Course History

The “Ecology and Systematics of Diatoms” course was started as an informal workshop by Dr. E.F. Stoermer in 1963. The workshop at Iowa Lakeside Lab was a place for people interested in diatoms to gather and discuss problems related to understanding aspects of diatom biology. In 1966, Dr. Charles Reimer began teaching, expanding and formalizing what had been called the “Diatom Clinic” and established an intensive five-week course. Under Reimer’s direction, the course served as a forum for upper level undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and academic researchers to focus on the biology, ecology, and taxonomy of diatoms. In 1990, Stoermer returned to Iowa to continue the course, where students were able to engage in in-depth study of field and laboratory aspects of freshwater diatoms. Dr. Sarah Spaulding, a student of both Stoermer and Reimer, began teaching the course in 2000. She was soon joined by Dr. Mark Edlund, and they continue to co-teach the course as a team.

Student Contributions

For many years, students in the class have produced “species treatments”, an investigation of a single taxon as a final project. The exercise in producing such species treatments gave students the understanding of the basics in taxonomy, ecology and producing a document for scientific publication. With the launching of the Diatoms of the United States website in 2010, Edlund and Spaulding saw a great opportunity for students to submit their work to the Diatoms of the US Editorial Review Board, and with approval, public posting of an in-depth species examination for part of the growing flora. Students work from collections they made throughout the field course, and include specimens of cleaned and live material. Students utilize the Reimer Diatom Herbarium (ILH), which contains over 3,000 permanent slides, to verify their identifications and provide a range of interspecific variability for the taxon pages. They are assisted by Sylvia Lee, J.C. Kingston Teaching Fellow from Florida International University, in producing the final pages.


  • J.C. Kingston Fellowship

    Teaching Fellowship - Sylvia Lee

  • C.W. Reimer Scholarship

    Merit Scholarship - Laurel Fuelling, Lauren Stratton

  • Friends of Lakeside Lab

    Educational Support

  • Okoboji Foundation

    Educational Support

  • Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust

    Student Microscopes and Imaging Systems

  • Messengers of Healing Winds

    Student Microscopes and Imaging Systems


Mark Edlund

Content Editor, Centric Diatoms Diatoms of North America, Editoral Review Board

Senior Scientist Science Museum of Minnesota

Sarah Spaulding

Content Editor, Symmetric Biraphid Diatoms Diatoms of North America, Editoral Review Board

Ecologist US Geological Survey

Gene Stoermer

1934 - 2012

Professor Emeritus University of Michigan

Steve Main

Professor emeritus Retired, Wartburg College

Sylvia Lee

Biologist U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Lisa Allinger

Research Fellow Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth

Lauren Fuelling

M.S. Student Ohio University, Athens, Ohio

Briana Johnson

M.S. Student Univerity of Nevada, Reno

Lena Ivarsson

Undergraduate Student Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden

Emily Nodine

Ph.D. Student Florida International University, Miami FL

Nicole McConnell

M.S. Student Iowa State University, Ames Iowa

Frank Pickett

Diatomist Unaffiliated

Laurel Stratton

M.S. Student University of Nevada, Reno

Carrie White

M.S. Student University of British Columbia Okanagan, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

Phil Woods

Technician St. Croix Watershed Research Station

Anna Mengjie Yu

Ph.D. Student Department of Plant Biology, The University of Texas at Austin

Image Credit: Sarah Spaulding
Students in the 2011 course collect a plankton tow from Grove Lake, Nebraska
Image Credit: Lauren Fuelling
Planktonic Stephanodiscus with the filamentous green alga, Spirogyra
Stoermer Lee
Image Credit: Sarah Spaulding
Gene Stoermer (retired, University of Michigan) and Sylvia Lee (M.S. Student, Florida International University) discuss Mastogloia
Allinger Fuelling
Image Credit: Sarah Spaulding
Lisa Allinger and Lauren Fuelling look for diatoms in Iowa