Whitmore Laboratory

University of South Florida St. Petersburg



Undergraduate student helpers needed


Currently, we are seeking USFSP Biology majors who have interest and time to participate in pollen and other microscopic analyses to help support our research and publications about historical community and landscape-level ecology.  Interest in ecology and plant communities (not gardening) would be helpful.  We seek students who can follow through with research activities for at least one year because of the time and energy involved in training and the fact that our research outcomes rely on consistent help.  Students need to be able to devote a regular number of hours each week, including in summers.  We also can use helpers in the teaching/research herbarium for preparation and curation of the plant reference collection, which provides an opportunity to learn about plant taxonomy.  People in our lab work as a team, so congenial social skills are important.  We value working with students who do not spend significant amounts of time monitoring cell phones or electronic devices that distract, but who focus well on research activities and social interactions.  If you have interest, please contact Dr. Tom Whitmore at whitmore@usfsp.edu. 



Our research


Our research examines human and climatic influences on lakes, as well as questions at community and landscape levels of ecology.  Our studies have had broad application to lake management and restoration programs for more than 35 years.  We've conducted numerous sponsored-research investigations for state, regional, and municipal agencies in Florida to determine the extent, causes, and timing of water-quality changes in Florida lakes.  We continue to address management concerns through our research, and to explore how changes in ecosystem processes are relevant to restoration and conservation issues.



Part of our team in January 2018.


l-r: Karla Alvarado and Deveny Evans (aquatic plants and macrofossils), Zachary Leyton Rivera-Reed (palynology, plant taxonomy), Dr. Tom Whitmore (diatoms, community & landscape-level ecology, plant taxonomy), Dr. Melanie Riedinger-Whitmore (diatoms, algal pigments, biogeochemistry), Francesca Lauterman and Christine Leonard (diatoms), Daniel Franklin (biogeochemistry)



The faculty investigators:


Dr. Thomas J. Whitmore

Tom w Bellows cores


Tom has worked since 1980 using diatoms to reconstruct past water quality in subtropical and tropical lakes of Florida, southwest China, Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and Guatemala.  He received his B.S. from the University of Conneticut (1977, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Geology minor), and his M.S. (1985) and Ph.D. (1991) degrees in Zoology from the University of Florida, where he studied for 8 years with renowned paleolimnologist Edward S. Deevey, Jr.  Tom's research has used diatom-based statistical models to assess how land-use changes and point-source nutrient inputs have influenced nutrient concentrations and algal production in Florida lakes.  His research also has examined diatom and macrophyte relationships, lake alkalization, human-mediated soil erosion, heavy-metal contamination of lake sediments, wetland influences, and diatoms as indicators of changing flow regimes in Florida rivers.  Tom founded the Paleolimnology Forum (PALEOLIM) listservice in 1995 and continues to serve as moderator.  He serves as Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal of Paleolimnology, an international journal with 15 associate editors, and as an ex officio member of the Executive Committee for the International Paleolimnology Association (IPA).  Tom was inspired by graduate coursework with plant taxonomist Dr. Walter S. Judd at UF, and he completed additional intensive studies with Dr. Judd in recent years.  Tom is founder and curator of the Teaching Herbarium, and of pollen and macrofossil reference collections at USFSP.  Tom continues to explore statistical and spatial methods to address landscape and community-level questions in paleolimnology, and to promote ecological studies in that discipline.  Tom teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in limnology, freshwater ecology, plant taxonomy, general and medical botany, general ecology, and on Florida Ecosystems. 


Dr. Melanie Riedinger-Whitmore



Melanie is founding and continuing Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences and the Conservation Biology M.S. program at USF St. Petersburg.  She received her B.S. in Biology from Northern Kentucky University (1983), studying marine invertebrates from Bahamian cave environments, and freshwater diatoms and zooplankton from Ecuadorian lakes as part of her undergraduate research.  She received her M.S. (1986) and Ph.D. degrees in Zoology from The Ohio State University.  She studied with paleoecologist Paul Colinvaux, and graduated from OSU in 1993.  Her dissertation examined fossil diatom records of Andean and Amazonian lakes in Ecuador.  Her areas of specialization include aquatic and wetland ecology, and the paleolimnology of lakes in Florida, the Galapagos Islands, and mainland Ecuador.  She uses fossil algal pigments and diatoms in sediments to determine the timing of cyanobacterial proliferation, and to document historical changes in water quality from anthropogenic influence.  Melanie's work also has included reconstructing Holocene El Niņo periodicities from hypersaline lake sediment records in the Galapagos Islands using laminations and changes in fossil diatoms, mineralogy, and geochemistry to track changes in El Niņo frequency and intensity.  Recently, Melanie has examined the influence of changing flow regimes on diatom, soft-algal, and macrophyte communities in Florida rivers, and historical charcoal records from peat cores collected in the Everglades.  Melanie and her students are currently exploring novel methods of biogeochemical analysis and biomarkers, and their application to paleolimnology.  Melanie teaches undergraduate courses in ecology, phycology, stream ecology and conservation, as well as graduate courses in conservation biology theory, and biodiversity.