James Rusak

jim rusakScientist & Group Leader - Water Chemistry

phone: 705.766.0659
email: jim.rusak(@)ontario.ca

 current research interests.

current appointments.







Current Research Interests.

Long-term Aquatic Ecosystem Research

Long-term ecological and environmental data represent one of the keys to understanding many, if not most, of the multiple stressors currently impacting aquatic ecosystems. My research uses biological (from phytoplankton to fish) as well as physical and chemical long-term and large-scale monitoring data to...
• improve the early detection of environmental problems
• understand ecosystem responses to multiple stressors
• investigate interactions and feedbacks in aquatic systems

Understanding Variability

Another aspect of my research focuses on understanding the interactions and feedbacks between a lake's biology and its physical and chemical attributes as well as the environmental context in which it is embedded. One way to understand biological patterns and processes are via an examination of their spatial and temporal variability - a fundamental property of nature and one that is interdisciplinary in its scope. Ultimately, incorporating variability will improve our attempts to monitor, manage, and understand aquatic ecosystems. I combine experimental studies, paleoecology, and long-term monitoring to...
• quantify baseline variabilty
• predict the response of variability to disturbance events
• develop variance-based metrics to detect and predict environmental change

Remote-Sensing of Lakes

We are currently developing Dorset’s capacity for acquiring automated high-resolution monitoring data in Muskoka area lakes and elsewhere. These data offer insight into processes occurring over short periods of time (minutes to hours) and can be used to investigate a variety of processes in lakes, such as...
• lake turnover, stratification and internal mixing dynamics
• nutrient loading
• oxygen depletion and lake metabolism
• carbon cycling
THELMA (The Harp Environmental Lake Monitoring Ark) is our first such installation and its near real-time data is currently available online.

Sensing the America's Freshwater Ecosystem Risk (SAFER) from climate change

The connections between climate change/variability and threats to aquatic ecosystems are poorly understood and difficult to assess because they depend on regional responses to both global and local factors. Furthermore, because the value of ecosystems services will also vary regionally, assessing (and mitigating) these threats will require a multi-disciplinary approach - one that addresses scientific, socioeconomic and cultural aspects - in a tightly coupled natural-human system. As such, SAFER's objectives are to:
 employ freshwater ecosystems as "sentinels"or "sensors" of climate variability and watershed processes and investigate their interaction with other multiple stressors to assess risks to ecosystem services across the Americas, and
 determine management and mitigation strategies which are both technically and economically feasible as well as culturally acceptable.


Current Appointments.

  • Adjunct Professor: Nipissing University (Department of Biology)
  • Adjunct Professor: Queen's University (Department of Biology) 
  • Special Graduate Faculty: University of Guelph (School of Environmental Sciences)
  • Honorary Fellow: University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • Co-chair of the GLEON Collaborative Climate Committee
  • Vice President (anglophone) of the Society of Canadian Limnologists (2010-2012)


Education and Research Experience.

  • B.Sc., Marine Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada.
  • M.Sc., Biology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada.
  • Ph.D., Biology, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Limnology Laboratory, University of Regina, Regina, SK, Canada.
  • Research Scientist / NTL-LTER Site Manager, Center for Limnology - Trout Lake Station, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Boulder Junction, WI, USA


Selected Publications.


