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Dr. Chris H. Fritsen

Research Professor Biology Vice President Academic and Faculty Affairs
climate change, algae, Antarctica, ecosystems, microbial ecology, nutrient, water quality, lakes, rivers, reservoirs

Professional Interests

As a systems microbial ecologist, Dr. Fritsen studies the transfer of energy and cycling of materials within ecosystems that are mediated by bacteria, algae and protists. His work focuses on how the microbes and their interactions are influenced by the time-varying physical features of their environment. One long-standing area of interest has been on the interaction between seasonal ice dynamics and microbial production in polar ice environments. Such studies provide insights into microbial adaptations, microbial interactions within complex systems, and the possibility of life supporting habitats beyond earth. This professional interest also leads to studies of the interactions between a society's use of nutrients that influences microalgal seasonal production cycles and community structure which, in turn, affect the beneficial uses of aquatic ecosystems.

Having these interests mandates that the majority of Dr. Fritsen's time involves planning, conducting and reporting on field work and laboratory-based studies. Teaching and advising in both undergraduate and graduate programs at the University of Nevada Reno in addition to public outreach seminars and school visitations also allows ample opportunity for obtaining fresh perspectives through the interactions with the next generation of scientists and stewards of our environment.

Research Areas of Interest and Expertise

  • Systems Ecology
  • Algal Ecophysiology
  • Polar Ecosystems
  • Polar Limnology and Oceanography
  • Watershed Nutrient Balance
  • Stoichiometry
  • Climate Change and Phenology
  • Hydrological Optics
  • Ecosystems Modeling
  • Low Temperature Adaptations

Research Projects

Laboratory Website: Systems Microbial Ecology Laboratory

Lab Personnel:

Current Students:


Postdoc 1998 Montana State University, Bozeman Biological Sciences Dept
Ph.D. 1995 University of Southern California, Los Angeles Biological Sciences
B.S. 1988 Montana State University, Bozeman Biology

Professional Activities

Courses Taught at the University of Nevada, Reno

  • Hydrologic Optics (ERS-701C)
  • Trophodynamics (ERS-791)
  • Aquatic Ecology (BIOL-420/620)
  • Advanced Limnology (ERS-701D)
  • Current Issues in Microbioal Ecology Seminar (ERS-793C)

