Stephen Elser

Environmental Scientist

Stephen Elser


Twitter: @stephen_elser 




University of Notre Dame            Notre Dame, IN

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences             May 2014

Minor in Sustainability

Capstone: “Brown Water: The Ecological and Economic Implications of Increased Dissolved Organic Carbon in Lakes”




Baylor University            Waco, TX

Stream Ecology Lab of Ryan S. King, Ph.D.

Research Technician   September 2014-August 2016

As a research technician in Dr. King’s lab, I work on the Oklahoma/Arkansas Scenic River Joint Study, a two-year study with the main goal of determining the phosphorus level at which a significant shift in algae occurs, resulting in undesirable water quality or degraded aesthetic conditions in scenic rivers near the Arkansas-Oklahoma border.  We have 35 sites along several different rivers and creeks around the border, each to be sampled twelve times over the two-year course of this study. My duties include collecting macroinvertebrate and water samples in the field, filtering water, calculating ash-free dry mass, extracting and running chlorophyll a samples, and identifying and measuring aquatic macroinvertebrates.  I also teach our lab protocol to undergraduates and oversee them as they perform our tasks.

University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center-East            Land O’ Lakes, WI

Aquatic Microbial and Ecosystem Ecology Research Lab of Stuart E. Jones, Ph.D.

Lead Research Technician             May- August 2014

As the lead technician for the Jones Lab, I was in charge of the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center (UNDERC) Monitoring Project, a long-term study of thirteen lakes. Monitoring includes quantifying three classes of metrics for each sampled lake: limnology (including total nitrogen and phosphorus, Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC), and zooplankton), lake metabolism, and fish. I supervised two undergraduates in addition to collecting and processing these data myself.


Practicum in Environmental Field Biology

Undergraduate Researcher            May-July 2012

This summer program allowed me to take classes in different subjects (forest ecology, entomology, mammalogy, ornithology, herpetology, and aquatic ecology) taught by professors from several universities while also pursuing my own research. My project looked at the effect of DOC on vertical migration behaviorof phantom midge (Chaoborus) larvae in the water column.


University of Notre Dame, Department of Biology            Notre Dame, IN

Aquatic Microbial and Ecosystem Ecology Research Lab of Stuart E. Jones, Ph.D.

Undergraduate Researcher            August 2013-May 2014

Expanding upon my research from the summer of 2012, I further examined the effects of DOC on Chaoborus behavior. I also looked at how increased DOC might affect local economies by influencing the decisions people make about engaging in recreational activities like fishing or boating.


Freshwater Ecology Research Lab of David M. Lodge, Ph.D.

Undergraduate Researcher            August 2011-May 2012

My research in the Lodge Lab focused on the impacts of an invasive species of crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) on snail populations in northern Wisconsin lakes. Specifically, I examined how those impacts were mitigated by the presence of macrophytes.


University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center- West            Moiese, MT

Practicum in Environmental Field Biology

Undergraduate Researcher             June-August 2013

This summer program allowed me to take classes in Native American ecology, grassland ecology, and montane ecology. Additionally, I pursued independent research on the effects of nutrient and water availability on grasshopper herbivory.


University of Notre Dame, Office of Sustainability            Notre Dame, IN

Sustainability Intern            August 2012- May 2013

My job as an intern primarily involved organizing and promoting sustainability events around campus. I did this by coordinating monthly meetings with Sustainability Commissioners from each dorm and telling them about upcoming events. I also wrote, directed, and edited promotional videos for special events.


Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences            Tempe, AZ

Riverine Ecology and Freshwater Sustainability Research Lab of John L. Sabo, Ph. D

Field Technician            May-August 2011

My responsibilities as a field technician included surveying and maintaining experimental plots. These duties included counting crickets, spiders, and lizards found inside our plots and adding different forms of water to the plots every day. This project looked at the role of water availability on trophic cascades in riparian areas in a desert


Biological Stoichiometry Research Lab of James J. Elser, Ph. D

Volunteer Field Technician            July-August 2010

My role included collecting and filtering hot spring water samples at Yellowstone National Park. The project was looking at the effects of nutrients on microorganisms in the hot springs.


Earthwatch Institute            Monterey Bay, CA

Volunteer Field Technician            June 2009

My duties included setting nets across a slough in order to catch sharks and rays. Once caught, we tagged, measured, recorded, and released the animals. The project was trying to get an accurate population estimate of the different sharks and rays in the Elkhorn Slough.




Dean’s List for the University of Notre Dame College of Science (Fall 2013)

Hank Family Endowment (Scholarship awarded for summer at UNDERC in 2012)




Allen, D. C., K. E. McCluney, S. R. Elser, and J. L Sabo. 2013. Water as a trophic currency in dryland food webs. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12: 156-160.




Elser, S., K. McCluney, A. Laws (in preparation). Grasshopper herbivory trumps summer fertilization and irrigation in influencing grass biomass in a Montane West grassland.




Elser, S., J. Zwart, S. Jones. Placement and displacement of Chaoborus larvae in water columns across a dissolved organic carbon gradient. 2013. Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference. Poster.


Elser, S., A. Baldridge, D. Lodge. Associations between taxonomic groups in a lake community impacted by an invasive species. 2012. Joint Annual College of Science Undergraduate Research Fair. Poster.



OTHER WRITING           


UNDERC Lake Guide: I created a guide to the 13 lakes studied in the UNDERC monitoring project with complete photographs, physical descriptions, lists of all fish and zooplankton, and graphs of temperature, light, and DO through the water column of each lake. Summer of 2014.


UNDERC Fish Guide: This guide included photographs, scientific and common names, physical descriptions, and diagnostic features of each fish caught in the monitoring project as well as how they were caught. Summer of 2014.


Brown Water: The Ecological and Economic Implications of Increased Dissolved Organic Carbon in Lakes: This was the capstone project for my minor in Sustainability. A short, web version can be found at:     Spring of 2014.





Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography

Society for Freshwater Science




·      Computers: Microsoft Office, R, Lightroom, iMovie.

·      Identification: Birds (auditory and visual), plants, amphibians and reptiles, insects (terrestrial and aquatic), mammals, and zooplankton.

·      Animal sampling/capture: Fyke, seine, and kick netting, minnow, Schindler, Sherman, and pitfall trapping, Hess sampling, and zooplankton tows.

·      Limnological sampling: Water collection (for TN, TP, SRP, NO3, Chlorophyll, DIC, POC, DOC, and Color using a Van Dorn sampler), light, temperature, and DO profiling.

·      Water processing: filtering, and running samples through a GC.