Meet CFRE Faculty & Staff


Ashley Moerke on the WaterDr. Ashley Moerke
Director, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

Professor, School of Natural Resources and Environment

B.S. 1996, University of Minnesota Duluth
M.S. 2000, University of Notre Dame
Ph.D. 2004, University of Notre Dame

I am a broadly trained freshwater ecologist with a passion for integrating teaching and scientific research to train the next generation of Great Lakes scientists and stewards. I earned a B.S. degree from the University of Minnesota – Duluth, and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. I worked as a scientist for the US Environmental Protection Agency before joining the faculty of Lake Superior State University in 2004. During this time I also co-directed LSSU’s Aquatic Research Lab and assisted with efforts to develop the Center for Freshwater Research and Education. Today, I have the honor of serving as CFRE’s Director and working with an incredibly talented team to achieve our vision—Inspire our Community. Sustain our Great Lakes.

My research interests are centered on managing and conserving freshwater resources, with a focus on the Great Lakes basin. While at LSSU, I have developed a collaborative research program integrating undergraduate students that focuses on the ecology and conservation of freshwater fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, including understanding the ecology of migratory fishes, effects of invasive species and landscape stressors on aquatic ecosystems, stream restoration, and stream and wetland bioassessment. I have supervised over 70 undergraduate theses and lead or collaborated on over 20 funded research projects (>$2.5 million directly to LSSU) that have provided more than 100 undergraduates students with hands-on research experiences. I also served as an Associate Editor of Freshwater Science (formerly the Journal of the North American Benthological Society) from 2007-2017, I am currently a member of the State of Michigan Water Quality Advisory Committee, and I serve as an At-Large-Advisor to the Lake Superior Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

My goal as an educator is to engage students in real-world scientific applications to create better citizens, managers, and scientists. I have taught 15 courses including Limnology, Aquatic Entomology, and Principles of Watersheds, as well as developed three study abroad courses in Belize, New Zealand, and southern Africa. I have been awarded the Michigan Professor of the Year, LSSU Distinguished Professor of the Year, and LSSU Academic Advisor of the Year awards.

In my personal time, I enjoy exploring the many land and water wonders surrounding the twin Saults. I enjoy mountain biking, fishing, grouse hunting, paddling, cross-country skiing, hiking and backpacking—and more! I am also an avid traveler and am usually busy planning my next adventure.

Image of Kevin Kapuscinski

Dr. Kevin Kapuscinski
Assistant Director of Research, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources and Environment

B.S. 1999, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
M.S. 2002, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Ph.D., 2011, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

I study freshwater fishes, with a focus on 1) distribution and ecology of invasive species, and their effects on ecosystem structure and function, 2) relationships between habitat and fish assemblage structure, and habitats used by spawning and age-0 fishes, 3) population characteristics of invasive fishes and rehabilitation status of native piscivorous fishes, and 4) feeding ecology of native and invasive fishes.  I am also interested in genetic population structure and associated implications for conservation and management, but I rely on collaborations with fish geneticists to pursue research questions in this area.  To date, I have secured >$5 million in grant funding to support research projects in these areas.  My research activity has been enhanced by strong collaborators from various universities and state, federal, and tribal agencies.

I earned my B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, and my Ph.D. from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  Between earning my M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, I worked as a Pallid Sturgeon Biologist for the state of Montana and as a Fisheries Biologist for the state of Wisconsin.  I joined Lake Superior State University in 2014, where I continue to serve as an Associate Professor in the School of Natural Resources & Environment, and as the Assistant Director of Research for the Center for Freshwater Research and Education.  I have taught a graduate seminar on the information-theoretic approach to model selection and a course in Fisheries Science & Management, and undergraduate courses in Ecological Monitoring and Biodiversity Assessment, Fish Ecology, Fisheries Science & Management, Fisheries Practicum, Freshwater Fish Culture, Ichthyology, and Research Project Design.  Additionally, I served as Associate Editor for the North American Journal of Fisheries Management during 2013-2016, and as Primary Editor for the Proceedings of the Hugh Becker Memorial Muskellunge Symposium: Fifty Years of Cooperation among Anglers, Scientists, and Fisheries Biologists during 2016-2017.  I am currently the President-elect for the Michigan Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