Selected Publications

  1. Fritsen, C.H., V.I. Lytle, S.F. Ackley and C.W. Sullivan, 1994.  Autumn Bloom of Antarctic pack-ice algae.  Science 266:782-784.
  2. Fritsen, C.H., S.L. Coale, D.R Neenan, A.H. Gibson and D.L. Garrison, 2001.  Biomass, Production and Microhabitat Characteristics near the Freeboard of Ice Floes in the Ross Sea during the Austral Summer.  Annals of Glaciol. 33: 280-286.
  3. Quetin, L.B., R.M. Ross, C.H. Fritsen and M. Vernet. 2007.  Ecological Responses of Antarctic Krill to Environmental Variability:  Can We Predict the Future? Antarctic Science, 253-266.
  4. Ackley,. S.F., M. J. Lewis, C.H. Fritsen and H. Xie,  2008.  Internal melting in Antarctic sea ice: Development of “gap” layers.  J. Geoophys. Res. Lett. 35(11)11503.
  5. Raymond, J.A., M. Janech, and C.H. Fritsen,  2009. Novel ice-binding proteins from a psychrophilic Antarctic alga (Chlamydomonadaceae).  J. Phycol. 45(1).
  6. Saito, L., C. Redd, S. Chandra, L. Atwell, C.H. Fritsen, and M.R. Rosen. 2007. Quantifying foodweb interactions with simultaneous linear equations: stable isotope models of the Truckee River, USA J. North American Benthological Society. 26(4) 642-662.
  7. Fritsen, C.H., J. Memmott and F.J. Stewart, 2008. Inter-annual sea ice dynamics and micro-algal biomass in winter pack ice:  Marguerite Bay, Antarctica. Deep Sea Research II. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2008.04.034.
  8. Doran, P.T., C.H.  Fritsen, A.E. Murray, F. Kenig, C.P. McKay, and J. Kyne. 2008.   Entry approach into pristine ice-sealed lakes – Lake Vida, East Antarctica, a model ecosystem.  Limnology and Oceanography Methods. 6:542-547.
  9. Peternel, K., L. Saito and C.H. Fritsen. 2008.  Evaluation of a modeling approach to assess nitrogen assimilative capacity due to river restoration.  J. of Water Resources Planning and Management.  134(5) 474. doi: 10.1061/(AASCE)0733-9496(2008)134:5(474).
  10. Saito, L. M.R. Rosen, S. Chandra, C.H. Fritsen, J.A. Arufe and C. Redd. 2008. Using Semi-Permeable Membrane Devices and Stable Nitrogen Isotopes to Detect Anthropogenic Influences on the Truckee River, USA.  Environmental Engineering Science. 25(4): 585-600. doi:10.1089/ees.2007.0090.
  11. Davis, C. J., J. C. Memmott, and C.H. Fritsen. 2009. Walker River Periphyton, p. 27-77. In D. W. Sada and S. Chandra [eds.], Assessing the Importance of Water Acquisitions to Health of the In-stream Environment, Aquatic Ecology, and TDS loading to Walker Lake. Desert Research Institute, Las Vegas and Reno and University of Nevada, Reno.
  12. Carroll, R.W.H., Memmott, J., Warwick, J., Fritsen, C.H., and J.C. Bonzongo. 2010. Seasonal Variation of Mercury Associated with Different Phytoplankton Size Fractions in Lahontan Reservoir, Nevada.  Water Air Soil Pollution.
  13. Fritsen, C.H., E.D. Wirthlin, D. Momberg, E. Murphy and S.F. Ackley. 2010.  Bio-optical properties of Antarctic Sea ice during IPY drifting ice stations.  Deep Sea Research II. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2010.10.028
  14. Fritsen, C.H., J.C. Memmott, R.M. Ross, L.B. Quetin, M. Vernet and E.D. Wirthlin. 2010.  The timing of sea ice formation and exposure to PAR during austral autumn and winter along the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biol. DOI 10.1007/s00300-010-0924-7
  15. Rost, A., C.H. Fritsen, and C. Davis.  2011. Distribution of Didymosphenia geminata in streams in the Sierra Nevada, USA in relation to water chemistry and bedrock geology.  Hydrobiologia. 665(1): 157-167.
  16. Lee, B.S., K. McGwire, and C.H. Fritsen. 2011.  Identification and Quantification of Aquatic Vegetation with Hyperspectral Remote Sensing in Western Nevada Rivers, USA.Int. Journal of Remote Sensing.  DOI:  10.1080/01431161.2010.549850.
  17. Davis, C.J., C.H. Fritsen, E.D Wirthlin, J.C. Memmott, 2012. High Rate pf primary productivity in a semi-arid tailwater: Implications for self-regulated production. River Research and Applications. 28(10):1820-1829.
  18. Lowe, A.T., R.M.Ross,  L.B. Quetin, M.Vernet, and C.H. Fritsen, 2012. Simulating larval Antarctic krill growth and condition factor during fall and winter in response to environmental variability.  Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 452:27-43, doi:10.3354/meps09409.
  19. Vernet, M., W.A Kozlowski, L. Yarmay, A.T. Lowe, R.M. Ross, L.B. Quetin, and C.H. Fritsen, 2012.  Dynamics of phytoplankton bloom demise during the austral fall in the western Antarctic Peninsula.  Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 452:45-61. doi:10.3354/meps09704.
  20. Murray, AM,  F. Kenig, C.H. Fritsen, C.P. McKay, K.M. Cawley, R. Edwards, E. Kuhn, D.M. McKnight, N.E. Ostrom, V. Peng, A. Ponce, J.C. Priscu, V. Samarkin, A.T. Townsend, P. Wagh, S.A. Young, P.T. Yung, P.T. Doran. 2012.  Life in the encapsulated -13ºC brines of Lake Vida, Antarctica.  PNAS. 109(50): 20626-20631.



Kish, S. M., Bartlett, J. A., Warwick, J. J., McKay, W. A., Fritsen, C. H., 2006: Long-term Dynamic Modeling Approach to Quantifying Attached Algal Growth and Associated Impacts on Dissolved Oyxgen in the Lower Truckee River, Nevada, Journal of Environmental Engineering, 10, 132, 1366-1375, Published


Shope, C. L., Benner, S. G., Brock, J. T., Sada, D. W., Fritsen, C. H., 2004: Influence of temproal and spatial river temperature heterogeneity on nutrient cycling, Published
Shope, C. L., Benner, S. G., Brock, J. T., Sada, D. W., Fritsen, C. H., 2004: Influence of temproal and spatial river temperature heterogeneity on nutrient cycling, Published




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