Barbara Nicholson



Contact Information

Nicolaus Copernicus Hall 340

Phone: 860-832-2706


I am a field-oriented ecologist that specializes in northern wetlands. Students who elect to undertake research with me can conduct experiments a wide variety of topics ranging from the ecology of a single species to the ecology of entire ecosystems. I have had students study box turtle hatchling success and habitat selection, tree ring growth and its relationship to climate, lichens and air pollution in Connecticut, mapping wetland units in Shade Swamp, conducting macrofossil identification in wetland sediments, examining the function of constructed wetlands, and discovering salt tolerance of mosses in rare sea-level fens.
I am currently investigating the impact that a severe drought has had on peatland ponds in northern Alberta. These are ponds that are surrounded by peatlands (peat accumulating wetlands). In order for peatlands to form, water tables surrounding the ponds needs to be high and stable, and that any droughts could not possibly have been severe or lengthy in duration. In 2002 however, water tables in the ponds fell so low that many of these ponds dried up and new plant species began colonizing the exposed lakebeds. My research involves investigating what species of plants are colonizing and determining whetherthese ponds have gone through this type of drought cycle before. Documenting previous periods of drought involves conducting a study, where the pond sediments are cored and the sediments sifted for microfossil and macrofossil remains. Many types of fossils are preserved in the sediments such as seeds, plant fragments, pollen and diatoms. I am hoping that the fossil history ofthese sediments will reveal the frequency and possible duration of these drought cycles. I welcome anyone whom wants to be involved.

Representative Publications

  • Nicholson, B. J. & S. Halkin. 2007. Temperature Relationships in Eastern Skunk Cabbage. Bioscene, Journal of College Biology Teaching 33(2): 6-14.
  • Nicholson, B. J., S. E., Bayley & H. Whitehouse. 2006. Inferred History of a Boreal Pond From Sediment and Vegetation Characteristics. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 86: 335-347.
  • Nicholson, B. J. & J. B. Swinehart. 2005. Evidence of Holocene climate change in a Nebraska Sandhills wetland. Great Plains Research 15: 45-67.

Courses Taught

BIO 121 - General Biology I
BIO 132 - Introductory Ecology
BIO 133 - Introductory Ecology Laboratory
BIO 326 - Non-vascular Plants and Fungi
BIO 405 - Ecology
BIO 515 - Foundations in Ecology
BIO 490/540 - Wetlands
BIO 490/540 - Paleoecology and Changing Climates