PhD (Queen's - Kingston)
Research Areas: Aquatic Ecology, Limnology, Paleoecology
Freshwater aquatic ecosystems are currently affected by multiple anthropogenic stressors including (to name a few) recent climate change, acid rain, contaminant pollution, nutrient enrichment (eutrophication), land-use change (vegetation clearance for agriculture, urbanization etc), reservoir/impoundment construction and exotic species invasions.
Environmental monitoring programs of aquatic systems that are based on an ecological perspective (monitoring biological, chemical and physical variables) are relatively new as early programs were designed to monitor the impacts of acidic deposition in the 1970s. As a consequence, long-term ecological datasets (>20 yrs data) are extremely rare and located primarily in geographic regions downwind of major acidic deposition (north-eastern USA and central Ontario region of Canada).
This lack of long-term ecological data presents difficulties in answering some basic questions that are important to consider when assessing the ecological impacts of stressors: What are ‘natural’ or pre-disturbance conditions of the ecosystem? What is the natural variability of the system? It is possible to obtain this long-term data through proxy methods, such as through examination of paleoecological data archived in lake and pond sediments.
Sediments are natural archives of ecological data, with a host of physical, chemical, and biological variables providing insights into past aquatic ecosystem conditions. My research interests are focused on using paleoecological methods to examine aquatic ecosystem responses to a variety of human-induced stressors, across numerous types of aquatic systems, ranging from lakes in the ‘cottage-country’ districts of southern Ontario, Canada, to shallow ponds in the northern tip of the Canadian Arctic.
Quinlan R, AM Paterson, RI Hall, PJ Dillon, AN Wilkinson, BF Cumming, MSV Douglas & JP Smol. 2003. A landscape approach to examining spatial patterns of limnological variables and long-term environmental change in a southern Canadian lake district. Freshwater Biology 48: 1676-1697.
Quinlan R, PR Leavitt, AS Dixit, RI Hall & JP Smol. 2002. Effects of agriculture, climate and urban factors on water quality of Canadian Prairie lakes: a landscape analysis of fossil chironomid communities. Limnology and Oceanography 47: 378-391.
Quinlan R & JP Smol. 2002. Regional assessment of long-term hypolimnetic oxygen changes in Ontario (Canada) shield lakes using subfossil chironomids. Journal of Paleolimnology 27: 249-260.
Quinlan R & JP Smol. 2001. Chironomid-based inference models for estimating end-of-summer hypolimnetic oxygen from south-central Ontario shield lakes. Freshwater Biology 46: 1521-1551.