Redefining the Classroom

LSSU Prof. Ashley Moerke presented with PCSUM Distinguished Professor Award

Posted: April 4th, 2014

LANSING -- Lake Superior State University Biology Prof. Ashley Moerke was among three faculty in the state selected as recipients for the Distinguished Professor of the Year Award, which is presented annually by the Presidents Council of State Universities of Michigan.

The awards were announced recently and the recipients will be recognized on April 11 during a luncheon at the Lansing Center.

Prof. Ashley Moerke

The award recognizes the outstanding contributions and dedication made by the faculty from Michigan’s 15 public universities to the education of undergraduate students. Each university nominated a faculty member who has had a significant impact on student learning through various mediums, particularly work in the classroom, through their research, advising and mentoring. In addition to Moerke, the 2014 recipients include Alec Lindsay of Northern Michigan University and Mark Simon of Oakland University.

“The Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year recognition marks a highlight in the professional lives of our faculty among the 15 Michigan public universities,” said Michael Boulus, PCSUM executive director. “Those who teach and work in academia have dedicated their talents and energies to student learning and success, and to be recognized by one’s peers as having excelled in this endeavor is indeed a laudable achievement.”

Moerke is a professor of biology and co-director of the LSSU Aquatic Research Laboratory. She has been an enthusiastic and dynamic faculty member of the LSSU School of Biological Sciences since 2004.

She has authored or co-authored approximately $2,000,000 in grants and contracts and is currently working with several other institutions/agencies on a significant Great Lakes Restoration Initiatives project, while going out of her way to ensure that her students are directly involved in these activities.

Moerke was the recipient of LSSU’s 2011 Excellence in Academic Advising Award, as well as LSSU’s 2012 Distinguished Teaching Award.

“From recruitment to retention to post-graduation, Dr. Moerke is dedicated to helping her students achieve their academic and career goals," said Morrie Walworth, LSSU provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Her work ethic, enthusiasm, and passion for teaching and learning help inspire students. Her high expectations and established rules of professional conduct challenge the students and prepare them to become productive members of the professional scientific community.”

Moerke came to LSSU from University of Notre Dame, where she received her master's and doctoral degrees in biology. She received a bachelor's degree, cum laude, from University of Minnesota-Duluth.

He research interests include stream and river ecology, restoration ecology, riparian-stream interactions, watershed ecology, fisheries ecology, water quality and biological assessment and nutrient enrichment. She is especially interested in the impacts that humans have on stream ecosystems and watersheds, how those impacts may be managed, and how degraded streams may be restored.

Since coming to LSSU, she and her students have been involved in a considerable number of studies in the region and beyond, including studies on the effects of environmental changes on fish in Michigan rivers and streams, influence of Pacific salmon on Great Lakes streams, distribution and habitat requirements of freshwater mussels in the Upper Peninsula, and lake sturgeon movement and habitat use in the St. Mary's River.

She and her students and research partners have also studied diet composition of double-crested cormorants in the upper Great Lakes, effects of large woody debris on stream fish communities, and stream food web dynamics in the Huron Mountain region. Shortly after her arrival on campus, she and five of her LSSU colleagues worked on an Environmental Protection Agency-funded study on the biotic integrity and habitat assessment of the St. Mary's River.

Moerke collaborates with a wide variety of researchers from across the country in this work, including faculty and scientists from the Michigan and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, University of Notre Dame, Michigan Technological University, Michigan State University, and more. In keeping with the undergraduate experience that helps LSSU's science programs stand out, she provides a wealth of research opportunities for her students, some of whom are able to publish papers in scientific journals and present them at professional conferences.

Moerke teaches limnology, aquatic entomology, principles of watershed management and restoration of aquatic ecosystems, as well as working with students on their research topics required for graduation. In 2009, she and colleague Sally Childs Ph.D. led their students on a tour of sub-Sahara Africa, where her students studied ecology and management of the area. She is taking students to Africa again this year.

Moerke spreads her love of biology in the community, as well. She and Sault Area High School Teacher Paul Pioczak have been co-advisors for the high school's National Ocean Sciences Bowl teams.

Outside of work, Moerke and her husband, Chris Scherwinski, enjoy kayaking, hiking, fishing and hunting. -LSSU-