Conservation Ecology Faculty
Associate Research Scientist
Associate Research Scientist Adlerstein Gonzalez, PhD, is an applied ecologist and visual artist who explores the connections between art and science. As a scientist, she investigates processes at the ecosystem level using statistical modeling. Her main interest in research is to understand ecological processes and population dynamics of aquatic organisms at the ecosystem level, in particular those aspects that are relevant to resource management. Recently she has been investigating spatial and temporal scales needed to study the spatial distribution of fish abundance and obtain indices of abundance of fish populations in marine and freshwater ecosystems. Since fish, as other aquatic organisms, cannot be directly observed, large-scale population studies must rely on analysis of data from scientific surveys or commercial operations. The analysis of this information requires specialized statistical modeling. Currently Alderstein Gonzalez’ focus is in the Great Lakes.
Assistant Professor Alofs studies how ecological concepts can be used to address conservation concerns in freshwater environments. Her recent work, as a postdoctoral fellow with the National Science Foundation International Research Fellowship Program, focused on the impacts of climate-facilitated range expansions on lake fish communities. In addition to climate change, she is interested in understanding the effects of environmental stressors including invasive species, habitat fragmentation and habitat degradation on biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability.
Alofs research is framed by three ecological questions: How are ecological communities changing across spatial scales and over time? What are the impacts of species interactions versus environmental factors on community structure, population persistence and invasion? And can we make general ecological predictions (e.g. predictions relevant in terrestrial and aquatic or temperate and tropical communities)? Moreover, she is interested in how ecological studies can contribute to the conservation of aquatic ecosystems and the sustainable management of fisheries.
Dima Beletsky, PhD, has been with the SEAS Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), a joint Institute between the University of Michigan and NOAA, since 1995. His research expertise lies in the hydrodynamics of lakes and coupling lake physics with biological processes. Since the beginning of his career in limnology in Russia, he has worked on hydrodynamics and climatology of several large lakes in Europe (Ladoga and Onega), North America (Lake Champlain, Lake St. Clair, Lakes Michigan, Erie, Ontario and Huron), and the Baltic Sea.
Associate Research Scientist
Associate Research Scientist Kathy Bergen, PhD, works in the areas of human dimensions of environmental change; remote sensing, GIS and biodiversity Informatics; and environmental health and informatics. Her focus is on combining field and geospatial data and methods to study the pattern and process of ecological systems, biodiversity and health. She also strives to build bridges between science and social science to understand the implications of human actions on the social and natural systems of which we are a part.
As a broadly trained agroecologist, Jennifer Blesh, PhD, uses interdisciplinary research approaches to understand how different agrifood systems impact ecological and social processes. Her ecological research focuses on soil nitrogen and carbon biogeochemical cycles, agroecosystem nutrient management, and legume nitrogen fixation. Blesh’s research program pays particular attention to alternative production-consumption relations, and is guided by a pragmatic motivation to support development of more ecologically sustainable and equitable food systems. Previous to her position at SEAS, Blesh served as a post-doctoral fellow with the National Science Foundation International Research Fellowship Program at the Federal University of Mato Grosso in Brazil. Current projects include assessing the socioecological resilience of family farms in Brazil, and research in the U.S. centered on cropping system diversification through winter cover crops and improving nitrogen retention in farm fields.
Allen Burton, PhD, is a Professor at SEAS and the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences. He has an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Roskilde (Denmark), is a Concurrent Professor at Nanjing University, and an Honorary Professor at the State Key Laboratory of Environmental Criteria and Risk Assessment in Beijing China.
His research on ecological risk assessment, sediment quality criteria, and aquatic ecosystem stressors has taken him to all seven continents with Visiting Scientist positions in New Zealand, Italy and Portugal. His research focuses on sediment and stormwater contaminants and understanding bioavailability processes, effects and ecological risk at multiple trophic levels, and ranking stressor importance in human dominated watersheds. He has received over ten million dollars in extramural research funding.
