Department of Environmental Sciences

Faculty: Trisha Spanbauer

Trisha Spanbauer

Assistant Professor
Ph.D. University of Nebraska 2015

Research and Teaching Interests

  • Paleolimnology
  • Diatom ecology and evolution
  • Ecosystem resilience

419.530.2823 |

ResearchRecent Publications
View Vitae


  • Diatom Ecology and Evolution
    Diatoms, single celled eukaryotic algae, are prolific in almost all bodies of water – from the smallest puddle to the oceans. Aside from being prolific, their silica cell wall allows for them to be preserved in sediments that collect in lake and ocean basins. I study ancient and modern diatoms from the level of populations up to how they fit into ecosystems at large. At the population level, I am interested in how diatoms are dispersed, their sexual cycle, and how they evolve; at the community level, I am interested in the interplay of community assembly and extirpation; and, at the ecosystem level, I am interested in what diatoms can tell us about long-term ecosystem dynamics and landscape evolution.

  • Ecological Resilience Theory
    My interests in long-term ecosystem dynamics led to my participation in an NSF IGERT group on resilience and adaptive management. Often, in the paleoecological record we see abrupt community reorganization driven by environmental change. This led me to use sedimentary diatom records to test ecological resilience theory, generally the quantitative analysis of early warning signals. These studies have shed light on rapid community reorganization prior to regime shifts. This work has led to collaborations with wildlife managers, federal agencies, and scientists at international universities. Moving forward, I have been collaborating with ecologists, geoscientists, and physicists on novel ways of characterizing stability, transients, and chaos in ecological records.

  • Novel Approaches in Paleolimnology
    Being committed to understanding ecological processes over periods of time often not captured in the historical record, I have interests in how lakes operate as archives of biological and chemical changes within the catchment. Further, I am interested in new theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of paleolimnology. For instance, I have begun a new project using ancient DNA (aDNA) and next-generation molecular analysis to understand the rapid evolution of an endemic diatom. In addition, advances in the application of aDNA will allow paleolimnologists to reconstruct communities of organisms that leave no visually identifiable remains within sediments.

  • More information on Dr. Spanbauer's Lab webpage.


Recent Publications

View Dr. Spanbauer's Google Scholar page.

  • Stone, J.R., J.E. Saros, T.L. Spanbauer (2019) The Influence of Fetch on the Holocene Thermal Structure of Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park. Frontiers in Earth Science 7: 28.

  • Sundstrom, S.M., D.G. Angeler,C. Barichievy, T. Eason, A. Garmestani, L. Gunderson, M. Knutson, K.L. Nash, T.L. Spanbauer, C. Stow, C.R. Allen (2018) The distribution and role of functional abundance in cross‐scale resilience. Ecology 99(11): 2421-2432.

  • Hampton, S.E., S. McGowan, T. Ozersky, S.G.P. Virdis, T.-T. Vu, T.L. Spanbauer, B.M. Kraemer, G. Swann, A. Mackay, S. Powers, M.F. Meyer, S.G. Labou, C.M. O’Reilly, M. DiCarlo, A.W.E. Galloway, S. Fritz (2018) Recent ecological change in ancient lakes. Limnology and Oceanography 63: 2277-2304. doi: 10.1002/lno.10938

  • Chuang, W.C., A. Garmestani, T.N. Eason, T.L Spanbauer, H.B. Fried-Petersen, C.P. Roberts, S.M. Sundstrom, J.L. Burnett, D.G. Angeler, B.C. Chaffin, L. Gunderson, D. Twidwell, C.R. Allen (2018) Enhancing quantitative approaches for assessing community resilience. Journal of Environmental Management 213: 353-362.

  • Spanbauer, T.L., S. Brown, R. Cartier, D. Conley, S.C. Fritz, C. Schiller, E.C. Theriot, C. Whitlock, P. Zahajská (2018) Yellowstone Lake Coring Projects: Research with a History. Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin 27(1): 6-10.

  • Spanbauer, T.L., S.C. Fritz, P.A. Baker (2018) Punctuated changes in the morphology of an endemic diatom from Lake Titicaca. Paleobiology 44(1):89-100.doi: 10.1017/pab.2017.27

  • Scown, M.W., J.E. Flotemersch, T.L. Spanbauer, A.S. Garmestani, T. Eason, B.C. Chaffin (2017) People and water: Exploring the social-ecological condition of watersheds of the conterminous United States. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. 5: 64. doi: 10.1525/elementa.189

  • Kelly, P.T., T. Bell, A.J. Reisinger, T.L. Spanbauer, L.E. Bortolotti, J.A. Brentrup, C. Briseño-Avena, X. Dong, A.M. Flanagan, E.M. Follett, J. Grosse, T. Guy-Haim, M.A. Holgerson, R.A. Hovel, J.Y. Luo, N.C. Millette, A. Mine, M.E. Muscarella, S.K. Oliver, H.J. Smith (2017) Ecological Dissertations in Aquatic Science (Eco-DAS): An excellent networking opportunity for early career aquatic scientists. Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin 26: 25-30.

  • Sundstrom, S. M., T. Eason, R.J. Nelson, D.G. Angeler, C. Barichievy, A.S. Garmestani, N.A.J. Graham, D. Granholm, L. Gunderson, M. Knutson, K.L. Nash, T.L. Spanbauer, C.A. Stow, and C.R. Allen (2017) Detecting spatial regimes in ecosystems. Ecology Letters 20: 19–32. doi:10.1111/ele.12709

  • Spanbauer, T.L., C.R. Allen, D.G. Angeler, T. Eason, S.C. Fritz,A.S. Garmestani, K.L. Nash, J.R. Stone, C.A. Stow, S.M. Sundstrom (2016) Body size distributions signal a regime shift in a lake ecosystem. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 283: 20160249.

  • Angeler, D. G., C.R. Allen, C. Barichievy, T. Eason, A.S. Garmestani, N.A.J. Graham, D. Granholm, L.H. Gunderson, M. Knutson, K.L. Nash, R.J. Nelson, M. Nyström, T.L. Spanbauer, C.A. Stow and S.M. Sundstrom (2015) Management applications of discontinuity theory. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12494

  • Spanbauer, T.L., C.R. Allen, D.G. Angeler, T. Eason, S.C. Fritz, A.S. Garmestani, K.L. Nash, and J.R. Stone (2014) Prolonged Instability Prior to a Regime Shift. PLOS One 9 (10): e108936. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108936

  • Nemec, K. T., J. Chan, C. Hoffman, T. L. Spanbauer, J. A. Hamm, C. R. Allen, T. Hefley, D. Pan and P. Shrestha (2014) Assessing Resilience in Stressed Watersheds. Ecology and Society 19 (1): 34. [online] URL:

  • Fritz, S.C., P.A. Baker, P. Tapia, T. Spanbauer, K. Westover (2012) Evolution of Lake Titicaca basin and its diatom flora over the last ~ 370,000 years. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 317-318: 93–103.

  • Saros, J.E., J.R. Stone, G.T. Pederson, K. Slemmons, T.L. Spanbauer, A. Schleip, D. Cahl, C.E. Williamson, D.R. Engstrom (2012) Climate-induced changes in lake ecosystem structure inferred from coupled neo- and paleoecological approaches. Ecology 93:2155–2164.


Last Updated: 5/27/20