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Department of Biology

Department of Biology


Clifton Ruehl

Welcome to the Ruehl lab at CSU

We study population, community, and evolutionary ecology.  Current research focuses on using a food web perspective to understand how predators influence population dynamics, community structure, and ecosystem processes along abiotic gradients commonly altered by human activities.  The lab employs observational studies and surveys to design biologically relevant lab and field experiments guided by ecological and evolutionary theory.  Our work focuses on freshwater ecosystems.


Dr. Clifton Ruehl

Position: Assistant Professor
Office: Jordan Hall 308
Phone: 706-565-4049
Personal Website     


Clifton Ruehl

Principal Investigator:
Clifton Ruehl
Assistant Professor

Current students:
Taylor Ledford
Undergraduate researcher

Aaron Thomas
Undergraduate researcher

Mary Wright
Undergraduate researcher

Cale Morgan
Undergraduate researcher

Lab Alumi:
Haley Lane
Undergraduate researcher

Cameron McPherson
Undergraduate researcher

Alex Edwards
Undergraduate researcher

Jimmy Williams
Undergraduate researcher


My role as an instructor is to cultivate an atmosphere of student-centered learning.  This is accomplished through question-driven lectures, student-led discussions of primary literature, and experiential learning in the lab and field.  My classes focus on the mastery of critical thinking skills that empower students to assimilate information from multiple sources to make meaningful and well-informed conclusions.  Experiential learning techniques model the practice of scientific discovery and reinforce critical thinking skills.  Therefore, in labs students develop and test hypotheses with experiments or quantitative field sampling and then analyze the data they collected and report their results by writing a scientific paper.  Teaching is an iterative process that involves learning, on the part of the instructor, how to communicate complex terms, concepts, and theories to students.  I strive to improve the quality of my teaching by identifying aspects of lectures and activities that need improvement, observing mentors teach, engaging them in discussions on pedagogy, and receiving teaching evaluations from them.

Courses I regularly teach include:

Ecology BIOL 3217
Aquatic Biology BIOL 5535
Capstone Senior Seminar BIOL 4795
Global Climate Change ITDS 2748

setting up experiment


My research interests lie at the intersection of evolutionary, population, and community ecology.  In particular, I consider the evolution of phenotypic plasticity and the ecological consequences of predator-induced plasticity on prey populations and the communities where they live.  To test these processes, I employ lab and field experiments, performance trials, time-series analysis, and field collections.  For example, a recent study used the data from a factorial experiment to parameterize a structural equation model that quantified the relative strength of consumptive, non-consumptive, and nutrient effects on a population of freshwater snails by quantifying the plastic response of a suite of snail traits related to fitness.

  Prospective Students

I am always interested in having dedicated, hardworking, and persistent students in the lab.  Columbus State requires BS students to conduct senior research or internship through a three course sequence consisting of writing a proposal, conducting research, and communicating through an oral presentation to the biology community and a final paper to their mentors.  Most of the students in my lab are conducting senior research on topics related to populaiton and community ecology in freshwater ecosystems.  For example, Haley Lane is studying the effects of center-pivot irrigation on freshwater mussels in coastal plain streams and Jimmy Williams is studying predator-prey interactions in pond communities.

The biology department at Columbus State University is starting a master's program.  Currently, funding is only available through teaching assistantships.  Interested students should contact me or the department chair, Julie Ballenger.


Ruehl, C.B., Trexler, J.C. 2015 Reciprocal transplant reveals trade-off of resource quality and predation risk in the field. Oecologia online DOI 10.1007/s00442-015-3324-4

Obaza, A.O., Ruehl, C.B. 2013 Regressions for estimating gastropod biomass with multiple shell metrics. Malacologia 56: 343-349 pdf

Ruehl, C.B., Trexler, J.C. 2013 A suite of prey traits determine predator and nutrient enrichment effects in a tri-trophic food chain. Ecosphere 4: art75 pdf

Ruehl, C.B., Shervette, V., DeWitt, T.J. 2011 Replicated shape variation between simple and complex habitats in two estuarine fishes. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 103: 147-158 pdf

Ruehl, C.B., Trexler, J.C. 2011 Comparison of snail density, standing stock, and body size between Caribbean karst wetlands and other freshwater ecosystems. Hydrobiologia 665: 1-13 pdf

Parker, A.D., Uzarski, D.G., Sepulveda-Villet, O.J., Stepien, C.A., Ruehl, C.B., Burton, T.M. 2009 The interplay of morphology, habitat, resource use, and genetic relationships in young yellow perch. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 138: 899-914 pdf

Ruehl, C.B., DeWitt, T.J. 2007 Trophic plasticity and foraging performance in red drum Sciaenops ocellatus (Linnaeus). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 349: 284-294 pdf

Ruehl, C.B., DeWitt, T.J. 2005 Trophic plasticity and fine-grained resource variation in populations of western mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis. Evolutionary Ecology Research. 7: 801-819 pdf