He is a Fellow of the international Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC) and was a Distinguished Faculty Fellow of the Graham Sustainability Institute. He served as Director of the University of Michigan Water Center and also their Cooperative Institute of Limnology and Ecosystems Research. He is Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, past president of SETAC, and served on numerous national and international panels and Advisory Boards with over 180 peer-reviewed publications on aquatic ecosystem risk issues.
Professor; Director, Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR)
Professor Cardinale, PhD, is an ecologist who uses mathematical models, novel experiments, observational studies and meta-analyses of existing data to examine how human activities impact biological diversity, and to predict how changes in biodiversity affect the goods and services ecosystems provide to humanity. His research, teaching, and professional service are all tied together by a common thread, which is to produce and distribute the knowledge needed to conserve and restore the variety of life on Earth. Cardinale works mostly in freshwater ecosystems, but frequently extend into marine and terrestrial habitats to gain new insight and find generalities.
Bill Currie, PhD, is interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the environment and the development of sustainability science. His research and scholarly interests include ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry including carbon and nutrient cycling, physics and energetics, landscapes and coupled human-natural systems, land conservation and management, biofuels and food security, computational modeling and simulation, synthesis using models, and philosophical foundations of modeling.
Currie has a background in ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry (nutrient and carbon cycling), energetics, systems dynamics modeling and individual-based / agent-based modeling. He is interested in using our current understanding in these fields to investigate ecosystem change and dynamics in coupled human-environment systems.
Currie studies the linkages among carbon, nutrient, and water cycling and energy flows and transformations in terrestrial ecosystems and human-environment systems. He is interested in using our current understanding of ecosystems to explore creative, new understanding of the two-way interactions in human-environment systems. He works at scales from field plots to landscapes, collaborating with other researchers and students to integrate understanding and build models for synthesis. The goal of this research is to contribute to the developing field of sustainability science using an approach that grows out of ecosystem science.
Professor; Director of Michigan Sea Grant
Jim Diana is a Professor of Fisheries and Aquaculture, as well as Director of the Michigan Sea Grant Program, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. His research focuses on aquatic animals and their interactions with the environment. This is expressed in two major research areas: sustainable aquaculture and its role in feeding the world, and the ecology of natural fish populations, particularly in the Great Lakes region. As aquaculture is the dominant means of producing seafood today, its environmental impacts are important, and we need to understand and remediate them in order to more sustainably produce aquaculture crops. Jim’s research focuses on the interaction between aquaculture practices and environmental impacts and seeks to find solutions for more sustainable production in the future. Secondly, human impacts on natural systems have resulted in dramatic declines in many fish species throughout the world, particularly in the Great Lakes region. His research focus in fish ecology is on the management, restoration, and rehabilitation of wild populations inevitably influenced by human disturbance. Jim’s teaching is in Aquatic Sciences, in particular, courses in Ecology and Biology of Fishes and Sustainable Aquaculture. In addition, he supervises research of a large number of graduate students in Aquatic Sciences.
Johannes Foufopoulos, PhD, focuses his lab research on fundamental conservation biology questions and on issues related to the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases. Major research projects examine how habitat fragmentation, invasive organisms and global climate change result in species extinction. Other projects address questions regarding the impact of diseases on wildlife populations and the environmental causes leading to disease emergence.
Professor; Theodore Roosevelt Chair of Ecosystem Management; Director, Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum
Bob Grese serves as Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. His teaching and research involve ecologically-based landscape design and management that respects the cultural and natural history of a region. Grese is particularly interested in the restoration and on-going management of urban wilds and the role such lands can play in re-connecting children and families with nature. He has long been fascinated by the work of early designers such as Jens Jensen and Ossian Cole Simonds who borrowed from the native landscape in their work, as there is much to be learned about their designs and their fate over time. He has a growing interest in green roofs and other low impact design strategies.
Associate Professor Ibáñez's major research interests focus on the current challenges that plant communities are facing in the context of global change, i.e. climate change, invasive species, and landscape fragmentation. These challenges are interconnected as they form the novel environment under which plants are growing. The fact that forest communities are highly dependent on recruitment dynamics makes the study of early demographic stages critical for understanding the impact of global change on the natural ecosystems around us. To isolate these phenomena, Ibáñez directs her research at the recruitment of dominant tree species, from seed production to the sapling stage, including seed dispersal, germination, establishment and survival during the first years. Results obtained from this line of research are essential to forecast reliable vegetation changes under future climate scenarios.
