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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Department of Biological Sciences
Rick Relyea
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Department of Biological Sciences
1W14 Jonsson-Rowland Science Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 Eighth Street
Troy, NY 12180-3590

Phone: (518) 276-6446
Fax: (518) 276-2344

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Biology Home Undergraduate Graduate Faculty Research News and Events Contacts
Rick Relyea

David M. Darrin ’40 Senior Endowed Chair

Education and Training

Ph.D. University of Michigan


Office: Department of Biological Sciences
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 8th Street
Troy, NY 12180

Research Interests

For effective conservation, we have to understand how natural communities work and how they are affected by human impacts. To accomplish this goal, Dr. Relyea’s lab works at the interface of several biological fields, including ecology, evolution, animal behavior, and ecotoxicology. By integrating our thinking (and our experiments) across these diverse biological disciplines, we can develop exciting new insights that improve our basic understanding of ecological communities and make discoveries that are important to conservation. He has applied this approach to his studies of aquatic communities. Dr. Relyea’s research group works in a variety of environments (from highly controlled laboratory experiment to outdoor mesocosms and natural field sites) and they focus on a wide diversity of aquatic organisms including amphibians, fish, insects, snails, amphipods, crayfish, zooplankton, aquatic plants, and algae.

Dr. Relyea’s research program can be broken down into several broad areas:

  • The effects of pesticides and nutrients on aquatic communities
  • The interaction of diseases with other natural and anthropogenic stressors
  • The impact of leaf litter inputs on wetland communities
  • Sexual selection in crustaceans
  • The ecology and evolution of phenotypic plasticity (e.g., how variation in predators, competitors, and mates induce changes in an organism's behavior, morphology, and life history)
  • Long-term monitoring of aquatic communities

Selected Publications

Werner, E. E., C. J. Davis, D. K. Skelly, R. A. Relyea, M. Benard, and S. McCauley. 2014. Cross-scale interactions and the distribution-abundance relationship. PLOS ONE

Hua, J., D. K. Jones, and R. A. Relyea. 2014. Induced tolerance from a sublethal insecticide leads to cross-tolerance to other insecticides. Environmental Science & Technology 

Brogan, W. R., and R. A. Relyea. 2014. A new mechanism of macrophyte mitigation: How submerged plants reduce malathion's acute toxicity to aquatic animals. Chemosphere

Hua, J., and R. A. Relyea. 2014. Chemical cocktails in aquatic ecosystems: Pesticide effects on resistance and resilience. Environmental Pollution

Hoverman, J. T., R. D. Cothran, and R. A. Relyea. 2014. Generalist versus specialist strategies of plasticity: Snail responses to predators that have different foraging modes. Freshwater Biology

Cothran, R. D., A. B. Stoler, and R. A. Relyea. 2014. Leaves and litterbugs:  how litter quality affects the performance of freshwater amphipods. Freshwater Science

Murren, C. J., H. J. Maclean, S. E. Diamond, U. K. Steiner, M. A. Heskel, C. A. Handelsman, C. K. Ghalambor, J. R. Auld, H. S. Callahan, D. W. Pfennig, R. A. Relyea, C. D. Schlichting, and J. Kingsolver. 2014. Evolutionary change in continuous reaction norms. American Naturalist 183:453-467.

Groner, M. L., L. A. Rollins-Smith, L. K. Reinert, J. Hempel, M. E. Bier, and R. A. Relyea. 2014. Interactive effects of competition and predator-cues on immune responses of leopard frogs at metamorphosis. Journal of Experimental Biology 217:351-358.

Goos, J. M., B. J. French, R. A. Relyea, R. D. Cothran, and P. D. Jeyasingh. 2014. Sex-specific plasticity in somatic phosphorus content of Hyalella amphipods. Hydrobiologia 722:93-102.

Hanlon, S. M., and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Sublethal effects of pesticides on predator-prey interactions in amphibians. Copeia 2013:691-698.

Cothran, R. D., A. R. Stiff, K. Chapman, G. A. Wellborn, and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Reproductive interference via interspecific pairing in an amphipod species complex. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67:1357-1367.

Hua, J., N. Morehouse, and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Pesticide resistance in amphibians: Induced resistance in susceptible populations, constitutive tolerance in tolerant populations. Evolutionary Applications 6:1028-1040.

Groner, M. L., J. C. Buck, S. Gervasi, A. R. Blaustein, L K. Reinert, L. A. Rollins-Smith, M. E. Bier, J. Hempel, and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Lasting effects: Larval exposure to predators alters immune function and disease in post-metamorphic wood frogs. Ecological Applications 23:1443-1454.

Gervasi, S. S., J. Urbina, J. Hua, T. Chestnut, R.A. Relyea, and A. R. Blaustein. 2013. Experimental evidence for differential susceptibility to the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) in the American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus). EcoHealth 10:166-171.

Stoler, A., and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Leaf litter quality induces morphological and developmental changes in larval amphibians. Ecology 94:1594–1603.

Brogan, W. R., and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Mitigating with macrophytes:  Submersed plants reduce the toxicity of pesticide-contaminated water to zooplankton. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 31:699-706.

Stoler, A., and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Bottom-up meets top-down:  Leaf litter inputs influence predator-prey interactions in wetlands. Oecologia 173:249-257.

Brogan, W. R., and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Mitigation of malathion’s acute toxicity by four submersed macrophyte species. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 31:1535-1543.

