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Christopher G. Peterson, PhD

Title/s:  Associate Dean of Academics, School of Environmental Sustainability
Professor, Department of Biology

Specialty Area: Environmental Science, Freshwater Algal Ecology

Office #:  BVM Hall 316

Phone: 773.508.2950

Email: cpeters@luc.edu


Chris Peterson received his PhD in Aquatic Ecology in 1989 from the University in Louisville. He has been a member of Loyola's faculty since 1991 and generally teaches 'Evolution & Genetics,' 'Plants & Civilization,' and 'Human Impact on the Environment.' Peterson is also a member of the Graduate School and advises Masters students through the Department of Biology. He regularly mentors undergraduate students through their independent research projects and is always eager to mentor students on the topic of ecology through his research.

Research Interests

Peterson's research focuses on understanding how the structure, dynamics, and function of attached microalgal communities, the primary transducers of sunlight energy in aquatic systems, vary with spatial and temporal change in chemical, physical, and biological attributes of the environment. Because of their small size and rapid turnover, algal communities within biofilms are an ideal model system for addressing general ecological questions. Within a week of biofilm development, microalgal communities can support >1 million cells/cm2 of colonization surface and contain dozens or even hundreds of species that differ widely in growth habit, resource requirements, and susceptibility to removal by physical disturbance or ingestion by grazing macro- or microinvertebrates, fish, or amphibians. Because algae are microscopic, cells residing within developing algal mats experience significant changes in availability of light or dissolved nutrients as communities thicken; successional processes are driven by these internal changes. Community attributes at any given time are a product of the interaction between these internal factors and external factors such as the density and identity of grazers, heterogeneity in nutrient supply, variation in current regime, and the timing and magnitude of physical disturbance events.

Peterson's primary goal is to equate the sensitivity of algal community attributes to environmental variation, and ultimately to assess whether variation in algal communities induced by such changes influences the ecological functioning of stream ecosystems.

Courses Taught

  • ENVS 280: Principles of Ecology Lab
  • ENVS 390: Integrative Seminar
  • ENVS 207: Plants and Civilization

Selected Publications

Current Projects

  • Importance of algal/bacterial interactions in regulating denitrification in stream biofilms. (in collaboration with Drs. John Kelly [LUC—Biology] & Kimberly Gray [Northwestern Univ.])
  • Influence of nano-titanium on the structure and function of stream communities. (in collaboration with Drs. John Kelly [LUC—Biology], Kimberly Gray & Jean-Francois Gaillard [Northwestern Univ.])

For a complete list of publications, awards and affiliations, please request his CV.