Catherine Pringle

Distinguished Research Professor
Graduate Program Faculty
Professor Emeritus

Professional Website


M.S. & Ph.D. – University of Michigan

Areas of Expertise
  • Aquatic ecology
  • Hydrologic connectivity (ecological-hydrological interactions)
  • Conservation biology
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Algae-invertebrate-fish interactions
  • Tropical ecology
  • Aquatic habitat restoration
  • Eco-evolutionary dynamics
  • Effects of environmental problems on the ecology of aquatic ecosystems
Research Interests

A major research theme of our lab is how stream ecosystems are altered by different types of disturbance, ranging from dams to disease to changes in land-use and climate. We are fascinated by the flowing waters that drain the Earth’s surface and by the aquatic organisms adapted to these dynamic environments. A key ecological challenge is to understand ecosystem-level consequences of declines in the abundance and biodiversity of aquatic organisms, given the alarming rate of freshwater deterioration throughout the world.

Our research is characterized by long-term collaborative projects that are site-based in both temperate and tropical ecosystems. An over-arching objective is to link research activities with conservation through resource management applications, synthesis, and environmental outreach.

Our lab has a history of in situ experimental research in streams. We developed an experimental electric exclosure technique to isolate top-down effects of stream macroconsumers (e.g., fish, crayfish, shrimps) on ecosystem properties and processes by excluding them from foraging on the stream bottom. This technique results in exclusion of macroconsumers at a local scale, and is particularly effective when combined with (or nested within) reach-scale experimental manipulations. We initially implemented this technique in our studies in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica, and it has since been used in stream studies in other areas of the world.

Research projects

My Ph.D. students and I have worked on stream community ecology in both the tropics (Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Belize, Madagascar, and Kosrae, Micronesia) and in the U.S.A. (MI, GA, NC, and TN). Masters students in the Conservation Program have been involved in projects that range from using algae and fish as biological indicators of pollution in the metropolitan Atlanta area to environmental outreach activities on water quality, such as the implementation of an “Adopt a Stream” program in lowland Costa Rica.

Selected Publications

Ardon, M., D. Clark, N. Marzolf, A. Ramirez, and C. M. Pringle.2023. Can we see the nitrate from the trees? Examining the nitrogen paradox in neotropical streams? Biogeochemistry 163:201-218.

Solomon, K.J., R.J. Bixby, S. J.Wenger and C. M. Pringle. 2022. Have stream algal communities changed a decade after the loss of a foundation riparian tree species in a headwater Appalachian watershed? Journal of Freshwater Science 41:342-361.

Dudley, M., K. Solomon, S. Wenger, R. Jackson, M. Freeman, K. Elliott, C. F. Miniat and C. M. Pringle. 2021. Do macroconsumers alter stream ecosystem response to riparian rhododendron removal? Freshwater Biology. 66: 1423-35.

Ganong, C. N., M. Hidalgo Oconitrillo, and C. M. Pringle. 2021. Thresholds of acidification impacts on macroinvertebrates adapted to seasonally acidified Neotropical streams: Potential responses driven to extreme drought-driven pH declines. PeerJ. 9:e11955

Gutierrez-Fonseca, P. E., A. Ramirez, C. M. Pringle, P. J. Torres, W. H. McDowell, A. Covich, T. Crowl, O. Perez. 2020. When the rainforest dries up: Drought effects on a headwater mountain stream in Puerto Rico. Journal of Freshwater Science. 39:197-212.

Chappell, J., K. McKay, M. Freeman, and C. M. Pringle. 2019. Long-term (37 years) impacts of low-head dams on freshwater shrimp habitat connectivity in northeastern Puerto Rico. River Research and Applications. 35:1034-1043.