Image of Kierstin Loomis

Kierstin Loomis, Coordinator of Operations, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

B.S. 2017, Central Michigan University 

My passion for preserving and protecting the Great Lakes comes not only from being a Michigan native, but also as an active participant in the recreation that they provide. I spent my childhood fishing, swimming, and exploring the waters of the lakes and their surrounding watersheds; which eventually led me to a career in the fisheries realm. 

For the better half of a decade, I spent my time working as an EMT, Firefighter, and Law Enforcement Officer in both Central and Western Lower Michigan. As time progressed, I felt the desire to return to my roots. This led me to Central Michigan University where I obtained a B.S in Biology, with an emphasis in Aquatic Ecology. My undergraduate research focused on the ecology of Freshwater Mussels. Since graduating I have worked for Tribal Biology Departments and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Upon coming to Lake Superior State University I was the Science Laboratory and Instrumentation Manager at Crawford Hall before transitioning to CFRE, first as a Research Technician, and now as the Coordinator of Operations. 

I look forward to melding both my previous and current careers and using this knowledge to help cultivate a safe and risk free educational environment for the students, staff and community here at CFRE. 

When I am not working, I spend my time outdoors hiking, backpacking, paddling, fishing, and traveling. 

Faculty and Staff

Elizabeth Christiansen on the water

Ms. Beth Christiansen
Great Lakes Education and Outreach Specialist, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

B.S. Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics 1991, Aquinas College

Teaching Certification Secondary Chemistry and Biology 1997, Purdue University
M.S. Middle-Level Education 2006, Central Michigan University

My passion for environmental education brought me to CFRE where I look forward to inspiring the general public, students, and educators across the state to learn of the importance of our Great Lakes waters and each individual’s unique role in protecting and preserving the larger system through their actions at the local level.

Prior to joining CFRE as Education and Outreach Specialist, I spent more than 20 years in education careers.  After 15 years of secondary science and mathematics education, I spent two months on the Pacific Ocean aboard the scientific research vessel, JOIDES Resolution (JR). As JR Education and Outreach Officer, I entered classrooms and other venues around the world via video link between the ship and shore, using this opportunity to promote STEM education, blended learning, and NGSS-aligned classroom activities.  This mission for outreach continued as I traveled the country to educate students and educators about scientific research and STEM careers.  In this role, I visited more than sixty classrooms across the United States and presented at state and national conferences, providing STEM education for numerous educators and over 1700 students ranging in age from third grade to university undergraduates.

As Curriculum Development Specialist and Instructional Coach for the NSF-funded Research Experiences for Teachers at Central Michigan University, I facilitated classroom implementation of engineering for secondary and community college educator participants.  During that time, I also consulted as a K-5 writing and instructional coach for elementary educators developing and piloting the NGSS-aligned Phenomenal Science curriculum.  I am a Next Generation Science Exemplar (NGSX) facilitator and, in addition, develop and provide professional learning for NGSS application and curriculum design with Michigan school educators.

My “guilty pleasure” in recent years has been working seven seasons as an environmental educator with Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, MI.  Due to this experience I pursued environmental education opportunities that led me to achieve Interpretive Guide Certification through the National Association for Interpretation and Project WILD and Project Learning Tree facilitator certification.  My passion for the environment and its preservation drives me to support others in gaining an appreciation for their role in protecting our fragile ecological balance.

