Current Members

Jason Venkiteswaran


My research is currently focused on the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients and related elements, and human and climate related disruptions of these cycles. For more than a decade, I have conducted whole-ecosystem research at the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area studying reservoir creation, ecosystem metabolism and eutrophication. To study the fate of biogeochemical elements, I often use stable isotope measurements with process-based ecological models. I am a co-founder of the Coalition to Save ELA.

Megan L. Larsen, Postdoctoral fellow


Megan Larsen is a microbial evolutionary ecologist with a focus in eco-evolutionary feedbacks in microbial communities induced by nutrient stoichiometry. At present, she is investigating predictive models for cyanobacterial bloom formation as part of the cross-institutional FORMBLOOM) project.

Larsen recently completed a one-year postdoctoral position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Water Sciences Laboratory (WSL) where she provided expertise in specialized methods for water quality analysis and oversaw technical training within the facility. Her research at the WSL focused on emerging and persistent contaminants in groundwater and surface waters such as pesticides, nitrates, and cyanobacterial toxins across Nebraska and in the Ganges River ecosystem in India. Larsen received her PhD from Indiana University in 2016. Her dissertation work focused on how ratios of elements such as nitrogen and phosphorus shape the ecological, evolutionary, and molecular interactions between bacteria and phage.

Read more about Larsen’s research, professional development for students, and scientific outreach on her personal webpage.

Pieter Aukes, Postdoctoral fellow


Aukes looks at the variability in natural dissolved organic matter (DOM), with the objective of distinguishing indicators of labile DOM. Liquid Chromatography-Organic Carbon Detection (LC-OCD) uses a size-exclusion method to provide a highly detailed analysis of DOM composition. His research classifies a variety of surface and ground water environments, with the aim to observe differences in composition between environments, as well as to identify components which may indicate the overall lability of DOM in the SAMMS and Northern Water Futures projects.

You can find more information on Aukes’ research interests and projects on his personal website.

Rachel Henderson, MSc student


Rachel completed her BSc in Environmental Science at the University of Waterloo. She is currently studying the role of particulate organic matter in iron uptake and fractionation by cyanobacteria at the Experimental Lakes Area, and how this may differ between eutrophic and oligotrophic lakes. She is interested in the applications of geochemistry to solving environmental problems, and how science can better inform public policy.

Puru Shah, MSc student


Puru has just finished his undergrad from University of Waterloo in Biochemistry. Through the co-op program, he has worked at Environment and Climate Change Canada researching harmful algal blooms. His thesis work will be looking at algal and cyanobacterial cultures and how they interact with and take up iron to hopefully better understand the role of iron in harmful algal bloom formation.

Jordyn Atkins, MSc student


Jordyn completed her Honours BSc in Earth and Environmental Sciences with a GIS minor at McMaster University. Her MSc research will focus on understanding the relationship between catchment land cover characteristics, dissolved organic carbon, and disinfection by-products. GIS will be used to create a model to predict which waters will produce less disinfection by-products and therefore are better suited to drinking water.

Mackenzie Schultz, MSc student


Mackenzie completed her undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University studying Biology and Geography. She is excited to return for her MSc, as part of SAMMS, where she will help characterize both terrestrial and aquatic metal deposition histories, stores, and pathways as a result of the mining industry.

Jeremy Leathers, MSc student


Jeremy completed his Bachelor of Science degree in biology and geography at the University of Winnipeg. He is looking forward to starting an MSc as a part of SAMMS, where he will help to determine the total organic carbon and arsenic stored within soil and peat within catchments affected by mining activities in the Northwest Territories.

Heather Jovanovic, BSc student


Heather is a fourth year Applied Water Science student at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is looking forward to completing an honours thesis working on the FORMBLOOM project, where she will research the impacts of differing nitrogen species on the toxicity of Cyanobacteria blooms in the Grand River watershed.

Former Members

Jared Wolfe, Research associate


Jared completed his MSc at the University of Regina studying the impacts of Oil Sands industrial development on historical algal communities in northern Saskatchewan. He is currently investigating harmful algal bloom formation and decline in the Experimental Lakes Area as part of the FORMBLOOM project. His interests are in studying relationships between ecosystem components, particularly the relationship between humans and the environment.

Eric McQuay, MSc student

Eric defended his MSc thesis in Earth Science in October 2017. His research focussed on the redox preconditions required for cyanobacteria dominance of phytoplankton blooms along the embayments of Georgian Bay.

Ben Bell, BSc student

Ben assessed the patterns of land cover diversity at the IISD Experimental Lakes Area.

Tyler Prentice, BSc student


Tyler quantified the impacts of freeze-thaw cycles on nutrient release by riparian vegetation. This was a contribution to the multi-university lugnuts, linked undergraduate research in nutrients.

Amber Cottle, BSc student


Amber finished her undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University studying Biology and Environmental Studies. She studied the relationship between temperature and rates of ebullition.


Friends are our collaborators at a variety of organizations and institutions. In some cases they are co-supervisors, committee members, and/or co-applicants on grants. Often they are co-authors on our papers. In all cases, they are the extended group of people I like to work with. The model of a single professor with a lab full of students is antiquated and simply not how environmental and biogeochemical research is done.