Peter Small

Dr. Small is a population ecologist who specializes in aquatic ecology, especially the population dynamics of local, freshwater diatoms.  He and his students have recently focused their work on the population recovery, periodicities, and annual cycling of common diatoms such as Cocconeis, Cyclotella, and Navicula.  Because diatoms are particularly sensitive to pollution of any kind he and his recent students have investigated the accumulation of heavy metals in diatoms in the Perkiomen Creek and have also studied diatom communities above and below a Federal Superfund site, which is still leaching pollutants, in the nearby Skippack Creek as an indicator of water quality.  Research in his lab includes both field and laboratory work, such as microscopy, as well as the statistical analysis of data.  In addition, he occasionally sponsors student researchers in botanical topics, such as the distribution of local terrestrial orchids and other groups of interest.




  • B.S., Austin Peay State University
  • M.S., East Tennessee State University
  • Ph.D., Miami University


  • Issues in Ecology and Evolution
  • Ecology
  • Plant Biology

Research Interests

  1. Population densities, periodicities, and cycling in local, freshwater diatom populations
  2. Determining statistical correlations between densities of target genera and habitat conditions
  3. Biogeography of the local vascular flora

Recent Work

Co-author, Alden Trust grant to Ursinus College, Creating a Modern Biology Laboratory, $175,000, April, 2014

J. Westermeier, M. Klinedinst, A. Kovacs, A. Moore, J. Althouse and P. Small.  The Correlation between Water Temperature, Nitrate Level, and the Common Freshwater Diatoms of Southeastern PA.  COSA Research Symposium, April, 2012

R. Matty, P. Small, A Comparison of Population Densities of the Diatom Cocconeis placentula in Skippack Creek at Sites above and below a Federal Superfund Site.  Summer Fellows program, 2008