Paula Guastello

Paula Guastello

  • Contact Information
  • My Story
  • Publications
  • Background
  • Interests

Contact Information

DegreeDoctorate of Philosophy in Natural Resource Sciences
Address243c North Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
Advisor(s)Mark Pegg


My Story

I am a PhD student and Graduate Research Assistant working with Mark Pegg (Natural Resources) and Samodha Fernando (Animal Sciences). Currently, I am characterizing microbial and pathogen communities in Nebraska rivers and streams, funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust through June 2023. I will also be testing for aquatic invasive species (bighead carp, silver carp, zebra mussel, and quagga mussel) using environmental DNA (eDNA). Part of this project will examine whether these communities changed after the record-breaking floods that swept across the state in 2019.

Though I have a wide range of interests within natural resources, my project through the Nebraska Environmental Trust holds a special significance for me. In 2018, my husband and I purchased a property less than a mile from the Missouri River. Six months later, our house filled with 13 feet of water during the initial flooding event, and experienced additional floods over the course of the summer. Cleaning up the aftermath gave me truly "hands-on" experience with the Missouri River's pathogens and microbes! For months, I still saw displaced fish swimming in the newly-formed "lake" that engulfed much of the area. I look forward to seeing what other impacts the floods had on aquatic communities.

There are limited data on microbial populations before the flood, but this project will provide a baseline for scientists and mangers to monitor changes over time and in the event of future floods. Immediately, it will determine the water quality and ecological health of the individual waterbodies. I hope to use the data and observations from this project to inform strategies to restore damaged riverine ecosystems.

Most of my free time goes to my three horses, who live at my house. I love exploring the trails and parks in this region, whether it’s from the back of a horse or being dragged along by my 150lb dog.

Random facts:

  • My husband is a pilot in the Air Force
  • My favorite fish is the alligator gar
  • I foster dogs, kittens, and donkeys for local rescues

Selected Publications

Guastello, P. R., Thum, R. (2018) Mesocosm and field evaluation of Eurasian and hybrid watermilfoil response to endothall in Jefferson Slough, Montana. Journal of Aquatic Plant Management, 56, 63-67.
Taylor, L.A., McNair, J. N., Guastello, P., Pashnick, J., Thum, R.A. (2017) Heritable variation for vegetative growth rate in ten distinct genotypes of hybrid watermilfoil. Journal of Aquatic Plant Management, 55, 51-57.



DegreeMajorInstitutionYear Awarded
Master of SciencePlant Sciences (Evolutionary Ecology)Montana State University2018
Bachelor of ScienceEcology (Organismal Biology)Montana State University2015

Areas of Interest/Expertise

  • Freshwater systems
  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Ecological restoration
  • Ecological/evolutionary genetics
  • Environmental DNA (eDNA)