phycology diatom logo

Phycology Section, Patrick Center for Environmental Research

The Phycology Section: Ecology and Taxonomy of Freshwater Algae, particularly Diatoms

ANSP logo


Phycology Section

Algae Images

Taxa Names


Diatom Paleolimnology Data Cooperative

Autecological Data


Internal Links


Staff Members
Donald Charles, Ph.D. - Section Leader [Biosketch; Full CV]
Marco Cantonati, Ph. D. - Research Scientist [ See CV; Teaching; Publications]
Frank Acker - Staff Scientist III
Laura Aycock - Research Scientist
Ling Ren, Ph.D. - Research Scientist
Patrick Boylan - Staff Scientist I
Pat Palmer - Computer Applications Developer
Alison Minerovic - Algal Analyst (25%)
Past Phycology Section Staff:
Sonja Hausmann, Ph.D. - Research Scientist [See CV]
Mihaela Enache, Ph.D. - Research Scientist
Eduardo Morales, Ph.D. - Research Scientist [See CV]
Barbara Rinkel, Ph.D. - Research Scientist
Andrew Tuccillo - Staff Scientist I
Melanie Mills - Staff Scientist I (project support)
Will Whalon - Staff Scientist I (project support)

Some Ph. D. scientists in the Phycology Section are also affiliated with Drexel's Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science (BEES) department.

Other Academy staff working with Phycology:

Project Support:
Elena Colon - Staff Scientist I

ANSP Diatom Herbarium:
Marina Potapova, Ph.D. - Curator
Ruth Patrick, Ph.D.- (Francis Boyer Chair of Limnology) (Obituary)

Charles Reimer, Ph.D. - (Career at the Academy 1952 - 2008) (Obituary)

Research Interests multiple diatom images
Phycology Section activities focus on ecology and taxonomy of freshwater algae, particularly diatoms. We seek to better understand the distributions of algal taxa throughout the U.S., and the environmental factors influencing both the occurrence of taxa over large scales and the composition of assemblages at individual sites. We are particularly interested in applying knowledge of algal ecology to the assessment of a wide range of environmental issues, but primarily those related to water quality of rivers and streams.

Because there are so many algal taxa, because they live in a wide variety of habitats, and because they have specific ecological requirements, algae are excellent ecological indicators, particularly of water quality. Diatoms especially have a long history of use in ecological assessment. Dr. Ruth Patrick, founder of the Patrick Center, performed important pioneering research on use of diatoms for biomonitoring starting in the 1940s.

Our largest project is a Cooperative Agreement with the USGS NAWQA program to analyze algal samples from throughout the U.S. Since 1995, the Phycology Section and it's subcontractors have analyzed over 5,000 samples. Results are distributed to NAWQA biologists to help assess ecological conditions. We also analyze national distributions of taxa and use NAWQA's environmental data to quantify ecological characteristics of taxa, and develop new indicator metrics.

On a more regional scale, we are working to develop algal indicators of high nutrient conditions in Piedmont streams in New Jersey for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. We are also trying to combine data from this project with several other projects in the Piedmont ecoregion to create a larger dataset for development and testing of algal indicators in this region.

To help disseminate information from our studies, we developed this Phycology Section website. The data currently accessible from this site are our Algae Image database and the Diatom Paleolimnology Data Cooperative (DPDC) database as well as the autecological data available on the Freshwater Algae section.

Facilities soft algae images
The Phycology Section has high quality facilities and equipment. Some are shared with other PCER Sections, which also provide valuable services (e.g., water chemistry analysis). We have a wide variety of field equipment for taking algal samples (water samplers, sediment coring equipment, boats), a separate laboratory for preparing algal samples and making diatom slides, a microwave apparatus for digesting diatom samples, six high quality research microscopes, two digital and two film cameras for the microscopes, local access to scanning electron microscopes, and an extensive reference collection of taxonomic and ecological literature - both in the laboratory and the Academy Library. Algal analysts work near the ANSP Diatom Herbarium (largest in North America) and consult regularly with it's curator, Dr. Marina Potapova. All Phycology staff have personal computers connected to the Academy network. The section developed and maintains several applications and databases, including the North American Diatom Ecological Database (NADED), which contains count and other data on over 10,000 samples.


  • Field collection of periphyton and phytoplankton samples
  • Deployment and collection of diatometers
  • Coring of lake and wetland sediments
  • Analysis of periphyton and phytoplankton samples; identification and enumeration
  • Analysis of diatoms in sediment cores; environmental reconstructions
  • Digital imaging of algae specimens; light microscope and SEM
  • Description of new diatom taxa
  • Multivariate analysis of species and environmental data
  • Calculation and development of metrics and other water quality indicators
  • Calibration of inference models for inferring environmental characteristics
  • Water quality assessment based on algal data (e.g., nutrient issues)

Recent Publications

Click to view PDF

Click to view the webpage

Selected ongoing and recent projects

National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program; USGS.

Understanding the Relationship Between Natural Conditions and Loadings on Eutrophication: Algal Indicators of Eutrophication for New Jersey Streams; NJ DEP.

Manatawny Creek Ecological Studies of Dam Removal; PA DEP

Riparian Reforestation in an Urbanizing Watershed: Effects of Upland Conditions on Instream Ecological Benefits; U.S. EPA.

Long-term Biological and Chemical Monitoring of Water Quality in the Savannah River; Westinghouse Savannah River Company.

Adirondack phytoplankton; U.S. EPA, Adirondack Ecological Assessment Program.

A Diatom Paleolimnology Data Cooperative (DPDC) for paleoclimate research; NSF.

Phycology scientists and researchers
Back Row: Frank Acker, Pat Palmer, Judie Marie Roszek, Don Charles
Middle Row: Nyree Martin, Marina Potapova, Mihaela Enache, Rosemary Malfi, Andrew Tuccillo, Ling Ren
Front Row: Jennifer Beals, Ruth Patrick, Sara Mays