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Ryan Saylor

Environmental and Climate Sciences


Supervising Faculty: Mark Bevelhimer

My career goals and research interests have changed repeatedly in the years since I left rural Pennsylvania to pursue a college degree.  I started my scientific studies at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where I successfully completed a double major in Marine Biology and Chemistry.  After graduating, I travelled around the country as a field technician working on various projects with my biological model of interest—fishes.  Field work eventually lead me to ask questions I could not answer with my undergraduate background alone, so I decided to enroll in a master’s program at the University of West Florida.  My master’s thesis focused on laboratory ecological physiology techniques and computer modeling of fish thermal stress.  While at UWF, I was able to publish two peer-reviewed scientific articles and, more importantly, I was granted the opportunity to work with my current Bredesen Center advisor:  Dr. Mark Bevelhimer.  Dr. Bevelhimer introduced me to a computer modeling technique that estimates thermal stress of fishes during exposure to effluent released from thermo-electric power plants.  A few months after completing my master’s degree, I was hired as a sub-contractor through ORNL and worked closely with Dr. Bevelhimer to further develop the thermal stress modeling technique.  Most recently, I applied and accepted a PhD fellowship with the Bredesen Center where I will research the environmental sustainability of current and future water-derived energy production systems. 

As a Bredesen Center fellow, I will work closely with Dr. Mark Bevelhimer and the Ecological Assessment Team/Energy-Water Resource Systems Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to complete my PhD.   My specific research will focus on two interrelated themes.  The first theme will utilize laboratory and field-derived experiments to investigate how water-based energy production (i.e., thermo-electric, conventional hydropower, or hydro-kinetic) impacts fish growth, reproduction, and survival.  The second theme will combine the previous data with computer modeling to better predict how exposure to thermal effluent, passage through hydropower turbines, or interaction with hydro-kinetic turbines impact resident fishes.  The ultimate goal of my research is to use experimental and modeling data to modify the design or operation of said technologies in order to maximize energy production and preserve the integrity of aquatic resources.  Tennessee Rivers are perfect “laboratories” for my research aspirations because many water-based energy production technologies are found here and also contain one the most diverse freshwater fish assemblages in the southeastern USA.  While my academic background is quite different from most Bredesen students, my current research goals fit well within the interdisciplinary, energy-focused context of the Bredesen Center program.


Master of Science, Biology – University of West Florida (2013)

Bachelor of Science, Marine Biology & B.A. Chemistry – University of North Carolina at Wilmington (2005)


Saylor, R. K., Lapointe, N.W.R., & Angermeier, P. (2012).  Diet ecology of non-native northern snakehead (Channa argus) compared with three co-occurring predators in the lower Potomac River, USA.  Ecology of Freshwater Fish 21(3):  443-452. 

Saylor, R.K, Miller, D.L., Vandersea, M.W., Bevelhimer, M.S., Schofield, P.J., & Bennett, W.A. (2010).  Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome caused by Aphanomyces invadans in captive bullseye snakehead (Channa marulius) collected from South Florida, USA.  Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 88:  169-175.

Saylor, R.K. & Bevelhimer, M. (In prep).  Modeling thermal stress of resident fishes during simulated exposure to heated effluent from the Cumberland River Steam Plant in Tennessee. 

Saylor, R.K., Schofield, P., & Bennett, W.  (In prep).  Thermal ecology of non-native Asian swamp eel, Monopterus albus (Zuiew, 1793), exposed to simulated winter temperatures indicative of southern Florida, USA. 

Saylor, R.K., Bevelhimer, M., & Bennett, W.  (In prep).  Thermal Stress Accumulation Modeling:  A novel method of modeling stress calibrated with laboratory derived cold tolerance data on non-native Asian swamp eel (Monopterus albus).