  1.     Rigosi, A., P. Hanson, D. P. Hamilton, M. Hipsey, J. A. Rusa,; J. Bois, K. Sparber, I. Chorus, A. J. Watkinson, B. Qin, and J. D. Brookes. Cyanobacteria sensitivity to environmental factors at a global scale: adopting Bayesian networks to determine probability of bloom occurrence in a changing climate. In press. Ecological Applications.
  2.     Jeziorski, A., A.J. Tanentzap, N.D. Yan, A.M. Paterson, M.E. Palmer, J.B. Korosi, J.A. Rusak, M.A. Arts, W. Keller, R. Ingram, and J.P. Smol. 2015, The jellification of north temperate lakes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2449
  3.     Vasseur, D.A., J. Fox, A. Gonzalez, R. Adrian, B. Beisner, M. Helmus, C. Johnson, P. Kratina, C. Kremer, C. deMazancourt, E.T. Miller, W.A. Nelson, M. Paterson, J.A. Rusak, J. Shurin, and C.F. Steiner. 2014. Synchronous dynamics of zooplankton competitors prevail in temperate lake ecosystems. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0633
  4.     Yao, H., N.R. Samal, K.D. Joehnk, X. Fang, L.C. Bruce, D.C. Pierson, J.A. Rusak, and A. James. 2014. Comparing ice and temperature simulations by four dynamic lake models in Harp Lake: past performance and future predictions. Hydrological Processes. DOI: 10.1002/hyp.10180
  5.     Hadley, K.R., A.M. Paterson, E.A. Stainsby, N. Michelutti, H. Yao, J.A. Rusak, R. Ingram, C. McConnell and J.P. Smol. Climate warming alters thermal stability but not stratification phenology in a small north-temperate lake. In Press. Hydrological Processes.
  6.     Hanson, P.C., I. Buffam, J.A. Rusak, E. Stanley, and C.J. Watras. 2014. Quantifying lake allochthonous organic carbon budgets using a simple equilibrium model. Limnology and Oceanography 59:167-181. (Abstract)
  7.     Yao, H., J.A. Rusak, K. Somers, A. Paterson, M. Mackay, R. Girard, R. Ingram and C. McConnell. 2013. Temporal changes of ice phenology in Dickie Lake, south-central Ontario. Inland Waters 3: 1-14. (Abstract)
  8.     Read, J.S., D.P. Hamilton, A.R. Desai, K.C. Rose, S. MacIntyre, J.D. Lenters, R.L. Smyth, P.C. Hanson, J.J. Cole, P.A. Staehr, J.A. Rusak, D.C. Pierson, J.D. Brookes, A. Laas, and C.H. Wu. 2012. Lake-size dependency of wind shear and convection as controls on gas exchange. Geophysical Research Letters. 39 (9) doi:10.1029/2012GL051886 (Abstract)
  9.     Vogt R.J., J.A. Rusak, A. Patoine, and P.R. Leavitt. 2011 Differential effects of energy and mass influx on the landscape synchrony of lake ecosystems. Ecology 92: 1104–1114. (Abstract)
  10.     Buffam, I.M. Turner, A. Desai, P. Hanson, J.A. Rusak, N. Lottig, and S.R. Carpenter. 2011. Integrating aquatic and terrestrial components to construct a complete carbon budget for a north temperate lake district. Global Change Biology 17 (2): 1193-1211. (Click for abstract)
  11.     Preston, N.D. and J.A. Rusak. 2010. Homage to Hutchinson: Does inter-annual climate variability affect zooplankton density and diversity? Hydrobiologia 653: 165-177. (Abstract)
  12.     Krugner-Higby, L., D. Haak, P.T.J. Johnson, J.D. Shields, W.M. Jones, K.S. Reece, T. Meinke, A. Gendron and J.A. Rusak. 2010. Spatial and temporal patterns of an outbreak of ulcerative disease in crayfish (Orconectes propinquus) linked to Saprolegnia australis in Big Muskellunge Lake, Wisconsin.  Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 91: 57-66. (Abstract)
  13.     Shurin, J.B., M. Winder, R. Adrian, W. Keller, B. Matthews, A.M. Paterson, M. Paterson, B. Pinel-Alloul, J.A. Rusak, N. Yan. Environmental stability and lake plankton diversity- contrasting effects of chemical and thermal variability. Ecology Letters 13: 453-463. (Abstract)
  14.     Helmus, M.R., W.B. Keller, M.J. Paterson, N.D. Yan, C.H. Cannon, and J.A. Rusak. 2010. Communities contain closely related species during ecosystem disturbance. Ecology Letters 13: 162-174. (Abstract)