Simon, T.N., R.D. Bassar, A. J. Binderup, A.S. Flecker, M. A. Marshal, S. A. Thomas, J. Travis, D.N. Reznick and C. M. Pringle. 2019. Landscape-scale patterns in top-down control of decomposition: Omnivory disrupts a tropical detrital-based trophic cascade. Ecology

Guttierrez-Fonseca, P., A. Ramirez, and C. M. Pringle. 2018. Climate-driven long-term fluctuations in macroinvertebrate assemblages in lowland Neotropical streams. PLoS One 13: e0191781.

de Jesus Crespo, R., D. Newsom, E. King,  and C. M. Pringle. 2016. Shade tree cover criteria for non-point source pollution control in the rainforest Alliance Coffee Certification Program:  A snapshot assessment of Costa Rica’s Tarrazu Coffee Region. Ecological Indicators 56:47-54.

Snyder, M., C. M. Pringle and R. Tiffer-Sotomayor. 2013. Landscape-scale disturbance and protected areas: long-term dynamics of populations of the shrimp, Macrobrachium olfersi, in lowland neotropical streams, Costa Rica.Journal of Tropical Ecology 29:81-85.

Whiles, M. R., R. O. Hall Jr., W. K. Dodds, P. Verburg, A. D. Huryn, C. M. Pringle, K. R. Lips, S. S. Kilham, C. Colon-Gaud, A. T. Rugenski, S. Peterson, and S. Connelly. 2013. Disease-driven amphibian declines alter ecosystem function in tropical streams. Ecosystems 16:146-157.

Small, G. E.,  M. Ardon, A. P. Jackman, J. H. Duff, F. J. Triska, A. Ramirez, R. J.   Bixby, M. Snyder and C. M. Pringle. 2012. Rainfall-driven amplification of seasonal acidification in poorly-buffered neotropical streams.  Ecosystems 15:974-985.

Bassar, R. D, M. C. Marshall, A. Lopez-Sepulcre, E. Zandona, J. Travis, C. M. Pringle, A. S. Flecker, S. A. Thomas, D. F. Fraser and D. N. Reznick. 2010. Local adaptation in Trinidadian Guppies alters ecosystem processes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107:3616-3621.

 Jackson, C. R., and C. M. Pringle. 2010. Ecological benefits of reduced hydrologic connectivity in intensively developed landscapes. BioScience 60:37-46.

Small, G. E., J. P. Wares and C. M. Pringle. 2010. Differences in phosphorus demand among detritivorous chironomid larvae reflect intra-specific adaptations to differences in food resource stoichiometry across lowland tropical streams. Limnology and Oceanography 56:268-278.

Cook, B. D., S. Bernays, C. M. Pringle, and J. M. Hughes. 2009. Marine dispersal determines the genetic population structure of migratory stream fauna of Puerto Rico: evidence for island-scale population recovery processes. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 28:709-718.

Anderson, E. A., C. M. Pringle, and M. C. Freeman. 2008. Quantifying the cumulative extent of river fragmentation by dams in the Sarapiqui River Basin, Costa Rica: A first step towards evaluating environmental tradeoffs. Aquatic Conservation 18:408-417.

Ardon, M., and C. M. Pringle. 2008. Do secondary compounds inhibit microbial- and insect-mediated leaf breakdown in a tropical stream? Oecologia 155:311-323.

Connelly, S., C. M. Pringle, R. J. Bixby, S. S. Kilham, K. R. Lips, and M. R. Whiles. 2008. Algal response to loss of tadpoles in a Neotropical stream: Small-scale exclosure experiments predict whole-stream extirpation of larval amphibians. Ecosystems 11:1262-1276.

Freeman, M.C., C. M. Pringle, and C. R. Jackson. 2007. Hydrologic connectivity and the contribution of stream headwaters to ecological integrity at regional scales. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 43:5-14.

Kominoski, J.S., C. M. Pringle, B. A. Ball, M. A. Bradford, D. C. Coleman, D. B. Hall and M. D. Hunter. 2007. Non-additive effects of leaf litter species diversity on breakdown dynamics in a detritus-based stream. Ecology  83:1167-1176.

Anderson, E. A., C. M. Pringle, and M. Rojas. 2006a. Transforming tropical rivers: An environmental perspective on hydropower development in Costa Rica. Aquatic Conservation 16: 679-693.

