Rene Wiesner Brown

René Wiesner Brown
University of South Florida
Integrative Biology
Enrollment Year: 2008
Email Address: twbrown at or renewiesner at
Atmospheric Mentors: Steve Bertman, Western Michigan University and Robert Byrne, University of South Florida
Biospheric Mentor: KT Scott, University of South Florida

René received her B.S. in Biology/Natural Resources from Moravian College and her Master’s in Environmental Management from Duke University. René is currently a PhD student with Dr. KT Scott at the University of South Florida in the Integrative Biology program. Her research interests include the effects of climate change on freshwater ecosystems, carbon fixation, and microbial ecology, physiology and genetics.

René has been active in the field of land conservation for over a decade where she has worked for two county governments, buying and managing land for conservation, and for the Land Trust Alliance, a national nonprofit organization strengthening private land conservation. René has had the opportunity to work on multidisciplinary teams of planners, engineers, citizen environmentalists, developers, educators, and students to develop local environmental policy. René is also past president and a founding board member of the Tampa Bay Conservancy, a nonprofit land conservation organization working to protect land in the Tampa Bay region.


Global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels far exceed pre-industrial levels and continue to rise at an alarming rate. The consequences are likely to be pronounced yet there is considerable uncertainty about biospheric effects. In particular, research is needed on the effects of elevated atmospheric carbon on the health of freshwater ecosystems. The proposed study seeks to improve understanding of freshwater autotrophic response to elevated atmospheric carbon levels by measuring changes in algal community structure using stream water from the East Branch of the Maple River. Dominant species will be cultured in chemostats to measure growth rates and affinities for dissolved organic carbon. Molecular analyses of species that may proliferate in high carbon environments will be conducted to determine carbon fixing mechanisms. The data collected will provide insight on effects at the base of the food web with likely ramifications at other trophic levels, and may also enhance understanding of the role of freshwater systems in mitigating global climate change by their roles in carbon uptake and storage.