  15.     Leavitt, P.R., S.C. Fritz, N.J. Anderson, P.A. Baker, T. Blenckner, L. Bunting, J. Catalan, D.J. Conley, W. Hobbs, E. Jeppesen, A. Korhola, S. McGowan, K. Ruhland, J.A. Rusak, G. Simpson, N. Solovieva, and J. Werne. 2009. Paleolimnological evidence of the effects on lakes of energy and mass transfer from climate and humans. Limnology and Oceanography 54: 2330-2348. (Abstract)
  16.     Rusak J.A., and P.K. Montz. 2009. Sampling requirements and the implications of reduced sampling effort for the estimation of annual zooplankton population and community dynamics in north temperate lakes. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 7:535-544. (Click for abstract)
  17.     Hodgsen, K.L., M.A. Xenopoulos, and J.A. Rusak. 2009. Asymmetrical food web responses in trophic-level richness, biomass, and function following lake acidification. Aquatic Ecology. (Abstract)
  18.     Rusak J.A., S.E. Jones, A.D. Kent, A.L. Shade, and T.M. McMahon. 2009. Spatial synchrony in microbial community dynamics: testing among-year and lake patterns. Verhandlungen Internationale Vereinigung fur Theoretische und Angewandte Limnologie. 30: 936-940 (Abstract)
  19.     Solomon, C.T., S.R. Carpenter, M.J. Vander Zanden and J.A. Rusak. 2008. Long-term isotopic baseline variation and implications for inferring consumer trophic niches. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 65: 2191-2200. (Click for PDF)
  20.     Fraterrigo, J.M. and J.A. Rusak. 2008. Disturbance-driven changes in the variability of ecological patterns and processes. Ecology Letters. 11: 756-770. (Abstract)
  21.     Rusak, J.A., N.D. Yan, and K.M. Somers. 2008. Regional climatic drivers of synchronous zooplankton dynamics in north-temperate lakes. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 65: 878-889. (Abstract)
  22.     Yan, N.D., K.M. Somers, R.E. Girard, A.M. Paterson, C. Ramcharan, J.A. Rusak, R. Ingram, G.E. Morgan, and J. Gunn. 2008. Long-term changes in crustacean zooplankton communities of Dorset, Ontario lakes: the probable interactive effects of changes in pH, TP, Dissolved Organic Carbon, and predators. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 65: 862-877. (Click for PDF)
  23.     Kent, A.D., A.C. Yannarell, J.A. Rusak, E.W. Triplett, and K.D. McMahon. 2007. Synchrony in aquatic microbial community dynamics. The International Society of Microbial Ecology Journal 1: 38-47. (Click for PDF)
  24.     Carpenter, S., B. Benson, R. Biggs, J. Chipman, J. Foley, S. Golding, R. Hammer, P. Hanson, P. Johnson, A. Kamarainen, T. Kratz, R. Lathrop, K. McMahon, B. Provencher, J. A. Rusak, C. Solomon, E. Stanley, M. Turner, J. Vander Zanden, C. Wu, H. Yuan. 2007. Understanding regional change: A comparison of two lake districts. BioScience 57: 323-335. (Click for PDF)
  25.     Dobson, A., D. Lodge, J. Alder, G. Cumming, J. Keymer, J. McGlade, H. Mooney, J. A. Rusak, O. Sala, V. Wolters, D. Wall, M. A. Xenopoulos. 2006. Habitat loss, trophic collapse and the decline of ecosystem services. Ecology 87:1915-1924.
  26.     White, E.P., P.B. Adler, W.K. Lauenroth, R.A. Gill, D. Greenberg, D.M. Kaufman, A. Rassweiler, J.A. Rusak, M.D. Smith, J.R. Steinbeck, R.B. Waide, and J. Yao. 2006. A comparison of the species-time relationship across ecosystems and taxonomic groups. Oikos 112: 185-195. (Click for PDF)
  27.     Sala, O.E., D. van Vuuren, H.M. Pereira, D. Lodge, J. Alder, G. Cumming, A. Dobson, V. Wolters, M.A. Xenopoulos, A.S. Zaitsev, M.G. Polo, I. Gomes, C. Queiroz, and J.A. Rusak. 2005. Biodiversity across Scenarios, p. 375-408. In [eds.], S.R. Carpenter, P.L. Pingali, E.M. Bennett, and M.B. Zurek. Ecosystems and Human well-being: Scenarios. Island Press. Washington, USA.
  28.     P.B. Adler, E.P. White, W.K. Lauenroth, D.M. Kaufman, A. Rassweiler, and J.A. Rusak. 2005. Evidence for a general species-time-area relationship. Ecology 86: 2032-2039. (Click for PDF)
