ocean off California, Georges Bank/Northwest Atlantic, the Arabian Sea, the equatorial Pacific, the Florida Keys, and the Bering Sea. Our projects have been funded by a wide range of federal and state agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the CALFED Bay/Delta Program. For more detailed information on our current and recent research projects, please visit our Research and Publications pages.


Bollens    RollBoll

(360) 546-9116           (360) 546-9115


Dr. Bollens and Dr. Rollwagen-Bollens (and 4 collaborators from WSU Vancouver and WSU Pullman) have received a new 4-year NSF award to investigate the reciprocal dynamics of how management of dams western WA and OR influences greenhouse gas emissions, harmful algal blooms and aquatic invasive species in reservoirs, and how those biophysical outcomes may influence future dam management, specifically the use of discretion by dam managers. 

This project will support at least two new graduate students starting in summer or fall 2022, and field work will focus on the Bonneville and Celilo reservoirs along the Columbia River, and the Detroit and Cougar reservoirs on 2 major tributaries of the Willamette River. 

Stay tuned for more information!!