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Aquatic Research Laboratory Manager Roger Greil receives AFS Grayling Award

Posted: December 22nd, 2011

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – While Lake Superior State University students who work in the university's Aquatic Research Laboratory enjoy some time off during the holidays, who watches over the Atlantic salmon they've been caring for over the semester?

LSSU students have many research and caretaker roles in the lab -- located in the east end of the Cloverland Electric Cooperative power plant on the St. Mary's River -- including raising thousands of Atlantic salmon from egg stage to fingerlings, ready for release in the river. So when the students head out, the task of making sure the salmon are cared for falls on Roger Greil, longtime LSSU ARL manager.

Greil's role in keeping the lab and its salmon residents in good shape was just part of what prompted the American Fisheries Society's Michigan Chapter to present him with its coveted Grayling Award. The award, established in 1997 and presented only four times since then, seeks to recognize outstanding contributions to Michigan's fishery-related resources, to Michigan's fishery profession, or to the AFS Michigan chapter by a person, industry, agency or organization.


GREIL GETS GRAYLING AWARD -- LSSU Aquatic Research Laboratory Manager Roger Greil, at right, accepts the Grayling Award from Mark Tonello, past-president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. Greil received the award for his contributions to Michigan's fishery resources, the fishery profession, and the AFS Michigan chapter. His work with LSSU students was especially noted. (LSSU Photo by Geoff Steinhart)

"It was a shock for me to get the award," Greil said. "I would have to say it was the biggest surprise of my life. As they were reading the criteria I was thinking that it sure would be nice if Ashley or Geoff (LSSU ARL Directors Ashley Moerke and Geoff Steinhart) would win it, and then they called my name! I still cannot get over it. I am very appreciative, humbled, excited and proud, all at the same time. It's tough to imagine getting an award for something that I love doing."

Greil does not always attend the Michigan AFS meetings but was encouraged to attend this year's by Moerke and Steinhart, who had nominated him for the award.

"I was happy to go, but worried about leaving the hatchery," Greil said. "Most of the students who work here also went. It was a good time and it was nice to see some people I have not seen in years."

Anyone who knows Greil knows how conscientious he is about the lab and its students. He makes himself available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In cold winters, he often gets calls from Cloverland employees in the middle of the night when "anchor ice" forms in the pipes that allow water to flow into the lab raceways where Atlantic salmon are raised. Greil takes it all in stride, and he was recognized by LSSU for his efforts in 1998, when he received the Employee of the Year Award.

In nominating Greil for the Michigan AFS Grayling Award, Moerke and Steinhart noted that he has worked in fisheries for more than 30 years in Michigan, starting as a fisheries aide for the U.S. Forest Service, then working as a crew boss for the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, before his current position as ARL hatchery manager in 1989. They said that in the lab, where he is in charge of day-to-day training and oversight of anywhere from 10-16 students every year, he has made "widespread, significant and indelible impacts as a fishery professional." He watches over the only successful Atlantic salmon stocking program in the upper Great Lakes.

"His no-nonsense approach and trust in the students encourages and empowers them to take on the duties and responsibilities required for fish culture and fisheries research," they wrote. "He shares his vast hatchery experience and, perhaps more important, his valuable professionalism. The students quickly learn what is acceptable, what is not, and what it really takes to be successful in their future careers.

"In fact, Roger’s oversight has been so beneficial that many employers seek ARL graduates. Approximately two-thirds of the fish production employees in the Michigan DNR are LSSU (and ARL) graduates. This is truly amazing -- the smallest state school in Michigan produces the majority of DNR hatchery staff. There is no doubt this is due to Roger’s guidance."

Moerke and Steinhart also noted that Greil has assisted many students in their fisheries and aquatic research as a mentor, field assistant and reviewer. He is co-author on 10 peer-reviewed publications with LSSU undergraduate co-authors dating back to the early 1990s. He also assists students and provides logistical support in many LSSU courses and regularly participates in senior thesis seminars in biology.

"He has tirelessly helped countless undergraduates at LSSU succeed in their education and careers," they said.

The LSSU lab is probably best known for rearing and stocking Atlantic salmon in the St. Mary's River and Greil has been involved in every aspect of the Atlantic project since 1987. It took a decade for the project to produce substantial returns, and today anglers come from around the world to fish the St. Mary's for Atlantics. Greil has been asked to provide expertise as East-coast fisheries professionals attempt to restore Atlantic salmon to their native range.

Outside of LSSU, Greil is an active member and current president of the Soo Area Sportsmen's Club and he led the way to establish a very popular Kids Fishing Pond in Sault Ste. Marie. He is also a valued participant in many local and regional committees, including the St. Mary's River Fisheries Task Group. He is involved in fisheries issues and research outside of LSSU and his experience is respected by his colleagues. He collaborates with state, federal, and tribal agencies on many research, management, and restoration projects that help protect and manage our resources.

"Roger embodies the ARL and its mission: 'To combine education and research on aquatic biota and their associated habitats within the Great Lakes basin to serve the academic, scientific, and public communities,'" Moerke and Steinhart wrote. "Through research, fish culture, and training the next generation of fisheries professionals, Roger serves academic, scientific, and public communities. We do not know where the ARL, the Atlantic salmon fishery, and the current state of fisheries education at LSSU would be with out Roger."

Also during the Michigan AFS meeting where Greil received the award, 26 LSSU students attended and eight of them made presentations. In addition, Steinhart was introduced as the new president of the AFS Michigan chapter.

For more information about the LSSU Aquatic Research Laboratory, visit www.lssu.edu/arl. -LSSU-

CONTACT: Tom Pink, 906-635-2315, tpink@lssu.edu; John Shibley, 635-2314, jshibley@lssu.edu; Prof. Ashley Moerke, 635-2153, amoerke@lssu.edu; Prof. Geoffrey Steinhart, 635-2093, gsteinhart@lssu.edu


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