Dr. Johengen is an Associate Research Scientist and Associate Director of the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), which is a NOAA Joint Institute program at the University of Michigan with the NOAA-Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory serving as the host lab. CIGLR's research activities are focused around five themes including: Climate and Large-Lake Dynamics, Coastal and Nearshore Processes, Lare-Lake Ecosystem Structure and Function, Remote Sensing, and Marine Environmental Engineering. Dr. Johengen's individual research interests focus on nutrient cycling and lower food-web dynamics in the Great Lakes, controlling the introduction of invasive species, and development of in situ water quality sensors and observing systems.
Current research projects include: NOAA-CSCOR, Impacts of multiple stressors on the Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron ecosystem; NOAA-IOOS, Alliance for Coastal Technologies; NOAA-IOOS, Implementation of the Great Lakes Observing System; USEPA, Monitoring Long-trem trends in the lower food web of the Great Lakes; GLFT, Examining Causes and Consequences of the decline of Diporeia in the Great Lakes.
Today, as we face conservation issues in sustainability, few of us realize how important human behavior is in conservation, and further, how, because the desire for “more” of any resources was favored throughout our evolution, harvesting sustainably may be difficult to achieve. Professor Low works in evolutionary and behavioral ecology, studying resource control and reproductive success in vertebrates, including humans; she integrates evolutionary theory and resource management, studying resources and reproductive variance, and reproductive and resource tradeoffs for modern women.
Low's research focuses on behavioral ecology and life history theory: how these were shaped by evolution, and how they in turn constrain optimal management. She links data collection, analysis, and theory; her methodologies include dynamic modeling, optimization, agent-based modeling and game theory.
Samuel A. Graham Dean
Professor Overpeck is an interdisciplinary climate scientist and the Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan.
Overpeck has written over 210 published works on climate and the environmental sciences, served as a Working Group 1 Coordinating Lead Author for the Nobel Prize winning IPCC 4th Assessment (2007), and also as a Working Group 2 Lead Author for the IPCC 5th Assessment (2014). Other awards include the US Dept. of Commerce Gold and Bronze Medals, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Walter Orr Roberts award of the American Meteorological Society, and the Quivira Coalition’s Radical Center Award for his work with rural ranchers and land managers.
He has active climate research programs on five continents, focused on understanding drought and megadrought dynamics (and risk) the world over, and has also served as the lead investigator of Climate Assessment for the Southwest and the SW Climate Science Center – two major programs focused on regional climate adaptation. He has appeared and testified before Congress multiple times, is a Fellow of AGU and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and tweets about climate-related issues @TucsonPeck.
George Willis Pack Professor
Ivette Perfecto is the George W. Pack Professor of Ecology, Natural Resources and Environment. Her research focuses on biodiversity and arthropod-mediated ecosystem services in rural and urban agriculture. She also works on spatial ecology of the coffee agroecosystem and is interested more broadly on the links between small-scale sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and food sovereignty. She teaches Our Common Future (a course on globalization) (Environ 270), Diverse Farming Systems (SNRE 553), Field Ecology (SNRE 556). She is co-author of three books, Breakfast of Biodiversity, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty, and Coffee Agroecology.
More specifically her lab is investigating how local level multi-species interactions generate autonomous pest control in agroecosystems using coffee agroforests as a model system. In collaboration with John Vandermeer (University of Michigan) and Stacy Philpott (University of California-Santa Cruz) they established a 45-hectare plot in a shaded organic coffee plantation in Chiapas, Mexico, and are conducting research on complex ecological interactions among pests, diseases and natural enemies. In collaboration with Luis Garcia-Barrios from ECOSUR-San Cristobal (Mexico) and John Vandermeer (University of Michigan), they are developing games to help farmers and students better understand ecological complexity in agroecosystems. Another research project examines how local and landscape level factors affect diversity and ecosystem services (pollination and pest control) in urban gardens in Southeast Michigan. More general interests include the role of the agricultural matrix in the conservation of biodiversity, food sovereignty and political ecology in the Global South, especially Latin America.