Anderson, E. A., M. C. Freeman, and C. M. Pringle. 2006b. Ecological consequences of  hydropower development in Central America: Impacts of small dams and water diversion on neotropical stream fish assemblages. River Research and Applications 22:397-411.

Greathouse, E. A., C. M. Pringle, W. H. McDowell, and J. G. Holmquist. 2006. Indirect upstream effects of dams: consequences of migratory consumer extirpation in Puerto Rico. Ecological Applications 16:339-352.

Greathouse, E. A., C. M. Pringle and J. G. Holmquist. 2006. Conservation and management of migratory fauna and dams in tropical streams of Puerto Rico. Aquatic Conservation 16:695-712.

Ramirez, A. and C. M. Pringle. 2006. Fast growth and turnover of chironomid assemblages in response to stream phosphorus levels in a tropical lowland landscape. Limnology and Oceanography 51:189-196.

Schofield, K., C. M. Pringle, and J. L. Meyer. 2004. Effects of increased bed-load on algal-and detrital-based stream food webs: experimental manipulation of sediment and macaroconsumers. Limnology and Oceanography 49:900-909.

Benstead, J. P., M. Douglas, and C. M. Pringle. 2003. Responses of stream communities to deforestation in eastern Madagascar. Ecological Applications 13:1473-1490.

March, J. G., J. P. Benstead, C. M. Pringle, and F. N. Scatena. 2003. Damming tropical island streams: Problems, solutions, and alternatives. BioScience 53:1069-1078.

Pringle, C. M. 2001. Hydrologic connectivity and the management of biological reserves: A global perspective. Ecological Applications 11:981-998.

Pringle, C. M. 2000. Threats to U.S. public lands from cumulative hydrologic alterations outside of their boundaries. Ecological Applications 10:971-989.

Pringle, C. M., M. Freeman, and B. Freeman. 2000. Regional effects of hydrologic alterations on riverine macrobiota in the New World: Tropical-temperate comparisons. BioScience 50:807-823.

Benstead, J. P., J. G. March, C. M. Pringle, and F. N. Scatena. 1999. Effects of a low-head dam and water abstraction on migratory tropical stream biota. Ecological Applications  9:656-668.

Pringle, C. M., N. H. Hemphill, W. McDowell, A. Bednarek, and J. March. 1999. Linking species and ecosystems: Different biotic assemblages cause interstream differences in organic matter. Ecology 80:1860-1872.

Pringle, C. M., and T. Hamazaki. 1998. The role of omnivory in structuring a neotropical stream: Separating diurnal versus nocturnal effects. Ecology 79:269-280.

Pringle, C. M. 1997. Exploring how disturbance is transmitted upstream: going against the flow. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 16:425-438.

Pringle, C. M., and T. Hamazaki. 1997. Effects of fishes on algal response to storms in a tropical stream. Ecology 78:2432-2442.

Pringle, C. M., and G. A. Blake.  1994.  Quantitative effects of atyid shrimp (Decapoda: Atyidae) on the depositional environment in a tropical stream: Use of electricity for experimental exclusion. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences  51:1443-1450.

Pringle, C. M., C. F. Rabeni, A. Benke and N. G. Aumen. 1993. The role of aquatic science in freshwater conservation: Cooperation between the North American Benthological Society and organizations for conservation and resource management. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 12:177-184.

Pringle, C. M. 1985. Effects of chironomid (Insecta:Diptera) tube-building activities on stream diatom communities. Journal of Phycology 21:185-194.

Pringle, C. M. and J. Bowers. l984. An in situ substratum fertilization technique: Diatom colonization on nutrient-enriched sand substrata. Canadian Journal of  Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 41:1247-1251.

Pringle, C. M., I. Chacon, M. H. Grayum, H. W. Greene, G. S. Hartshorn, G. E. Schatz, F. G. Stiles, C. Gomez and M. Rodriguez. 1984. Natural history observations and ecological evaluation of the La Selva Protection Zone, Costa Rica. Brenesia  22:189-206.