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Researchers from across North America visit campus for symposium honoring biology professor

Monday, April 13, 2015

LAWRENCE — Aquatic ecologists from 15 North American universities and research stations who have traveled from as far away as the U.S. Virgin Islands are visiting the University of Kansas today for a one-day symposium honoring Val Houston Smith, KU professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Smith is known worldwide as an expert in limnology, the study of bodies of freshwater. He also has conducted research on marine, terrestrial, medical and bioenergy systems.

“Val is a renaissance biologist who finds time to engage with his friends and their interests in such a sincere way that all those involved benefit,” said Chris Haufler, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology. "I’m not surprised by the outpouring of affection for him. While it’s true that he is an internationally known expert on many topics, he also is internationally beloved because of his genuine enthusiasm for and excitement about diverse projects.”

The study of water resources is a key KU initiative. Smith’s area of expertise is phytoplankton ecology, and he has worked for more than three decades on the relationship between nutrient loading and the occurrence of nuisance bloom-forming blue-green algae in lakes and estuaries worldwide. He also is actively involved in KU’s Feedstock to Tailpipe Initiative, with his research team seeking to produce renewable biofuels from algae produced in wastewater-fed, outdoor bioreactors. His experimental sites for this research include the KU Field Station.

Today’s private symposium is taking place at Simons Laboratories on west campus. Presentations cover a wide variety of subjects, including algal blooms in coastal zones, the effect of invasive zebra mussels on reservoirs, boreal lakes and climate change.

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