Cayelan Carey

Biological Sciences

Dr. Carey is an Assistant Professor of freshwater ecosystem ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech and teaches undergraduate courses in Freshwater Ecology and Introductory Ecology.  Prior to arriving at Virginia Tech, she was a postdoctoral associate at the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Carey Lab at Virginia Tech examines how nutrient pollution (eutrophication), climate change, and other stressors interact to affect water quality in freshwater ecosystems. Dr. Carey is particularly interested in understanding how feedbacks between microbial and plankton taxa, food webs, and nutrient cycling can mediate ecosystem resilience to anthropogenic forcing.

Cayelan C Carey

The Carey Lab works primarily in lakes and reservoirs because they are critically important for drinking water, fisheries, industry, and recreation, yet are considered among the most threatened ecosystems in the world due to unsustainable use, pollution, invasive species, and altered climate.

Research questions the Carey Lab asks include: 1) Do warmer temperatures and increased nutrients synergistically interact to promote algal blooms, and if so, are there lake management techniques that can offset future decreases in water quality? 2) How do plankton community dynamics (i.e., competition, facilitation) mediate external climate change forcing, and how will climate change scenarios interact to affect the likelihood of cyanobacterial blooms?  3) How does eutrophication affect phosphorus cycling in in lake and reservoir sediments? and 4) How do different thermal stratification dynamics in reservoirs and natural lakes alter their aquatic communities’ response to increased temperatures and nutrients?  We use a suite of tools, including field, laboratory, and whole-lake experiments; hydrodynamic models; and long-term data analysis to answer these questions.

Email address            Lab website


In this video, Dr. Cayelan Carey describes a research project designed to control phosphorous concentrations in a local drinking-water reservoir.

Virginia Tech: Oxygen in action from VirginiaTech on Vimeo.


Recent Relevant Publications:

Carey, C.C., H.A. Ewing, K.L. Cottingham, K.C. Weathers, R.Q. Thomas, and J.F. Haney.  2012. Occurrence and toxicity of the cyanobacterium Gloeotrichia echinulata in low-nutrient lakes in the northeastern United States.  Aquatic Ecology. 46:395-409

Carey, C.C., B.W. Ibelings, E.P. Hoffman, D.P. Hamilton, and J.D. Brookes.  Eco-physiological adaptations that favour freshwater cyanobacteria in a changing climate. Water Research.  46:1394-1407.

Kara, E.L., P.C. Hanson, D.P. Hamilton, M. Hipsey, K.D. McMahon, J.S. Read, L. Winslow, J. Dedrick, K.C. Rose, C.C. Carey, S. Bertilsson, D. da Motta Marques, L. Beversdorf, T. Miller, C. Wu, Y.-F. Hsieh, E. Gaiser, and T.K. Kratz.  Time-scale dependence in numerical simulations: assessment of physical, chemical, and biological predictions in a stratified lake at temporal from scales of hours to months. Environmental Modelling and Software. 35:104-121.

Brookes, J.D.* and C.C. Carey*.  2011.  Resilience to blooms.  Science 334: 46-47. *Both authors contributed equally to this work.

Carey, C.C., and E. Rydin 2011. Lake trophic status may be determined by the depth distribution of sediment phosphorus.  Limnology and Oceanography 56: 2051-2063.

Carey, C.C. and K. Rengefors.  2010. The cyanobacterium Gloeotrichia echinulata stimulates algal division.  Journal of Plankton Research. 32: 1349-1354.

Shade, A., C.C. Carey, E. Kara, S. Bertilsson, K.D. McMahon, and M.C. Smith.  2009. Can the black box be cracked?  The augmentation of microbial ecology with high-resolution, automated sensing technologies.  ISME Journal 3: 881-888.

Carey, C.C., Weathers, K.C., and K.L. Cottingham.  2008.  Gloeotrichia echinulata blooms in an oligotrophic lake:  Helpful insights from eutrophic lakes.  Journal of Plankton Research.  230: 893-904.