Biology Program

Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

Dr. Pamela Silver

Professor of Biology

Managing Editor of the Journal of the North American Benthological Society

Ph.D., Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, 1992

M.S., Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, 1987
SBB, Immunohematology, Central Florida Blood Bank, Orlando, FL, 1980
MT(ASCP), Medical Technology, St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton, NJ, 1976
B.A., Biology, Trenton State College, Trenton, NJ, 1975



Behrend College Council of Fellows Research Award, 2002.

Behrend College Council of Fellows Excellence in Teaching Award, 1996


Teaching Interests:

I actively encourage critical thinking and analytical skills in all courses that I teach, and I try to emphasize that science is conducted within a social context of personal and cultural biases that influence the questions we ask and the answers we accept. In addition to teaching solid, intense biology and ecology, I address the social, economic, and political relevance of the subject matter. Classes are process-oriented, with project-based, cross-course collaborative laboratory and field components where appropriate.

Ecology of Populations and Communities - lower division biology course that addresses basic ecology from a theoretical and mathematical perspective.

Limnology - upper division biology course with a strong emphasis on field and laboratory methods as well as limnological theory.

Unifying Concepts in Biology - a capstone course inorganic evolution that emphasizes evolutionary theory across the biological hierarchy and the central role of evolution in biology through a series of essays and readings in the primary literature.

Biological Experimental Design - upper division biology course that teaches experimental design, proposal writing, and data analysis through project-based, collaborative learning.

Population Ecology - upper division, highly quantitative ecology course that uses lectures and investigative field and laboratory projects to teach the principles of population biology.


Research Interests: (Aquatic Ecology)

Synopsis: Unravelling the factors influencing the distributions and abundances of organisms in time and space currently is an area of intense ecological investigation. The effects of habitat heterogeneity and patchiness on community ecology is of major importance when considering current issues in conservation, ecosystem dynamics, global climate change, and habitat management. Research in my laboratory focuses on aquatic organisms (benthic invertebrates and salamanders) as empirical models for testing hypotheses regarding the influences of spatial and temporal patch dynamics on the structure of species assemblages. Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to participate in my research or independent research projects.

Road de-icing agents: Analysis of the ecological and physiological responses of microbial, plant, and animal assemblages to the salt-induced changes in water and sediment chemistry in wetlands that receive runoff contaminated by road de-icing agents (primarily NaCl). This PennDOT-supported research began in 2004 when a new highway (the Bayfront Connector) was opened on the Behrend campus. The work focuses on the spatial and temporal dynamics of salt inputs to mitigation wetlands associated with the new road. The work gives special emphasis to chironomid assemblages in the wetlands as biological indicators of ecosystem health.

Salamander Population Structure: Population genetics and demography of salamanders in natural wetlands on the Behrend campus. This long-term project was started in 1995 in response to a request from the PennDOT when the department began construction of the Bayfront Connector. The project has continued in response to campus development and associated losses of upland and wetland habitat. The work focuses on salamander responses to changing landscapes.


Recent Publications:

Silver, P., and A. D. Steinman (editors). 2010. A 25th anniversary issue: the role of J-NABS in freshwater benthic science. North American Benthological Society, Lawrence, Kansas.

Silver, P , A. D. Steinman, and I. Polls. 2010. The role of a discipline-specific journal in scientific discovery. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29:1-11.

Steinman, A. D., P. Silver, S. Fisher, and J. L. Meyer. 2010. The J-NABS 25th anniversary issue: reflecting on the past, synthesizing the present, and projecting into the future. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29:371-380.

Silver, P., S. M. Rupprecht*, and M. F. Stauffer*. 2009. Temperature-dependent effects of road deicing salt on chironmid larvae. Wetlands 29:942-951.

1Silver, P., C. Brown McCall*, and D. Wooster.  2004. Habitat partitioning by chironomid larvae in arrays of leaf patches in streams.  Journal of the North American Benthological Society 23:467479.

