Student examining a specimen in a microscope

Dr. Derek Zelmer

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Ecology, Parasitology, and Aquatic Biology

Research Questions

My research is focused on the ecology of parasites of fishes, frogs, and other aquatic vertebrates, but I would be interested in developing undergraduate research projects involving any aspect of the ecology of aquatic organisms. Examining the parasites found within a host provides information about host diet, habitat use, and other interactions, so designing a project around a "favorite critter" also is an option.

Specific techniques such as flotation for fecal examination, and blood smear preparation and examination could be incorporated into projects for students interested in veterinary school, and I have had a student complete 2 projects involving histological techniques who has found a position as a histotechnician.


Students performing undergraduate research in my laboratory would learn some combination of the following skills:

  • sampling fishes and aquatic invertebrates
  • measuring habitat parameters in aquatic systems
  • fish identification
  • aquatic invertebrate identification
  • examination of aquatic invertebrates for parasites
  • parasite identification
  • staining and preparation of wholemounts of parasites and other invertebrates for microscopy
  • microscopy and photomicrography
  • histological techniques (sectioning, staining, and slide preparation)
  • data analysis
  • modelling

Examples of Past Projects:

  • Introduction to parasitological methods.
  • Patterns of fish community similarity in the Edisto River                       
  • Parasites of Siren lacertina from the Savannah River Site, SC
  • Parasites as determinants of ecosystem structure in the Edisto River
  • Determinants of benthic invertebrate community similarity in the Edisto River.
  • Pathology of the larvae of Posthodiplostomum minimum in centrarchid fishes.
  • Determinants of parasite infrapopulation structure: developing a model system.
  • Histological examination of cleavage in Siren lacertina.
  • Helminth parasites of flier (Centrarchus macropterus) from the Okefenokee Swamp.
  • Determinants of parasite infracommunity structure for parasites of black sea bass, Centropristis striata.
  • Parasite communities of the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum.
  • Seasonal dynamics of the parasites of Lepomis auritus in the Edisto River, SC.