Event Date

February 19, 2021, 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM


Research Lecture Series

Program Information

Lunchtime Lectures
Dates: First Tuesday of each month
Time: 12 - 1pm
Location: online for now
Cost: Free, Open to the Public

BRIT Research Seminars
Date: Various dates throughout year
Time: 12 - 1pm 
Location: online for now
Cost: Free, Open to the Public
Visit the event page for specific date and time information.

Point of Contact

Brooke Byerley Best, Ph.D.

Director of Research Programs

Topics on Texas Aquatic Ecosystems

A (Virtual) Research Seminar by Katie Vasquez and Megann Harlow

**UPDATE (16-FEB-2021): This seminar has been POSTPONED. We will reschedule soon and update this webpage when we've done so.


Please join Katie Vasquez and Megann Harlow from University of North Texas as they present their research in our first Student Research Seminar of the year. This 1-hr seminar will be divided into two 20-min presentations, each followed by a short Q&A.

“Analyzing the macroinvertebrate community dynamics within different habitat regimes of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV): Post Hydrilla invasion in Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas” -- Katie Vasquez

Abstract: Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin are adjacent river-like reservoirs in Austin, Texas, with the primary functions of electrical power generation, flood control, and recreation. In 1999, the invasive submerged aquatic macrophyte Hydrilla verticillata was observed in Lake Austin where it established over the span of the lake, though never establishing in Lady Bird Lake. Management strategies to eradicate Hydrilla, involving the stocking of sterile Asian grass carp, Ctenopharyngodon idella, nearly eliminated hydrilla from Lake Austin, but also resulting in overgrazing of native submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in both lakes, giving rise to other nuisance species such as zebra mussels and harmful algae. Since 2004 the City of Austin has been continually working to restore the SAV in these reservoirs. SAV, in addition to facilitating nutrient uptake and retention, enhancing water clarity, stabilizing substrate, and attenuating wave energy, provides food resources and habitat refugia for aquatic fauna. My research aims to understand the biological implications from the presence and absence of SAV in the two reservoirs by seasonally analyzing the benthic macroinvertebrate community within different habitat regimes. The results indicate that the presence of SAV was important for the colonization of benthic macroinvertebrate diversity and supported higher macroinvertebrate taxa abundance and richness. The study shows the importance of restoration of SAV and these results will contribute to further management decisions in the City of Austin.

top-down view of Zebra mussels on a stick, in background are various items on the bottom of a boat; microscope photo of head of Chironomid larvae; selfie of Katie wearing sunglasses and face mask over nose and mouth; she is in a boat in the water with a suspension bridge in background
Clockwise from top left: invasive Zebra mussels on a stick; head of mounted Chironomid larvae; Katie Vasquez on Lake Austin with the 360 Bridge in background

"Biomonitoring at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: Relating urban land use with aquatic life use" -- Megann Harlow

Abstract: To determine the effectiveness of watershed protection practices, the Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport sponsored a series of biomonitoring studies of the surrounding waterways. This study was conducted by the University of North Texas (UNT) Benthic Ecology Lab during the summers of 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2014. The objective of these studies was to identify the major human activities, within the urban watershed surrounding the airport, that could potentially affect water quality. These biomonitoring events included measurements of physicochemical parameters, habitat quality, and benthic macroinvertebrates populations. Additionally, land use analysis was conducted using 5-meter resolution satellite imagery of the watershed using eCognition, an object-based-image-analysis software. This information was used to identify geospatial variables, e.g. impervious surface cover, with the potential to impact water quality. One unique aspect of the approximately 17,000 acres of airport property, that was revealed in the spatial analysis, is a large tract of “protected” riparian forest that is rare in the urban surroundings. Benthic macroinvertebrate communities, along with other measured parameters, within the study area point to an improved stream condition downstream of this riparian forest. The results provide support for the benefits of an intact riparian forest within urban areas to improve stream conditions for aquatic life.

drainage ditch lined with vegetation; selfie of Megann sitting at a microscope; microscope photo of aquatic invertebrate samples including snail and bivalve shells and various nymphs
From top: airport upstream sampling site; Megann Harlow sitting at a microscope; assortment of aquatic invertebrate samples

Katie Vasquez and Megann Harlow are both graduate students in the Environmental Science program of the Department of Biology at University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Their advisor is Dr. James Kennedy, Regents Professor and Director of the Elm Fork Education Center and Natural Heritage Museum.

This virtual lecture will broadcast live on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Z9jbdASUMBE

Watchers can use the YouTube chat for Q&A with the speaker. A link to the recorded lecture will be posted here a few days after the event ends pending permission.


About Research Lecture Series

The BRIT Lecture Series is designed to create community wide conversation about a diverse range of important and rapidly developing topics. This series gives scientists and speakers a forum for sharing the most current information about their areas of expertise and allows the public to interact with leading members of the local, national, and international scientific community.

Our Lecture Series is made up of Lunchtime Lectures and Research Seminars. Lunchtime Lectures take place the first Tuesday of each month, February – July and September – November, from noon - 1pm in the BRIT Commons (**Now held virtually until further notice***). Research Seminars take place periodically throughout the year and are scheduled based on the availability of our in-house and visiting researchers.

All events are free and open to the public. Please watch this page and our social media channels for announcements of upcoming Lunchtime Lectures and Researcher Seminars.