My research interests are generally in the fields of population ecology and conservation biology focusing on aquatic ecosystems in the Great Lakes region. I tend to focus on questions that seek to understand the behavioral and ecological mechanisms that contribute to variation in the annual abundance of fish populations including lake sturgeon and yellow perch.
Jogging, mountain biking and weight lifting; playing the guitar; gardening; fishing; watching movies; exploring the world with my wife and twin boys.
Dual major Ph.D. in Zoology and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior from Michigan State University (2010); M.S. in Biology from Eastern Illinois University (2003); B.S. in Environmental Biology from Eastern Illinois University (2001) See my CV.
UW-Green Bay Science and Technology Faculty Spotlight -Video (Youtube)
Faculty Spotlight - May 2017
Tell us about yourself and your educational background.
I grew up in a small town in central Illinois (Deer Creek-Mackinaw) where I spent most of my free time fishing, playing sports (soccer and football), building remote control cars, and working for hybrid seed companies. I attended Eastern Illinois University where I received my BS and MS degrees in environmental biology. During this time, I worked extensively with my faculty advisors on several research projects centered on learning more about the behavioral ecology and early life history of native crayfish, box turtles and Japanese beetles. Shortly after graduating from EIU, I was hired as an aquatic ecology technician at the Illinois Natural History Survey where I assisted with quantifying the ecological impacts of removing a low head dam. I then accepted an offer to join Michigan State University’s Molecular Ecology Laboratory (Department of Zoology) as a PhD student. My dissertation research involved evaluating factors contributing to mortality during the egg and larval stages in lake sturgeon. I also worked extensively with adult lake sturgeon at the time of migration to quantify times and locations of spawning within and across seasons.
Tell us about your current role with UWGB.
I am currently an Associate Professor of Biology here at UWGB where I am the principle investigator for the Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries Laboratory. My laboratory works on a wide range of research topics with emphasis on reproductive ecology across numerous fish species including northern pike, lake whitefish, yellow perch, lake sturgeon and bowfin. Students working in my lab are currently pursuing questions related to the reproductive and ecological dynamics of resident and migratory fish species that use the many tributaries and open waters of Green Bay for nursery and foraging. We have also been working to employ state of the art techniques that can effectively disentangle the complicated aspects of aquatic food webs, especially in or around coastal wetlands. My laboratory collaborates extensively with individuals representing the Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Brown County, the Nature Conservancy, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, University of Notre Dame and Central Michigan University. In addition running this research program, I also serve as faculty advisor for a student subunit of the American Fisheries Society. AFS students are incredibly active in working towards their mission of improving the conservation of aquatic communities while promoting the development of future fisheries professionals. Finally, I serve as current chair of the Environmental Science and Policy Graduate Program.
What is the best part of being a UWGB faculty member?
There are many great things about being a UWGB faculty member. I could ramble on at length but I will stick with three points! First, we have fantastic students coming from various backgrounds that are incredibly inquisitive and dedicated to the craft they ultimately pursue. Upper level class sizes are small and thus the educational opportunities/experiences can be rich and meaningful in content. Facilitating student-teacher mentoring relationships that can lead to significant opportunities in the form of research is also quite easy. Second, UWGB, and especially the College of Science and Technology, is loaded with faculty, staff and administrators that are bright, talented and dedicated to student and institutional success. My long-range goal at UWGB is to build a highly visible research and educational program (at the Midwest and national level) that is highly collaborative and tackles fundamental ecological questions centered in aquatic ecology that are broad in scale and scope. Achieving this goal will clearly take some time. However, I can confidently say that many of my senior colleagues have played a central role in mentoring, teaching and advising capacities that have promoted my success since my first day on campus. I am very thankful for such wonderful colleagues. Third, UWGB and its surrounding pool of external partners interested in improving and restoring all aspects of this community is just phenomenal.
What is your mission at UWGB?
Many of the environmental science and biology students I mentor directly through classroom experiences, as undergraduate/graduate research technicians working in my Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries Laboratory, or participating in the chapter of American Fisheries Society I advise, are ultimately seeking careers in academia, private organizations, consulting firms, industry and government. When potential employers ask them in the very near future, “Tell me what you accomplished during your time at UW-Green Bay” or “what field experiences do you have”, my baseline ambition is to see that students will always have a great response. This template ultimately shapes how I develop my courses and conduct research to increase probabilities of student success by giving them quantitative and analytical tools to be engaged, skills and experiences what will facilitate positive interactions with professionals working outside of academia, and develop real world experiences that enable them to be confident, collaborative and outgoing. Fortunately, research on fish early life history and adult fish ecology is ripe with opportunity to fulfill this mission, especially for areas like Green Bay where the economic and cultural importance of many of these resources/populations are valued by the public, agencies and organizations. I find incredible satisfaction in knowing that I can be part of this process through my employment at this university and take joy in the many students that have and are living this out.
What is the best advice you would give to environmental science and biology majors?
The best advice I can give to environmental science and biology majors is to get involved outside of the classroom and get to know your instructors! Students should aggressively pursue any opportunity UWGB places in front of them and seek to build a “professional identity” immediately after the major is declared. Building a professional identity can be accomplished through many different avenues. However, I would suggest that students seek research opportunities through independent studies and internships and take a leadership role in professional working groups such as the American Fisheries Society wherever possible.