Meet CFRE Faculty and Staff

Our Directors

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.

Research


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!

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 Zachary Johnson


Research Technician, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

B.S. 2018, Lake Superior State University

Having been born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, I have always had a strong connection to the St. Marys River, the Great Lakes, and all of the fish and wildlife that they support. I was very excited to accept a position with the Center for Freshwater Research and Education to tackle research questions and threats facing our waters and to share my knowledge and experience with others.

I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Lake Superior State University in 2018. As a student, I was the lead technician of LSSU’s crew for the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Monitoring Program. In my undergraduate research, I studied assemblage differences of macroinvertebrates in wetlands along the St. Marys River to assess the impacts of freighter traffic on local ecosystems. For this, I was recognized as having the best field based senior project by the School of Natural Resources & Environment. I also hold a taxonomic certification in the identification of aquatic insects from the Society for Freshwater Science. Post-graduation, I have earned certification in the identification of larval fish from the Ohio State University’s F.T. Stone Laboratory. I have also attended a workshop to implement open source software and Arduino microprocessor boards to efficiently and cost-effectively monitor the water quality of streams. At CFRE, my duties focus on data analysis, R programming, habitat restoration assessment, larval fish identification, invasive species, and using technology to increase our water quality monitoring. I also have considerable experience in a variety of environmental analytical chemistry techniques.

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.

Education

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 Scott McLeod


Outreach and Education Specialist, Center for Freshwater Research and Education

B.S. 1980, Central Michigan University
B.S. 1990, Central Michigan University

I have been a high school science teacher for the last 30 years, all of which has occurred here in the Eastern UP (Detour/Sault Ste. Marie) I retired in July 2019 but was extremely fortunate to land this position as an Education and Outreach Specialist for the Center for Freshwater Research and Education (CFRE). This opportunity allows me to teach Natural Resources and Conservation to local area High School students through the Career Tech (CTE) program right here on campus in 2019/20 and eventually in our new facility located on the St. Mary’s River starting in the fall of 2020.

I grew up in a relatively small town in southeastern Michigan located 11 miles from downtown Detroit but right on the Detroit River which connects to Lake Erie……thus the town’s name Riverview! Because of our proximity to this abundant freshwater source I learned to hunt and fish on both the Detroit river and Lake Erie, and brought that love of the outdoors with me when my family and I moved to the EUP in 1990.

My professional passion is teaching others to appreciate the beauty and abundance of natural resources we are surrounded by here in the UP and most importantly how to enjoy those resources while at the same time using them wisely and responsibly. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to come on board with CFRE in these early stages of planning and strive to connect and share the research and education efforts with both students and community through our Outreach and Education programs.

Our Partners


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.

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