  29.     Rusak, J.A., P.R. Leavitt, S. McGowan, G. Chen, O. Olson, S. Wunsam, and B. Cumming. 2004. Millennial-scale relationships of diatom species richness and production in two prairie lakes. Limnology and Oceanography 49: 1290-1299. (Click for PDF)
  30.     Laird, K.R., B.F. Cumming, S. Wunsam, J.A. Rusak, R.J. Oglesby, S.C. Fritz and P.R. Leavitt. 2003. Lake sediments record large-scale shifts in moisture regimes across the northern prairies of North America during the past two millennia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100: 2483–2488. (Click for PDF)
  31.     Rusak, J.A., N.D. Yan, K.M. Somers, K.L. Cottingham, F. Micheli, S.R. Carpenter, T.M. Frost, M.J. Paterson, and D.J. McQueen. 2002. A regional catalogue of crustacean zooplankton variability: temporal, spatial, and taxonomic patterns in unmanipulated north-temperate lakes. Limnology and Oceanography 47: 613-625. (Click for PDF)
  32.     Rusak, J.A., N.D. Yan, K.M. Somers, D.J. McQueen, and C.W. Ramcharan. 2001. Differences in the variability of crustacean zooplankton communities between manipulated and reference lakes. Archiv für Hydrobiologie - Advances in Limnology 56: 171-186. (Click for PDF)
  33.     Ramcharan, C.W., N.D. Yan, D.J. McQueen, A. Perez-Fuentetaja, E. Demers, and J.A. Rusak. 2001. Complex responses of Chaoborus to changes in fish populations. Archiv für Hydrobiologie - Advances in Limnology 56: 81-100. (Click for PDF)
  34.     Ramcharan, C.W., D.J. McQueen, A. Perez-Fuentetaja, N.D. Yan, E. Demers, and J.A. Rusak. 2001. Analyses of lake food webs using individual-based models to estimate Chaoborus production and consumption. Archiv für Hydrobiologie - Advances in Limnology 56: 101-126. (Click for PDF)
  35.     Yan, N.D., A. Perez-Fuentetaja, C.W. Ramcharan, D.J. McQueen, E. Demers, and J.A. Rusak. 2001. The Dorset food web piscivore manipulation project: changes in the crustacean zooplankton communities of Mouse and Ranger lakes. Archiv für Hydrobiologie - Advances in Limnology 56: 127-150. (Click for PDF)
  36.     Ramcharan, C.W., A. Perez-Fuentetaja, D.J. McQueen, N.D. Yan, E. Demers, and J.A. Rusak. 2001. Dynamics of zooplankton productivity under two different predatory regimes. Archiv für Hydrobiologie - Advances in Limnology 56: 151-170. (Click for PDF)
  37.     Cottingham, K.L., J.A. Rusak, and P.R. Leavitt. 2000. Increased ecosystem variability and reduced predictability following nutrient enrichment: evidence from paleolimnology. Ecology Letters 3: 340-348. (Click for PDF)
  38.     Rusak, J.A., N.D. Yan, K.M. Somers, and D.J. McQueen. 1999. The temporal coherence of zooplankton population abundance in neighboring north-temperate lakes. The American Naturalist 153: 46-58. (Abstract)
  39.     Micheli, F., K.L. Cottingham, J. Bascompte, O.N. Bjørnstad, G.L. Eckert, J.M. Fischer, T.H. Keitt, B.E. Kendall, J.L. Klug, and J.A. Rusak. 1999. The dual nature of community variability. Oikos 85: 161-169. (Click for PDF)
  40.     Rusak, J. A. and T. Mosindy. 1997. Seasonal movements of lake sturgeon in Lake of the Woods and Rainy River, Ontario. Canadian Journal of Zoology 75: 383-395. (Abstract)




  • Jennifer Schmitz (Ph.D. candidate: University of Wisconsin - Madison)

    Thesis: Lake Responses to Logging and Fire in Northern Wisconsin: A paleolimnological approach

  • Steve Piquette (M.E.S. graduate: Nipissing University)

    Thesis: Determination of littoral benthic macroinvertebrate community composition in response to calcium decline in northern Ontario lakes

  • John Perry (M.E.Sc. candidate: Nipissing University)

    Thesis: The effect of declining lake calcium on fish anti-predator behaviour

  • Dale Klodnicki (M.E.Sc. candidate: Nipissing University)

    Thesis: Assessing the effects of road crossings on far north stream macroinvertebrate communities