Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Ana M. Morales


Vermont’s inland lakes are changing rapidly in response to anthropogenic disturbance pressures. While changes in water chemistry are well documented across the state, the biological response of primary producer communities to these shifts remains poorly understood. This project investigated the response of phytoplankton communities to the interacting effects of recovery from acidification and climate change in high-altitude lakes. We analyzed long-term monitoring and meteorological data in four of Vermont’s acid-impaired lakes and found that as pH and acid-neutralizing capacity has increased, so have concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in most lakes. To assess the biological response to these processes, we collected spring, summer, and fall phytoplankton samples in four focus ponds representing a gradient of DOC concentrations (Beaver, Big Mud, Bourn, Haystack) during ice-free seasons of 2018 and 2019. In addition to this, we reconstructed paleo-chemistry and diatom community composition in Beaver Pond from approximately 1836 to the present. Phytoplankton community composition varied seasonally within and between lakes, but was generally dominated by chrysophytes, chlorophytes, and diatoms. We found low concentrations of potentially bloom-forming cyanobacteria at all sites (Pseudanabaena spp., Microcystis spp.), but did not observe bloom events during the study period. Paleolimnological analyses indicate that the largest shift in in diatom community composition has occurred over the last 30 years in Beaver Pond, but that modern assemblages are different than those present pre-acidification, suggesting a new ecological trajectory as aquatic systems face increased climate pressures.



Number of Pages

69 p.