EXPERT: ADAM HEATHCOTE
Current Career/Field of Study:
Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Research Assistant for the Iowa State University Limnology Laboratory (http://limnology.eeob.iastate.edu/)/
Paleolimnology and Aquatic Ecology.
Description of Career/Field of Study: I am a graduate student at Iowa State University in Ames, IA. I split my time between conducting research towards completing my degree, teaching undergraduate students, and supporting the many other research projects our laboratory is involved in.
Hometown: Des Moines, IA
College/University: Iowa State University
Degree Level(s) Achieved: Bachelor of Science
Description of Research:
Limnology is the study of inland waters (i.e., lakes, streams, and wetlands) and paleolimnology is the study of the history of those systems. Paleolimnologists use evidence left behind in the sediments (lake mud) to find out what conditions were like in the past. This includes fossil remains of microscopic algae and zooplankton as well as larger organisms like fish and aquatic plants. My research involves using sediment cores to reconstruct the history of 34 natural lakes in Iowa and how they have changed since Europeans settled the area in the mid-1800’s. Additionally, I am interested in looking at the influence of inland waters on the Global Carbon Cycle and how the role of lakes in sequestering (burying) organic carbon can change due to human interactions.
Best advice for someone interested in pursuing your career/field of study:
Spend as much time as possible around whatever aquatic ecosystem(s) fascinates you the most and seek out others with similar interests. You learn the most by experiencing things firsthand and sharing those experiences with others.
Favorite thing about working in your field:
Splitting open a sediment core and finding something completely unexpected (like a huge mussel shell or an entire fish skull!).
What advice can you give kids to help conserve and protect your subject of study?:
The best way to protect lakes and streams is to get involved in local efforts to protect and clean-up these systems.
A few local examples from Iowa:
Where can kids learn more about your subject of study?: General information, water quality data, lake maps, and fisheries information are all publicly available for Iowa lakes at:
Coolest fact about your subject of study:
Inland waters make up just ~3% of the Earth’s surface, but may bury up to 3 times as much organic carbon as the world’s oceans.
Reliable email where kids can contact you to ask questions about your career/research: