Stephen R. Carpenter
Stephen Russell Carpenter is an American lake ecologist who focuses on lake Eutrophication or the buildup of algae in lake ecosystems. "Eutrophication is a significant environmental problem that can impact humans on a recreational, economic, and even public health level,” says Carpenter, “and it's likely to intensify in the coming decades due to increases in human population, demand for more food, land conversion, and fertilizer use."
Stephen Carpenter was born July 5, 1952, in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. His father, Richard, a chemist, was the Director of the National Academies’ Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, so Carpenter was immersed in science at a young age. In his youth, Carpenter spent his summers on his grandfather’s farm in Missouri. During this time he and his cousins enjoyed fishing and camping in the nearby wilderness. “Hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting all come together in ecology,” he says. “I was really excited when I discovered there was a way to get paid for being a scientist outdoors.”
His interest in ecology was sparked during his undergraduate program at Amherst College, MA. Carpenter performed undergraduate research in the Fort River of Massachusetts on the primary production of macrophytes under the instruction of Stuart Fisher, an aquatic systems ecologist. He received a B.A. in biology in 1974 and then entered the graduate programs in Botany and Oceanography and Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he participated in the lab of Michael Adams to examine the role played by macrophytes in the phosphorus cycle of lake ecosystems. During his undergraduate years he met his wife, Susan Moths, whom he married in the same year he finished his doctoral dissertation, 1979.
He began a teaching career at the University of Notre Dame where he continued to work on lake research at the university’s field station near Land O’ Lakes Wisconsin. Here he created a more broadly scoped study of lake ecosystems to include plants and animals and the food web. In 1982 he began work on the Trophic Cascades Project, which involved the dynamics of the lake ecosystems. After 10 years spent at Notre Dame, he returned to Madison to a faculty position in the Department of Zoology. Madison had a location and a strong limnology program allowed him to pursue other research including the accumulation of polychlorinated biphenyls in fish and invertebrates in Lake Michigan. He resumed work on the Madison lakes, including Lake Mendota, where his interest in the phosphorus cycle and eutrophication was renewed. His studies on the phosphorus cycle focused on nonpoint phosphorus pollution and how elevated phosphorus concentrations impacted the ecosystem of Lake Mendota due to increased phytoplankton production which led to a hypoxic environment. These investigations led Carpenter to devise strategies to manage the phosphorus cycle. By the mid-1990s he began to study the economy of eutrophication, in which he compared the benefits factories and farms receive by causing eutrophication to the benefits of keeping a lake clean and clear with the goal of maximizing the benefits on both sides. Carpenter is Chair of the Science Committee for the Program on Ecosystem Change and Society of the International Council of Science. He is co-Editor in Chief of the journal Ecosystems, and a member of governing boards for the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies. In 2000-2005 he was co-chair of the Scenarios Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. He led the North Temperate Lakes research site of the Long Term Ecological Research Network program at the University of Wisconsin in 1999-2009. He is a former President of the Ecological Society of America. As of 2011, Carpenter has published 5 books and about 300 scientific papers, book chapters, reviewed reports and commentaries.
Carpenter is the 2011 laureate of the Stockholm Water Prize for his research on how lake ecosystems are affected by their surrounding landscape and by humans nutrient loading, fishing, and introducing exotic species into the environment. His other awards include a Pew Fellowship in Conservation and Environment, the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Award in 1999 from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the Robert H. MacArthur Award in 2000 from the Ecological Society of America, the Excellence in Ecology Prize (ECI Prize)in 2000 from the Ecology Institute for limnetic ecology, and the Naumann-Thienemann medal of the International Society of Limnology. Carpenter has also been awarded membership in the US National Academy of Sciences, and as a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Carpenter's research interest is in whole-ecosystem experiments and adaptive ecosystem management in freshwaters. Specific topics include: trophic cascades and their effects on production and nutrient cyclin;, contaminant cycle; freshwater fisheries; eutrophication; nonpoint pollution; ecological economics of freshwater; resilience of social-ecological systems; and early warnings of collapse in complex systems.
List of Important Papers
Regulation of Lake Primary Productivity By Food Web Structure
Influence of Food Web Structure on Carbon Exchange Between Lakes and the Atmosphere
Whole-lake carbon-13 additions reveal terrestrial support of aquatic food webs.
Nonpoint pollution of surface waters with phosphorus and nitrogen.
Management of Eutrophication for Lakes Subject to Potentially Irreversible Change.
Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems.
Early Warnings of Regime Shifts: A Whole-Ecosystem Experiment.
- Zagorski, N. (2005). "Profile of Stephen R. Carpenter". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (29): 9999–10001. doi:10.1073/pnas.0504706102. PMC 1177424. PMID 16009930.
- Carpenter, S. R., J. F. Kitchell, J. R. Hodgson, P. A. Cochran, J. J. Elser, M. M. Elser, D. M. Lodge, D. Kretchmer, X. He, and C. N. von Ende. 1987. Regulation of Lake Primary Productivity by Food Web Structure. Ecology 68:1863–1876.
- Daniel E. Schindler, Stephen R. Carpenter, Jonathan J. Cole, James F. Kitchell and Michael L. Pace. 1997. Influence of Food Web Structure on Carbon Exchange Between Lakes and the Atmosphere. Science. Vol. 277 no. 5323 pp. 248-251.
- Michael L. Pace1, Jonathan J. Cole1, Stephen R. Carpenter, James F. Kitchell, James R. Hodgson, Matthew C. Van de Bogert, Darren L. Bade, Emma S. Kritzberg & David Bastviken NATURE. VOL 427,15 JANUARY 2004.
- S.R. Carpenter, N.F. Caraco, D. L. Correll, R. W. Howarth, A. N. Sharpley, and V. H. Smith. 1998. Nonpoint pollution of surface waters with phosphorus and nitrogen. Ecological Applications 8:559-568.
- S. R. Carpenter, D. Ludwig, and W. A. Brock. 1999. Management of Eutrophication for Lakes Subject to Potentially Irreversible Change. Ecological Applications, 9(3): 751-771.
- Marten Scheffer, Stephen Carpenter, Jonathan A. Foley, Carl Folke, and Brian Walker. 2001. Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems. Nature 413: 591-596.
- S.R. Carpenter, J. J. Cole, M. L. Pace, R. Batt, W. A. Brock, T. Cline, J. Coloso, J. R. Hodgson, J. F. Kitchell, D. A. Seekell, L. Smith, and B. Weidel. Early Warnings of Regime Shifts: A Whole-Ecosystem Experiment. Science 332:1079-1082.