Amanda H Bell

Over the past 18 years working for the Survey, I have had the privilege to study aquatic ecosystems in Wisconsin and across the country. The resilience of our natural systems to overcome chemical, physical and biological changes brought on by increasing human populations amazes me and is the main reason I love to study the aquatic ecosystem.


In 2001, Amanda Bell was a student at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. Looking for summer work she applied for an internship collecting fish, invertebrates and algae in the Idaho sun with the USGS, and she found her love for all things aquatic. As Amanda moved back to Wisconsin to continue her education, she began working for the WI Water Science Center during the school year. Summers found Amanda sampling rivers and streams for aquatic ecology, while during the school year at the University of Stevens Point she helped edit and proof the data she helped collect. Amanda's Masters program at UWSP continued her ecological emphasis by studying the bioaccumulation of mercury in periphyton alongside the larger NAWQA Mercury Topical study.  Like most national projects, the Mercury study ended; therefore, Amanda sought new opportunities and began working on a project to study the effects of urbanization on stream ecosystems in the Lake Michigan watershed. Amanda’s collaboration on the local project gained the attention of the National project leads and she was brought on to help create several National papers as well as a congressional briefing.

As that study was nearing the end of its lifecycle, Amanda developed a cooperative project with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources studying the benthic invertebrate and plankton communities at EPA designated Areas of Concern. During that time, the NAWQA project was in the planning phase for Cycle 3 and was looking for an energetic, focused, and organized person to coordinate the ecological sampling for the NAWQA Program. Although she was one of the youngest applicants, Amanda was the right fit for the job. This position brought on the responsibility of overseeing the annual sampling of the 42 long-term ecological networks sites. Each year Amanda verifies the assigned Water Science Centers have the appropriate training, necessary equipment and personnel to complete the sampling. If training is needed, Amanda has ensured that an experienced ecologist works with the crew to go over the techniques and methods for a successful sampling trip.

Amanda’s second big task with the new position was organizing the ecological sampling of 50 streams across the Midwest for the Regional Stream Quality Assessment project. It was a hot summer and a ton of work, but with three teams spread across 7 states, Amanda and her crews collected ecological data from all the sites. 

The issues with paperwork errors and organization Amanda and her crews faced during that summer, energized her to develop electronic field sheets that winter for future Regional Studies. Therefore, that spring when 120 sites were ready to be sampled in the Southeastern Region, 7 teams ventured out armed with iPads and newly created electronic field forms. The data collected was uploaded into databases and secured without the need of hand entering the data, saving tens of thousands dollars in personnel costs. Over the next three years, Amanda continued to update the field forms and helped her teams collect an additional 292 ecological samples for the Regional studies. For the past year, Amanda has been stewarding the ecological data in the correct databases for her fellow team members to analyze for regional manuscripts detailing the different ecological components.



M.S. Natural Resources - 2005, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

B.S. Watershed Management - 2002, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point