Lake George
sandra nierzwicki-bauer
Darrin Fresh Water Institute,
5060 Lake Shore Drive
Bolton Landing, NY 12814

(518) 644-3541
Fax (518) 644-3640

Faculty and Staff

sandra nierzwicki-bauerDr. Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer


Dr. Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer is Professor of Biology and Director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). A former Department Chair of Biology and Interim Dean of the RPI School of Science, Dr. Nierzwicki-Bauer is internationally known for her work in the molecular studies of microbial and picoeukaryote communities in lakes and rivers, her studies of invasive species (zebra mussels), and her expertise in water resource management and environmental remote sensing. Dr. Nierzwicki-Bauer’s research has been funded by National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, Department of Energy and has been published in the most highly ranked academic journals. She is the author and co-author of more than 80 articles and has supervised more than 60 student theses.  She received a B.A. in Microbiology with a minor in Business Administration from the University of New Hampshire, a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of New Hampshire and was a N.I.H. Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago. She has been at RPI since 1985 and Director of DFWI since 1993.

Dr. Nierzwicki-Bauer is actively involved with a number of organizations with an environmental focus. Since 1997 she has served as a member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer for the Lake George Basin Land Conservancy, NY. She also served for six years as a member of the Board of Trustees for the environmental liberal arts, Green Mountain College, in Vermont. Since 2003, she has served as Rensselaer’s representative on the National Council for Science and the Environment: Council of Environmental Deans and Directors. Her expertise related to fresh water resulted in her being asked to provide congressional testimony to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. She has been actively involved in a number of interdisciplinary research and educational programs, focused on the Hudson River; Riverscope (Rivers and Estuaries Center funded) and Rivernet (NSF funded) and the Adirondacks. She was PI and project director for the Adirondack Effects Assessment Program (EPA funded 1994-2006) and currently serves as PI of the continuation of this program (NYSERDA funded).


Research Interests:

Molecular studies of microbial and picoeukaryote communities in lakes and rivers. The biodiversity of freshwater microbial and picoeukaryotes is still understudied (compared with marine environments) with many more organisms to be discovered. We are using molecular approaches, as well as more traditional culturing and microscopic methodologies to elucidate the structure and function of community composition in Adirondack lakes, some of which have been impacted by acid rain or other pollutants.

Basic and applied studies of invasive species (zebra mussels). Zebra mussels are an invasive species that have significant economic and ecological impacts. We are carrying out basic studies on zebra mussels which include; development of molecular probes for their early detection and bioassays for gaining a better understanding of chemical and physical factors that influence or can predict their survival. We are carrying out applied studies that deal with management of zebra mussels once they have been introduced into freshwater bodies, as well as proactive monitoring/detection strategies to help prevent colonization.

Water resource management and environmental remote sensing. We are using a combination of traditional and advanced techniques to study human impacts on water resources. The approaches that we are utilizing include automated water chemistry profiling systems, side-scan sonar, satellite remote sensing, solar powered autonomous underwater vehicles (SAUV’s) and hydroacoutics, to name a few.

Recovery of Adirondack lakes from acidification. Lakes in the Adirondack Mountains of New York are among the most affected by anthropogenic acid deposition in the US. There have been numerous studies that have reported partial chemical recovery of acidified lakes as evidenced by decreased sulfate concentration and increased pH and acid neutralizing capacity.  However, there have not been any studies that have comprehensively characterized the food web biotic community structure (bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, macrophytes and fish) in individual acid impacted lakes.  Therefore, we are carrying out biological community assessments in chemically diverse Adirondack Lakes in a region impacted by acidification. 

The Azolla-Anabaena nitrogen-fixing symbiosis.  Topics of particular interest include nitrogen fixation and plant-microbe symbiotic associations. Theories and techniques of modern molecular genetics are routinely employed to elucidate information on these topics. Much of the research in our laboratory has been concerned with the molecular biology of genes associated with carbon assimilation, nitrogen fixation, and heterocyst differentiation in cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).  Research activities have also included the adaptation and use of various electron microscopical techniques for analyzing the detailed architecture of cyanobacterial cells. Current research activities are primarily directed at examining the agriculturally important symbiotic association between the eukaryotic water fern, Azolla, and its prokaryotic cyanobacterial endosymbiont, Anabaena.  Employing a molecular genetics approach, transcriptional processes and other aspects of gene expression in the Azolla-Anabaena association are being characterized.  Ultrastructural and biochemical approaches are also being used to study this association.



Contact Information

Dr. Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer
Darrin Fresh Water Inst

5060 Lake Shore Dr.
Bolton Landing, NY 12814
Ph: (518) 644-3541

Fax: (518) 644-3640
Email Dr. Nierzwicki-Bauer


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