Staff Profiles

Leadership

Dr. Ashley Moerke
Executive Director, Center for Freshwater Research and Education
Dean, College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education
Professor, College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education

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

Professional Website

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Learn More About Ashley

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.

Dr. Kevin Kapuscinski
Assistant Director of Research, Center for Freshwater Research and Education
Assistant Professor, College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education

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

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Learn More About Kevin

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.

Faculty

Dr. Jonathan Doubek
Assistant Professor, Center for Freshwater Research and Education and the College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education

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

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Learn More About Jon

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!

Dr. Hari Kandel
Affiliate Faculty, Center for Freshwater Research and Education
Assistant Professor, College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education

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

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Learn More About Hari

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.

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

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Learn More About Edoardo

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!

Staff

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

B.S. 1991, Aquinas College
Teaching Certification 1997, Purdue University
M.S. 2006, Central Michigan University

Directory Link

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Learn More About Beth

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.

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

B.A. 2017, North Park University

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Learn More About Kirsten

I have been working in general education for five years. My background spans formal education in elementary to AP Biology to informal education and outreach for the Conservation District. Throughout those years, I have realized I have a passion for Environmental Education. I love teaching people of all ages about the world we live in and why it is important to be stewards of it. That is why I am so excited for this opportunity at CFRE. I get the best of both worlds: teaching Natural Resources and Conservation to local high school students through the Career Tech (CTE) program as well as working with the public and schools during outreach events!

I grew up in Minnesota, went to college in Chicago, IL, and continued migrating East until I landed in Michigan in 2018. I have lived in Sault Ste Marie since 2020 and I have loved exploring all that the EUP has to offer. We truly live in such a unique area surrounded by the Great Lakes!

My professional passion is teaching others to appreciate the beauty of natural resources that are so abundant in the UP. The interconnectedness of the natural world is inspiring and teaching others how to enjoy those resources while being stewards of those same resources is my goal. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to come on board with CFRE and strive to connect and share the research and education efforts with both students and community through our Outreach and Education programs.

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

B.S. 2021, Lake Superior State University

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Learn More About Megan

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.

Silas Dunn
Research Technician, Center for Freshwater Research and Education Fish Hatchery

A.A.S. 2019, Northern Michigan University
B.S. 2021, Lake Superior State University

Directory Link

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Learn More About Silas

Growing up in the Les Cheneaux Islands area of northern Lake Huron I gained a fascination with the Great Lakes and nature at a young age. My early found love for fishing and hunting made me think about ways that I could help conserve the natural resources that we are so privileged to have for future generations. Joining the team and CFRE has made my dreams of making a difference come true, by conducting research that has value to protecting the waterways that I have enjoyed my entire life. I also enjoy any opportunity I get to speak with members of the public and students about Great Lakes conservation, and research that we conduct at CFRE.

After graduating high school in 2017 I attended Northern Michigan University and obtained an Associated of Applied Science degree in General university Studies concentrating in Biology. After obtaining my Associates I transferred to Lake Superior State University where I obtained my Bachelors of Science Degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management concentrating in Fisheries.

The hands on experiences that I gained as a LSSU student through courses, and working at the CFRE Hatchery and on a Lake Superior food web study gave me valuable skills in aquatic research. Shortly after graduating I was hired as a Research Technician at CFRE where I conduct fisheries research in the field and in the lab alongside LSSU students.

Some activities I enjoy are ice fishing, snowmobiling, kayaking, hiking, and travelling.

A man on a boat near a freighter.Simon Freeman
Research Technician, Center for Freshwater Research and Education Fish Hatchery

B.S. 2022, Lake Superior State University

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Learn More About Simon

When my interest in the Great Lakes sparked, I set my mind on attending Lake Superior State University. Now, I am very thankful for the opportunity to continue research on the Lakes as a technician at LSSU CFRE.

My dad and I spent several weekends year-round on the Saginaw Bay fishing out of Au Gres and Tawas, Michigan. Throughout our time, we witnessed incredible Walleye fishing return to the Bay, and once great Lake Whitefish fishing seemingly disappear. It was instances such as these that always had me asking the whys, hows, and whats while on the water.