Dr. Jonathan Doubek
Assistant Professor, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources and Environment

B.S. 2010, University of Michigan
M.S. 2013, University of Michigan
Ph.D. 2018, Virginia Tech
Postdoctoral Associate, 2018-2019, University of Vermont

I am a freshwater ecologist and limnologist who is broadly interested in plankton ecology, water quality, and food web interactions. I study how multiple environmental factors affect physical and chemical properties and ecological communities in lakes and reservoirs, which has implications for ecosystem services and management. I use a combination of local and regional field sampling, analyzing large-scale datasets, and interdisciplinary and international team science to address research questions. I am very passionate about teaching, mentoring, and connecting my work to management, policy, and the community.

I developed an early appreciation for freshwater science while growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I earned my B.S. and M.S. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in biology and environmental science and my Ph.D. in biology at Virginia Tech. Afterwards, I worked one year as a postdoc at the University of Vermont in aquatic ecology before joining LSSU in summer 2019. I have also worked within several governmental and non-profit agencies such as the City of Ann Arbor, the United States Geological Survey, and the Huron River Watershed Council. 

My research has spanned broad topics within freshwater ecology, but to solidify to a few overarching themes: plankton ecology, invasion ecology, nocturnal ecology, population to ecosystem ecology, effects of global change on freshwater systems, ecosystem services, and big data. In my first year at LSSU, I am teaching courses such as Limnology, Ichthyology, Fish Ecology, Principles of Watersheds, and seminars. I am excited to dive into the many research venues with undergraduate students around LSSU with CFRE and their local and regional colleagues.

When not working, I enjoy spending time with my family, playing sports, spending time outdoors, and travelling!

Ms. Megan Thompson
Hatchery Technician, Center for Freshwater Research and Education Fish Hatchery

Growing up in Michigan, it is hard to not have a love for the outdoors. I grew up hunting, fishing, swimming and participating in any activity involving the outdoors. I have always known that I wanted a career in Natural Resources, whether that was working with wildlife, fisheries, exotic animals, or teaching the community about them.

I started volunteering with Michigan Nature Association (MNA), local zoos, and veterinarian clinics. I found a love for each one, but I was drawn to MNA and zoo work. I was able to experience the best of both worlds working with native wildlife and exotics but I still felt something was missing and I realized it was water. I have always had a love for the water whether it be fresh or salt water. I have always wanted to explore bodies of water because you never know what you will find. But I still couldn’t give up working with wildlife.

When I came to LSSU in 2019, I started volunteering at the hatchery and it was then I knew I found something that I loved to do. I loved being a part of something small but had a big impact for the MIDNR and the environment.

I received a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management in the fall of 2021 from LSSU and accepted the position of Hatchery Technician just after graduation. For the time being, I am in charge of making sure everything is running properly at the hatchery along with caring for every fish raised here. I also have the opportunity to teach the current LSSU students about caring for Atlantic salmon and why the fishery is so important for the economy and environment.

When I am not working, I spend my time reading, watching freighters, relaxing in a hammock, being outdoors, and traveling.

Image of Hari Kandel

Dr. Hari Kandel
Affiliate Faculty, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment

B.Sc. 2003, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
M.Sc. 2007, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
M.S. 2010, Bowling Green State University
Ph.D. 2015, Florida International University

I am a geo-environmental scientist with the research focus in applications of remote sensing, geospatial analysis, and modeling in hydrology. I studied the impact of land use/land cover change on the alterations of watershed-scale hydrologic processes/parameters: modeling soil erosion, nutrient transport, sediment delivery, and water quality of freshwaters; mapping albedo, emissivity, surface energy balance, and locally induced thunderstorms; and observing surface water-groundwater interactions for my M.S. and Ph.D research. Moving on in the research front, the topics of spatio-temporal analysis of stream health parameters, and remote-sensing based studies on shoreline erosion and algal bloom over Great Lakes come to the fore. 