Hua, J., R. Cothran, A. Stoler, and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Cross-tolerance in amphibians:  Wood frog mortality when exposed to three insecticides with a common mode of action. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 32:932-936.

Cothran, R. D., K. A. Henderson, D. Schmidenberg, and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Phenotypically similar but ecologically distinct: Differences in competitive ability and predation risk among amphipods. Oikos 122:1429-1440.

Cothran, R. D., J. Brown, and R. A. Relyea. 2013. Proximity to agriculture is correlated with pesticide tolerance:  Evidence for the evolution of amphibian resistance to modern pesticides. Evolutionary Applications 6:832-841.

Egea-Serrano, A., R. A. Relyea, M. Tejédo, and M. Torralva. 2012. Understanding the impact of chemicals on amphibians:  A meta-analytic review. Ecology and Evolution 2:1382-1397.

Hua, J., and R. A. Relyea. 2012. East Coast versus West Coast: Effects of an insecticide in communities containing different amphibian assemblages. Freshwater Science 21:787-799.

Cothran, R. D., K. Chapman, A. R. Stiff, and R. A. Relyea. 2012. "Cryptic" direct benefits of mate choice: Choosy females experience reduced predation risk while in precopula. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 66:905-913.

Hammond, J. I., D. K. Jones, P. R. Stephens, and R. A. Relyea. 2012. Phylogeny meets ecotoxicology: Evolutionary patterns in sensitivity to a common insecticide among North American amphibians. Evolutionary Applications 5:593-606.

Hoverman, J. T., and R. A. Relyea.2012. The long-term impacts of predators on prey: Inducible defenses, population dynamics, and indirect effects. Oikos 121:1219-1230.

Relyea, R. A.2012. New effects of Roundup on amphibians:  Predators reduce herbicide mortality while herbicides induce anti-predator morphology. Ecological Applications 22:634-647. 

Cothran, R. D., A. R. Stiff, P. D. Jeyasingh, and R. A. Relyea. 2012. Eutrophication and predation risk affect sexual trait expression and mating success. Evolution 66:708-719. 

Buck, J. C., E. A. Scheessele, R. A. Relyea, and A. R. Blaustein. 2012. The effects of multiple stressors on wetland communities: pesticides, pathogens, and competing amphibians. Freshwater Biology 57:61-73. 

Hoverman, J. T., C. J. Davis, E. E. Werner, D. K. Skelly, R. A. Relyea, and K. L. Yurewicz. 2011. Environmental gradients and the structure of freshwater snail communities. Ecography 34:1049-1058. 

Searle, C. L., S. S. Gervasi, J. Hua, J. I. Hammond, R. A. Relyea, D. Olson, and A. R. Blaustein . 2011. Differential host susceptibility to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, an emerging amphibian pathogen. Conservation Biology 25:965-974. 

Groner, M. L., and R. A. Relyea. 2011. A tale of two pesticides: How common insecticides affect aquatic communities. Freshwater Biology 56:2391-2404. 

Cothran, R. D., F. Radarian, and R. A. Relyea. 2011. Altering aquatic food webs with a global insecticide: Arthropod-amphibian links in wetland communities. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 30:893-912. 

Auld, J. R., A. A. Agrawal, and R. A. Relyea. 2011. Measuring the cost of plasticity;  A void multi-collinearity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278:2726-2727. 

Relyea, R. A.2011. Amphibians are not ready for Roundup®. Pages 267-300 in J. Elliott, C. Bishop, and C. Morrisey, eds. Wildlife Ecotoxicology—Forensic Approaches. Springer. 

Stoler, A. B., and R. A. Relyea. 2011. Living in the litter: The influence of tree leaf litter on wetland communities. Oikos 120:862-872. 

Blaustein, A. R., B. A. Han, R. A. Relyea, P. T. J. Johnson,  J. C. Buck, S. S. Gervasi, and L. B. Kats. 2011. The complexity of amphibian population declines: Understanding the role of co-factors in driving amphibian losses. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 123:108-119. 

Jones, D. K., J. R. Hammond, and R. A. Relyea.2011. Competitive stress can make the herbicide Roundup® more deadly to larval amphibians. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 30:446-454. 

Auld, J. R., and R. A. Relyea. 2011. Adaptive plasticity in predator-induced defenses in a common freshwater snail: Altered selection and mode of predation due to prey phenotype. Evolutionary Ecology 25:189-202.

Recent textbooks

Friedland, A., and R. Relyea. 2015 (2nd ed.). Environmental Science for AP. Freeman Publishers.  (AP high school textbook)

Ricklefs, R., R. Relyea, and C. Richter. 2014. Ecology:  The Economy of Nature (7th Canadian edition). Freeman Publishers. (college textbook)

Ricklefs, R., and R.  Relyea. 2014. Ecology:  The Economy of Nature (7th ed.). Freeman Publishers. (college textbook)

Friedland, A., R. Relyea, and D. Courard-Hauri. 2012. Essentials of Environmental Science (1st ed.). Freeman Publishers.  (college textbook). 

Friedland, A., R. Relyea, and D. Courard-Hauri. 2011 (1st ed.). Environmental Science: Foundations and Applications. Freeman Publishers.  (college textbook)

Friedland, A., R. Relyea, and D. Courard-Hauri. 2011 (1st ed.). Environmental Science for AP. Freeman Publishers.  (AP high school textbook)


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Department of Biological Sciences