The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Cayelan Carey, an assistant professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, for her work to protect the world’s freshwater.
Carey focuses on lakes and reservoirs because they are critically important for drinking water, fisheries, industry, and recreation. She wants to know if warmer temperatures and increased nutrients interact to promote algal blooms, and, if so, which lake management techniques could offset future decreases in water quality.
Her work lies at the intersection of freshwater community and ecosystem ecology. She is broadly interested in nutrient pathways in lakes and the feedbacks that occur between aquatic biogeochemical cycles and plankton communities. In addition, she focuses on how local communities value and interact with their water resources, which has implications for water quality. In collaboration with the Western Virginia Water Authority, her lab group is exploring the effects of management on reservoirs that are highly dynamic and used for drinking water.
She recently co-authored a report published in the UN Chronicle, The Magazine of the United Nations, focused on separation of drinking water from wastewater, access to treated water in the home or nearby, protecting and restoring freshwater ecosystems degraded by human activity, and the development of water-sharing agreements.
Carey's research integrates population, community, and ecosystem ecology to examine how natural and human activity affects freshwater systems. Her lab works across lakes, reservoirs, and streams, and uses models, field experiments, and long-term data analysis to determine how stressors affect both biological communities and ecosystem services.
A current research focus is on understanding how feedbacks between microbial and plankton taxa, food webs, and nutrient cycling can mediate ecosystem resilience to eutrophication and climate change.
Carey is affiliated with the Fralin Life Science Institute, the Interfaces of Global Change interdisciplinary graduate education program, and the Global Change Center.
She received her Ph.D. in ecology from Cornell University, was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology and a Fulbright Fellow at Uppsala University, Sweden.