I graduated my Ph.D. in Geosciences from Florida International University, FL, in 2015, and M.S. in Geoscience with a Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Technology from Bowling Green State University, OH, in 2010. I embarked my interest in geo-environmental science after I joined undergraduate in geology program in Tribhuvan University, Nepal and continued to finish with a M.Sc. in Geology in 2007, with a thesis on “geochemical analysis and medical benefits of hot springs”. Since joining LSSU in 2017 as an Assistant Professor, I have been teaching courses in Environmental Science, GIS, and Geology programs and advising students in Fisheries and Wildlife program. I was a Lecturer for Water Resources Program in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at State University of New York College at Oneonta for two-years before joining LSSU.

Mrs. Kirsten Hindy
Outreach and Education Specialist/CTE Instructor, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

Image of Edoardo Sarda scuba diving

Dr. Edoardo Sarda
Affiliate Faculty, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

Assistant Professor, School of Engineering and Technology

B.S. 2012, Lake Superior State University
M.S. 2015, Florida Atlantic University
Ph.D. 2016, Florida Atlantic University

I am a robotics engineer with expertise/interest in autonomous vehicles, mobile robotics, human-robot collaboration, automated systems and modern control. In particular, my experience includes (1) the design and implementation of non-linear station-keeping controllers for a catamaran style autonomous surface vehicle, (2) dynamic modelling and testing of autonomous operations, such as launch and recovery, involving multiple heterogeneous marine robots, (3) development of non-standard industrial robotic applications with humans in the loop. My work has been published in IEEE and Elsevier journals and it has been presented at multiple international conferences.

I earned my B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, USA, in 2012, M.S and Ph.D. degrees in ocean systems engineering from Florida Atlantic University, Dania Beach, FL, USA, in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Afterwards, I worked as a Research & Development Engineer in the field of collaborative and mobile robotics for about three years. I finally joined Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in January 2019, as Assistant Professor of Robotics Engineering. At LSSU, I have taught the following courses: Engineering Research Methods, Introduction to Robotics, Senior Project, Robotics Technology, Manufacturing Automation, Robotics Trends and Applications, Machine Vision and System Integration Lab. My objective in the class is to combine my passion for robotics engineering with my motivation for teaching, to guide students towards a successful career.

My hobbies include downhill skiing, scuba diving, Formula 1 and traveling!

CFRE Partners

Photo of Elliot Nelson

Mr. Elliot Nelson
Extension Educator, Michigan Sea Grant

B.S. 2010, Michigan State University
M.S. 2016, University of Michigan

I am an employee of Michigan Sea Grant, a joint program through Michigan State University Extension, the University of Michigan, and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. Since I started in this position, I have been housed at the Center for Freshwater Research and Education. This exciting partnership allows me to work closely with CFRE staff on a variety of collaborative projects.  I couldn’t think of a better place for my Sea Grant position to be housed.

I am originally from the Les Cheneaux Islands area, growing up on the shores of Lake Huron. I believe my proximity to the lakes and copious amount of time running through the woods as a child instilled a love for the outdoors in me. I left the UP for about 13 years when I pursued college degrees and worked a variety of environmental education jobs. I received a B.S. in Biology at Michigan State University in 2010. I then went on to become a teacher for a number of years in the Grand Rapids area. I also worked other jobs including connecting urban students to environmental science professors and research through the Third 90 program. After a time I returned to school full time to pursue my Master’s degree. I attended the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, obtaining an M.S. in Natural Resources and the Environment in 2016.

I now am very fortunate to have returned to my home area and work with MI Sea Grant. MI Sea Grant works to promote the sustainable use of Great Lakes resources, and promote coastal economies across the state of Michigan. We take research from the universities and NOAA to communities and help run education and outreach programs to make science work for Michigan’s coastal communities and to protect Great Lakes ecosystems. My focus areas include aquaculture (hatcheries and fish farms), Great Lakes environmental literacy programs, ecotourism including birding trails, and Great Lakes resiliency and restoration.

In my personal time I enjoy spending time with my three children, wife and two dogs anywhere outside. I love kayaking, camping, mountain biking and most of all birding. Birding has been a passion hobby of mine for many years and I love any chance I get to get outside and watch the amazing biodiversity around us.