Associate Research Scientist
Catherine Riseng, PhD, is an Assistant Research Scientist and aquatic ecologist with specific focus on fluvial ecosystems and benthic invertebrate ecology. She is interested in assessing and understanding the effects of human landscape alteration on river and lake ecosystems. Her work has included landscape-based models of riverine condition using biological indicators and regression-based models that predict expected condition for rivers of Michigan and Wisconsin. She has also led development of a large geo-spatial database and classification framework, the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework.
Assistant Research Scientist
Mark Rowe's research focuses on biophysical modeling with the goals of understanding the dynamics of Great Lakes ecosystems, and developing forecasts and applications to resource management. Biophysical models consist of mathematical representations of biological, food web, or biogeochemical processes linked to hydrodynamic models. Recent topics include estimating the impacts of invasive quagga mussels on primary production, nutrient cycles, and the lower food web of Lake Michigan, and forecasts of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia in Lake Erie.
My previous research topics have included field measurements and modeling of the fate and transport of persistent organic pollutants in the Great Lakes, and of atmosphere-lake interactions.
Professor of Practice
Professor Seelbach's experiences bridge the academic study of aquatic ecosystems and its application within a range of resource management agencies. He has worked for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division as Research Scientist and Statewide Research Director; for the USGS Great Lakes Science Center, as Coastal Ecosystems Branch Chief; for the Great Lakes Commission as Senior Science Advisor; and currently serves the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Office of the Great Lakes, as Senior Fellow. He has helped with major initiatives regarding watershed assessment and management, ecological flows and water allocation policy, water resources monitoring, and coastal zone management.
Regarding science, Paul applies a landscape-ecology approach to understanding the structure and function of riverine and nearshore ecosystems. He is interested in system elements such as: spatial heterogeneity and context, scales and hierarchy, driving processes, and the human footprint. Regarding aquatic practice, Paul is interested in promoting effective knowledge transfer to management and governance decision processes and in nurturing development of professional and leadership skills.
Professor Wiley's teaching involves various aspects of aquatic ecology. Research interests include ecology of rivers and lakes, watershed management, community dynamics and population regulation, trout stream food webs, behavioral adaptations of aquatic insects, fish-invertebrate interactions, and fisheries management in North America and SE Asia.
Professor Yaffee's research focuses on collaborative decision making on complex environmental and sustainability choices, including the ways that traditional political processes and organizations function, and how new collaborative structures can be developed to encourage more effective decision making. He is particularly interested in landscape-scale conservation and sustainable natural resource management, and how decision-making institutions can be encouraged to take on an ecosystem-scale perspective. Of particular interest is policy involving biological diversity, public lands, marine and coastal ecosystems and energy. Yaffee's research and teaching draws from substantial on-the-ground work with nonprofit organizations and charitable foundations in facilitating dispute resolution and collaborative problem-solving processes, and in helping them develop monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management strategies. He is committed to professional education at SEAS and teaches skill-building courses in political and institutional analysis, negotiation and mediation.
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; Burton V. Barnes Collegiate Professor of Ecology
Don Zak holds a joint appointment in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, College of Literature, Science, and Arts. His research investigates links between the composition and function of soil microbial communities and the influence of microbial activity on ecosystem-level processes. This work draws on ecology, microbiology, and biochemistry and is focused at several scales of understanding, ranging from the molecular to the ecosystem scale. Current research centers on understanding the link between plant and microbial activity within terrestrial ecosystems, and the influence climate change may have on these dynamics. Teaching includes courses in soil ecology and ecosystem ecology.
Assistant Research Scientist
Zhang’s research interests focus on investigating ecosystem responses to singular or combined natural and anthropogenic stressors including eutrophication, invasive species, contaminants, climate change, and land-use change, and how the understandings of those responses will help to enhance lake resources management and habitat restoration. Dr. Zhang has been using numerical models (e.g., water quality model, Ecopath with Ecosim, and the Atlantis Ecosystem Model) to study the Laurentian Great Lakes Ecosystems.