Steven Thomas

Steven Thomas

  • Contact Information
  • My Story
  • Publications & Presentations
  • Background
  • Expertise & Interests
  • Advising
  • Courses Taught
  • Outreach

Title Environmental Science Mission Area Leader
Address 403 Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
Phone 402-613-0043
FAX 402-472-2946
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Contact Preference

email, phone

Office Hours


Hi, I'm Steven Thomas, a river/stream ecologist with the School of Natural Resources.

Simply put, I'm interested in understanding how the properties of one location impact the ecological properties of another. The flow of water links upstream and downstream habitats, and longitudinal connection is a fundamental, though often ignored, aspect of ecology.

Steven Thomas

My research combines ecology and hydrology to address nutrients in streams, microbiological activity, and organic matter production, transport and processing.

These interests have led me to research topics such as organic particle dynamics in stream ecosystems, in-stream nitrogen removal and transport; hydrology, remote sensing and thermal heterogeneity in floodplain river ecosystems; flow paths and the formation of biogeochemical hotspots; and other areas.

My research is nested within the broader intellectual pursuit of understanding landscape integration at the watershed scale.

I came to UNL as an assistant professor of stream ecology in January 2006. Previously, I've been a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University and formerly a research hydrologist in the private sector.

I've taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels in biology, limnology and the use of stable isotopes in ecology, among other topics.

Selected Publications

2005 Brookshire, J.D., H. M. Valett, S. A. Thomas, and J.R. Webster. Cycling of dissolved organic nitrogen in a forested headwater stream. Ecology. 86:2487-2496.
2005 Cross, W.F., J.P. Benstead, P.C. Frost, and S.A. Thomas. 2005. Applying principles of ecological stoichiometry to freshwater benthic ecology: recent progress and future potential. Freshwater Biology. 50:1985-1912.
2005 Newbold, J.D., S.A. Thomas, G.W. Minshall, C.E. Cushing, and T. Georgian. Deposition, benthic residence, and resuspension of fine organic particles in a mountain stream. Limnology and Oceanography. 50:1571-1580.
2005 Schade, J., J. Espeleta, C.A. Klausmeier, M.E. McGroddy, S.A. Thomas, and L. Zhang. A conceptual framework for ecosystem stoichiometry: balancing resource supply and demand. Oikos. 109:40-51.
2005 Thomas S.A., T.V. Royer, E.B. Snyder, and J,C, Davis. Organic carbon spiraling in the Snake River, Idaho, USA. Aquatic Sciences. 67:424-433.
2004 Mulholland, P.J., H.M. Valett, J.R. Webster, S.A. Thomas, L. Cooper, S. Hamilton and B.J. Peterson. Stream denitrification and total nitrate uptake rates measured using a field 15N isotope tracer approach. Limnology and Oceanography 49(3) 809-820.
2003 Thomas, S.A. T.V. Royer, and G. W. Minshall. Assessing the Role of Marine Derived Nutrients in Idaho Streams. Pages 41-55 in J.G. Stockner, editor. Nutrients in Salmonid Ecosystems; Sustaining Productivity and Biodiversity. American Fisheries Society, Syposium 34, Bethesda, Maryland.
2003 Thomas, S.A., H.M. Valett, P.J. Mulholland, and J.R. Webster. A regression approach to estimating reactive solute uptake in advective and transient storage zones of stream ecosystems. Advances in Water Resources. 26: 965-976.
2001 Thomas, S.A., H.M. Valett, P.J. Mulholland, and J.R. Webster, C.S. Fellows, C.N. Dahm, and C.G. Peterson. 2001. Nitrogen retention in headwater streams: the influence of groundwater - surface water interaction. In: Optimizing Nitrogen Management in Food and Energy Production and Environmental Protection: Proceedings of the 2nd International Nitrogen Conference on Science and Policy. TheScientificWorld 1:623-631.
2001 Thomas, S.A., J.D. Newbold, G.W. Minshall, T. Georgian, M.T. Monaghan, and C.E. Cushing. Transport and deposition of fine and very-fine organic particles in streams: implications for deposition mechanisms in turbulent environments. Limnology and Oceanography. 46:1415-1424.

Educational Background

  • BS - University of New Hampshire, Botany
  • MS - University of Wyoming
  • PhD - Idaho State University


  • 2010 – Recognition of Junior Faculty for Excellence in Research awarded by Agricultural Research Division of UNL 

SNR Mission Area(s)

  • Applied Ecology
  • Environmental Science

Notable Websites

Other Areas of Interest

Spatial dynamics of biogeochemical cycling in ecosystems, stream ecosystems

SNR Areas of Expertise

Keyword Expert Level

10 - Top Expert
1 - Mild Interest

Population Dynamics, Distribution




Aquatic Ecosystems














Insect Ecology


Select a keyword and see other SNR faculty and staff with this interest or expertise.

Undergraduate Majors Bachelor of Science in
  • Water Science
Graduate Program(s)

Master of Science in Natural Resource Sciences

including specializations in
  • Applied Ecology

Doctor of Philosophy in Natural Resource Sciences

including specializations in
  • Applied Ecology

Courses Taught
Course Number Course Title Fall Even Years Fall Odd Years Spring Even Years Spring Odd Years Summer Session Cross Listing
GEOG 281 Introduction to Water Science X X NRES/WATS 281
NRES 281 Introduction to Water Science X X GEOG/NRES 281
NRES 459 Limnology X BIOS/NRES/WATS 459/859
NRES 481 Stream and River Ecology X X NRES/WATS 481/881
NRES 859 Limnology X BIOS/NRES/WATS 459/859
NRES 881 Stream and River Ecology X X NRES/WATS 481/881
WATS 281 Introduction to Water Science X X GEOG/NRES 281
WATS 299 Career Experiences X X X X n/a
WATS 459 Limnology X BIOS/NRES/WATS 459/859
WATS 481 Stream and River Ecology X X NRES/WATS 481/881
WATS 496 Principles and Problems in Water Science X X X None
WATS 498A Senior Project I X X X X None
WATS 498B Senior Project II X X X X None
WATS 499H Honors Thesis X X X None