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 Kathleen 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 guidelines, and aquatic ecosystem stressors has taken him to all seven continents with Visiting Scientist positions in China, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, and Portugal. His research focuses on sediment and stormwater contaminants and understanding contaminant bioavailability processes, effects and ecological risk at multiple trophic levels, and ranking stressor importance in human dominated watersheds and coastal areas. He has received over ten million dollars in extramural research funding.
He is Director of the Institute for Global Change Biology a Fellow of the international Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC). He served as Director of the University of Michigan Water Center and 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 200 peer-reviewed publications on aquatic ecosystem risk issues.
Professor; Director, Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR)
Professor Cardinale is an ecologist who uses mathematical models, novel experiments, observational studies and meta-analyses 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.
Professor Cardinale teaches classes in Conservation Biology, Ecological Restoration, and Ecosystem Services. He has published more than 110 scientific papers and popular articles, and won numerous awards. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Ecological Society of America. In 2014, Cardinale was named one of ‘The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds′ by Thomson Reuters, one of the main sources of impact factors used in the assessment of scientific articles and careers.
Dr. Neil Carter’s interdisciplinary research examines the complex dynamics that characterize interactions between wildlife and people (e.g., provision of ecosystem services, conflicts) in a global change context. His work addresses local to global wildlife conservation issues, utilizes a multitude of spatial techniques and tools, engages different stakeholders, and informs policymaking. General research interests include: spatial ecology, landscape ecology, wildlife management and policy, wildlife ecology and conservation, human dimensions of wildlife management, complexity of coupled human and natural systems, and sustainability science. Projects use field monitoring, social surveys, remote sensing, GIS, and spatial and simulation modeling to investigate human-wildlife coexistence in a number of contexts, such as the American West, Nepal, and Mozambique. Prior to SEAS, Dr. Carter was an Assistant Professor in the Human-Environment Systems research group at Boise State University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center and Princeton University.
Dr. Casey Godwin recently joined CIGLR as an Assistant Research Scientist. He has a Ph.D. in ecology, evolution, and behavior from the University of Minnesota. His research focuses on how the elemental requirements of bacteria and algae couple carbon and nutrient cycles in freshwater ecosystems. The driving question behind this work is “as we continue to pollute our aquatic ecosystems with excess nutrients, will cycling of carbon and other elements change in proportion, or will fertilization decouple key ecosystem processes?” He has examined this question in the context of impact of stream algae on nutrient retention within watersheds, functional diversity of freshwater bacteria in response to land use change, and most recently, minimizing the fertilizer demand of renewable fuels produced from algae. As part of CIGLR, he is working on projects including the effects of nutrient abundance and forms on harmful algal blooms and the influence of hypoxia on the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients and heavy metals in Lake Erie.
Assistant Research Scientist
Dr. Subba Rao Chaganti recently joined CIGLR as an Assistant Research Scientist. Chaganti’s research focuses on understanding the structural and functional diversity of the microbial community (bacteria, archaea, and protists) and how they mutually interact within the aquatic, terrestrial and host associated environments, how they are influenced by biotic and abiotic mechanisms and how they are altered by aquatic invasive species and other anthropogenic inputs and its overall impact on the ecosystem process. To answer these questions his research shares a core set of interdisciplinary tools sourced from ecology, environmental biology, molecular genetics, and bioinformatics while viewing microbes as cellular components of the ecosystem body. As a part of CIGLR, he is working on projects distinguishing toxin-producing from non-toxin producing cyanobacterial blooms and improve short-term toxin forecasting by application of omics tools, identification of biotic and abiotic conditions that trigger the toxin genes of cyanobacteria, monitoring rare and aquatic invasive species using environmental DNA and its ecological impact, assessing lower food web dynamics and their importance to fisheries and mapping unknown trophic pathways from microbes to crustacean zooplankton.
Dr. Stella Cousins is an ecosystem ecologist interested in understanding how and why forests change. She uses patterns measured in trees and forests such as growth, mortality, and community dynamics to reveal how ecosystems respond to human demands and disturbances. Her current research focuses on the drivers of tree mortality in California forests and the transformations that can be expected in ecosystems that experience rapid change. In earlier research she has examined forest carbon processes, air pollution impacts to montane forests, provision of watershed services, and the management of vegetated cultural landscapes. Her work leverages comprehensive surveys conducted by the USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, long-term monitoring, and measurements ranging from individual tree rings to whole forest structures. Dr. Cousins is broadly interested in how landscapes can be sustainably managed for multiple benefits, which often involves collaborating on multi-disciplinary teams and investing in place-based data collection. She is especially interested in social-environmental problems facing the Western United States. Prior to joining SEAS, Dr. Cousins was an Assistant Professor at California Polytechnic State University and a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley. She completed her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley and was a graduate fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC).
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.
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.
