Biological & Environmental Engineering
Soil & Water Lab
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Sheila Saia

Phone: 607-255-4992
Office: B62 Riley Robb Hall
Advisor: Todd Walter
Degree Program: PhD
Curriculum Vitae: Curriculum Vitae


I graduated from Binghamton University in 2007 with a Bachelors of Science in Bioengineering. Afterwards I taught English for a year in Chiba, Japan and then worked for a year in Buffalo, NY (my hometown) as an Americorps sponsored volunteer coordinator at Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. I finished my Master's degree here in the Soil & Water Lab in August 2012. This is my fifth year as a graduate student and my second as a PhD student at Cornell University.

My Current Research Projects and Interests

Linking Hydrology and Microbiology to Better Understand Phosphorus Transport

The goal of my research is to improve water quality by gaining a better understanding of the linkages between soil microbes, hydrology and the transport of phosphorus in the landscape. Phosphorus is found naturally in the environment at very small concentrations but human sources of phosphorus have been shown to initiate algal blooms. The process of algal decomposition, consumes oxygen that surrounding aquatic plants and animals need to survive. With these water quality issues in mind, my research focuses on quantifying the importance of bacteria that accumulate and release phosphorus under certain environmental conditions. I will try to determine to what extent these bacteria contribute to phosphorus release (compared to chemical and physical processes) and what factors control the bacterially mediated uptake and release of phosphorus in soils and streams. Eventually, we can utilize this knowledge of controls on phosphorus transport in our efforts to design new management practice aimed at reducing nutrient pollution.

Mianus River Gorge Preserve

Information about my work with the Mianus River Gorge Preserve.


In my free time I enjoy traveling and spending time outside. I often ride my bicycle up and down the Ithaca hills and climb rocks. I love to cook for other people and am mesmerized by the movement of jellyfish.