Lakes and ponds are superb natural laboratories for understanding how the ecological world functions. Like plants and animals on ocean islands, the populations and communities of organisms in lakes are more isolated from exchange with nearby habitats than are their terrestrial counterparts. The microbes, algae, plants and animals that live submersed beneath the water’s surface are nearly all restricted to their liquid environment, unable to cross the land that surrounds them. Thus confined, their interactions are often intense, easily discerned, and complex in fascinating ways. Undergrads, grad students and postdocs, in the Hairston Lab take part in research on these topics.