Meet CFRE Faculty and Staff

Ashley Moerke on the Water

Dr. 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

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 >$2.8 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 Assistant 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 maintained adjunct status as the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology since 2012.  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 Junior Seminar.  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.

Image Barb Light

Assistant Director of Outreach & Community Engagement, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

Assistant Professor, School of Education
B.S. 1990, Michigan State University
M.S. 2001, Western Michigan University
E.S. 2010, Northern Michigan University
Ph.D. 2016, Eastern Michigan University

My primary vocation right now is working with future teachers as a faculty member in the School of Education, but I started as a secondary science teacher in 1990 and have taught middle and/or high school science continuously since then. My professional passion is instructional engagement which I integrate into the methods courses I teach at LSSU. I love working with future educators on how to engage students in learning content!
I grew up in East China, Michigan and could see the St. Clair River, which connects Lake Huron with the lower Great Lakes, from our living room window. Watching the river and then vacationing each summer of my childhood at a very rustic cabin on the Lake Superior shore have made me appreciate our Great Lakes which then led me to study zebra mussel veliger density for my master’s work in biology. Now I study instruction and am excited to help equip future teachers with the knowledge and skills to teach their students about Great Lakes stewardship. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work on the CFRE project in these early stages of planning and strive to connect and share the research and education efforts with both students and community.

Benjamin Southwell Lake Sampling

Coordinator of Operations, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

Science Laboratory Manager and Chemist, College of Science and the Environment
A.S. 2004, Lake Superior State University
B.S. 2004, Lake Superior State University
M.A. 2013, Central Michigan University

I completed my Masters degree in Chemistry with a focus in Chemical Education in 2013 at Central Michigan University and my Bachelors of Science degree, also in Chemistry, at Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in 2004.  I began working at Lake Superior State University in 2005 as a Lab Technician continue there today as the Science Laboratory Manager in the College of Science and the Environment and Interim Assistant Director of Operations in the Center for Freshwater Research and Education. While working at LSSU I was awarded a King-Chavez-Parks Initiative: Future Faculty Fellowship in 2011, 2012, and 2013. I maintain Adjunct state with the School of Science and Medicine at LSSU having instructed courses in General Chemistry, Life Chemistry, Survey of Organic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Analytical Chemistry.  Growing up in Northern Michigan I have always had a strong connection to Great Lakes water quaility.  My primary research interests involve environmental analytical chemistry with a focus on cyanobacteria and the metabolites they produce.  Additionally, I also focus on techniques for improving utilization and understanding of analytical instrumentation by undergraduate students. I currently serve on the Executive Committee of the Central Section of the Association of Analytical Chemists (cAOAC) and maintain active memberships with the American Chemical Society, the American Water Works Association, the AOAC, and the Association of Laboratory Managers.

Elizabeth Christiansen on the water

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.

Image of Roger Greil

Manager, Center for Freshwater Research and Education Fish Hatchery

A.S. 1988, Lake Superior State University

I have been the Manager of Lake Superior State University’s Aquatic Research Lab for nearly 30 years. As manager, I have played an active role in training hundreds of undergraduate students in fish culture and management; many of which have gone on to pursue successful careers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. In addition to student training, I have overseen the development of an Atlantic Salmon rearing program, which is the most successful in the Great Lakes and has resulted creating a “world-class” fishery. I am the recipient of two State of Michigan Outstanding Partnership Awards, the Grayling Award from the MI American Fisheries Society, and a Pistis Award.

Image of Jesse Wesolek

Research Technician, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

B.S. 2009, Lake Superior State University
M.S. 2014, Grand Valley State University

My passion for protecting our Great Lakes stems from my roots of being a Northern Michigan native. I also enjoy year-round outdoor recreation. My research involvement has included threatened and endangered species, popular game fish, coastal wetlands, invasive species, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and phyto- and zooplankton.

I earned my Bachelor of Science in fisheries management from Lake Superior State University and my Master of Science in aquatic ecology from Grand Valley State University. Between my undergraduate and graduate education, I worked as a Lake Sturgeon research and rehabilitation technician for the Gun Lake Tribe Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians and Grand Valley State University, and as an ecosystem dynamics research technician for the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. During my graduate work, I was GVSU’s lead technician for the collaborative Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program.  After completing my Masters degree, I worked as the Biology Laboratory Technician for Lake Superior State University’s College of Science and the Environment. I also hold Adjunct status for the College of Science and the Environment.

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