Silver, P., D. Wooster, and M. A. Palmer.  2004. Chironomid responses to spatially structured, dynamic, streambed landscapes.  Journal of the North American Benthological Society 23:6977.

Silver, P., M. A. Palmer, C. M. Swan, and D. Wooster.  2002. The small-scale ecology of freshwater meiofauna.  Pages 217240 in Freshwater meiofauna: biology and ecology.  S. D. Rundle, A. L. Robertson, and J. M. Schmid-Araya (editors).  Backhuys, Leiden, Germany.

Silver, P., J. K. Cooper, and E. J. Davis*.  2000. The arrangement of resources in patchy landscapes: effects on distribution, survival, and resource acquisition in chironomids.  Oecologia 124:216224.

Palmer, M. A, C. S. Swan, K. Nelson, P. Silver, and R. Alvestad*.  2000.  Streambed landscapes:  evidence that stream invertebrates respond to the type and spatial arrangement of patches.  Landscape Ecology 15:565578.

Stanko-Mishic, S.*, P. Silver Botts, and J. K. Cooper.  1999. Manipulation of habitat quality:  effects on chironomid life history traits.  Freshwater Biology 41:719727.

Silver Botts, P.  1999. Lake Erie coastal wetlands.   Pages 9951012 in Invertebrates in freshwater wetlands of North America: ecology and management. D. P. Batzer, R. B. Rader, and S. A. Wissinger (editors).   Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York.

Silver Botts, P.  1997.  Spatial pattern, patch dynamics, and successional change: chironomid assemblages in a Lake Erie coastal wetland.  Freshwater Biology 37:277286.

Silver Botts, P., B. A. Patterson*, and D. Schlosser.  1996. Zebra mussel effects on benthic invertebrates: physical or biotic?   Journal of the North American Benthological Society 15:179184. 

Palmer, M. A., P. Arensburger, P. Silver Botts, C. C. Hackencamp, and J. W. Reid.  1995.  Disturbance and the community structure of stream invertebrates: patch-specific effects and the role of refugia. Freshwater Biology 34:343356.

Silver Botts, P., and R. Donn*.  1995. Temporal delineation of wetlands on Gull Point, Presque Isle.  Pages 177191 in Wetlands: buffers, boundaries and environmental gradients.  G. Mulamoottil, B. G. Warner, and E. A. McBean (editors).  Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, Florida.

Cowell, B.C., and P. Silver Botts.  1994.  Factors influencing the distribution, abundance and growth of Lyngbya wollei in Central Florida.  Aquatic Botany 49:117.

Silver Botts, P., and E. D. McCoy.  1993.  Delineation of spatial boundaries in a wetland habitat.  Biodiversity and Conservation 2:351358.

Silver Botts, P.  1993.  The impact of small chironomid grazers on epiphytic algal abundance and dispersion.  Freshwater Biology 30:2533.

Silver Botts, P., and B. C. Cowell.  1993.  Temporal patterns of abundance of epiphytic invertebrates on Typha shoots in a subtropical lake.  Journal of North American Benthological Society 12:2739.

Silver Botts, P., and B. C. Cowell.  1992.  Feeding electivities of two species of epiphytic chironomids in a subtropical lake.  Oecologia 89:331337.

Silver Botts, P., J. M. Lawrence, B. W. Witz, and C. W. Kovach.  1989.  Phenotypic plasticity in Hygrophila polysperma (Roxb.) Anders. (Acanthaceae).  Aquatic Botany 36:207214.

Silver Botts, P., and B. C. Cowell.  1988.  Distribution and abundance of herbaceous angiosperms in west-central Florida marshes: the effect of water level fluctuation.  Aquatic Botany 32:225238.

 1 Formerly Pamela Silver Botts

* Undergraduate students


Personal Interests:

Bagpipes, Scottish music, and Scottish country dancing.


Interested persons can reach me for information at:
Phone: 814-898-7132