At LSSU, I realized I could ask these questions for a living! My undergraduate research thesis, mentored by Dr. Jonathan Doubek, investigated the relationships between larval lake whitefish, cisco, and zooplankton; some of the smallest organisms in the Lakes! After graduating in December of 2022, I accepted the technician position at CFRE. I continue to lead our larval fish and zooplankton projects, and help with several others including lake sturgeon population monitoring and invasive species surveys. I am very interested in Great Lakes’ food web interactions, fish recruitment, and fish movements in large bodies of water.

If I am not working on the water or in the microscopy lab, you will see me around Sault Ste. Marie with my wife Halle, dog Daphne (named after the zooplankton Daphnia), and a fresh cup of local coffee in hand, chasing freighters! I am also an avid fly and ice fisherman.

Learn More About Drew

Growing up in Indian River MI, a small town nestled between Burt Lake and Mullet Lake along Michigan’s longest inland waterway, I developed a deep appreciation for freshwater resources and the outdoors. However, during my first few semesters of courses at North Central Michigan College, I was focused on pursuing my other interest: computers and technology. It wasn’t until I took a few engaging biology courses that I reevaluated my career priorities and transferred to Lake Superior State University to obtain a degree in Fisheries & Wildlife Management.

During this time, I was introduced to CFRE’s MiWaterNet project, which utilizes affordable technologies to provide real-time water quality and hydrology data from streams throughout northern Michigan. Now, as a research technician at CFRE, I am able to combine my passion for technology and freshwater science in my work on MiWaterNet and other CFRE activities. This includes the development and deployment of stream monitoring solutions and applying a Great Lakes-focused approach to support regional STEM education.

Outside of work, I enjoy quiet hikes with my fiancé and my dog, movies and games, aquascaping, and discussing the latest trends in enthusiast computer hardware.

Mr. Leitz in the mountainsCameron Leitz
Research Technician, Center for Freshwater Research and Education Fish Hatchery

B.S. 2020, University of Michigan
M.S. 2022, University of Michigan

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Learn More About Cameron

Having grown up in Michigan hiking, biking, and fishing, I am glad to continue working in Michigan to protect natural resources as a research technician at CFRE. I am excited to work on a diversity of freshwater research projects at CFRE including fisheries and macroinvertebrate research.

I received my Master of Science from the University of Michigan where I had concentrations in Ecosystem Science and Management and Geospatial Data Sciences. I completed my master’s thesis studying which traits predict invasion spread among nonindigenous aquatic species in the Great Lakes Basin. After graduating, I worked for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as a fisheries technician where I conducted targeted fish sampling for rare, threatened, and endangered fish species in southeast Michigan lakes and streams.

I also received my Bachelor of Science from the University of Michigan where I focused on conservation ecology. I conducted research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory where I studied caddisflies shifting their range upslope to higher elevations in response to increasing temperatures. While attending the University of Michigan, I volunteered with the Huron River Watershed Council helping lead macroinvertebrate surveys and the stream ecology education program.

I enjoy spending time outside hiking, biking, skiing, fishing, backpacking, and running. I also like to watch sports, especially Michigan/Detroit teams.

Shawnee McMillian
Research Technician, Center for Freshwater Research and Education Fish Hatchery

B.S. 2018, University of Minnesota Duluth
M.S. 2021, University of Minnesota Duluth

Directory Link

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Learn More About Shawnee

It has always been a passion of mine to protect the environment and our natural resources in the Great Lakes region. This stems from my love of the outdoors and living on the western point of Lake Superior for the last decade. I recently joined the CFRE team and am eager to test water quality and learn more about Great Lakes resources.

I earned a Geological Science B.S. from the University of Minnesota Duluth. During this time, I worked in the Central Analytical Lab at the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) sampling lakes and streams and performing water quality analysis. I continued my education and received a M.S. in Water Resources Science from the University of Minnesota Duluth. My thesis focused on investigating water chemistry and microbial communities responsible for nitrogen transformations in wild rice wetlands in Minnesota. I broadened my scientific knowledge by leading and conducting field sampling campaigns, processing environmental samples, and conducting comprehensive chemical and microbiological analyses.

Some activities I enjoy doing outside of the lab include rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, skiing, snowboarding, and sitting by fire reading a book.