Assistant Research Scientist
Dr. Fraker works on a variety of basic and applied questions within aquatic ecology. His primary focus is currently on the influence of biophysical and anthropogenic factors on ecosystem dynamics in the Great Lakes. This includes ongoing projects exploring 1) harmful algal blooms and hypoxia in Lake Erie, 2) early life history and recruitment dynamics of fish, and 3) ecosystem trends and their drivers using long-term monitoring data (integrated ecosystem assessment). He also is interested in the role of predator-induced phenotypic plasticity and chemical communication in aquatic ecosystems. He believe in using a variety of empirical, modeling, and statistical approaches across subdisciplines to gain a strong mechanistic understanding of ecosystems, so most of my research is collaborative.
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.
Professor Gronewold’s research interests lie in hydrological modeling, with a focus on propagating uncertainty and variability into model-based water resources management decisions. His specific research areas include predicting runoff in ungauged basins, monitoring and understanding water quality dynamics in coastal areas, and incorporating probability theory and Bayesian statistics into watershed-scale data sets and forecasting tools.
He holds an adjunct appointment in the U-M Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Prior to his appointment in SEAS, he worked in the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory as a hydrologist and physical scientist.
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.
Brendan O’Neill, PhD, conducts research on soil systems and terrestrial microbial ecology. Soils are vital ecosystems, not only for their role in food production, but also for their importance to global carbon and water cycles other biogeochemical processes. Soil microbes carry out many of the processes that make soil so critical to sustainability, including regulation of greenhouse gases. O’Neill’s work includes basic research into the formation and function of soil microbial communities, the linkages between terrestrial ecosystem management and water resources, and the role of soil ecology in promoting sustainable development.
Samuel A. Graham Dean; William B. Stapp Collegiate Professor of Environmental Education; Professor, Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering
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 led active climate research programs on five continents. His research is 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. Overpeck also works more broadly on climate and paleoclimate dynamics, ice sheets and sea level, climate-vegetation interaction, conservation biology, legal issues related to climate change, environmental communication and environmental education. 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 @GreatLakesPeck .
George Willis Pack Professor
I am the George W. Pack Professor of Ecology, Natural Resources and Environment. My research focuses on biodiversity and arthropod-mediated ecosystem services in rural and urban agriculture. I also work on spatial ecology of the coffee agroecosystem and am interested more broadly on the links between small-scale sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and food sovereignty. I am co-author of four books, Breakfast of Biodiversity, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty, and Coffee Agroecology, and Ecological Complexity and Agroecology.
My recent research is related to ecosystem services in agroforestry systems in Mexico and Puerto Rico. In Mexico my lab is investigating how local level multi-species interactions generate autonomous pest control in agroecosystems using coffee agroforests as a model system. We are also interested in critical transitions within the pest systems in coffee. In collaboration with John Vandermeer (University of Michigan) and Stacy Philpott (University of California-Santa Cruz) I established a 45-hectare plot in a shaded organic coffee farm in Chiapas, Mexico, and am conducting research on complex ecological interactions among pests, diseases and natural enemies. In Puerto Rico I collaborate with John Vandermeer and Javier Lugo (University of Puerto Rico, Utuado) in a project that examines tradeoffs and synergies among ecosystem services from coffee farms within the Model Forest of Puerto Rico. This project also investigates how ecosystem services (coffee and food provisioning, conservation of biodiversity, pest control, pollination and carbon storate) respond to local and landscape level factors. In collaboration with Luis Garcia-Barrios from ECOSUR-San Cristobal (Mexico) I am also developing games to help farmers and students better understand ecological complexity in agroecosystems. After Hurricane Maria, we started a research project examining the resistance and resilience of coffee agroecosystems in the central mountainous region of Puerto Rico. Also, in collaboration with Casa Pueblo, a grassroots community organization, and Boricuá, a network of agroecological farmers in Puerto Rico, we are investigating how gasification, using biomass from farm residues and the trees knocked down by the hurricane, could de use to create a hybrid micro-grid that uses solar energy and syngas. We are also investigating the potential impact of the biochar generated through the gasification process on soil properties, plant growth and crop yield.
I teach “Globalization and its Discontent: Struggles for Food, Water and Energy” (Environ 270), Diverse Farming Systems (NRE 553), and Field Ecology (NRE 556). In my courses I like to challenge students to think for themselves. Most of my courses have a strong Latin American flavor because I am from Latin America (Puerto Rico) and I conduct research in Latin America (Mexico, Mesoamerica and Puerto Rico). Most of my courses are interdisciplinary and are taught from a social justice perspective. I teach undergraduate courses in sustainable development and globalization, and the agroecology and political ecology of food systems, a graduate course in field ecology, a graduate course in diverse farming systems, and graduate seminars on topics that range from conservation in fragmented habitats to food sovereignty.
Interim Director, Research Program Manager, and 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.
Professor of Practice
Professor Seelbach's experiences bridge the academic study of aquatic ecosystems to its application across 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, coastal zone management, and revitalization of Areas of Concern.
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.
Brian Weeks is joining SEAS on September 1 as an assistant professor, with courtesy appointments in LSA's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), as well as with the U-M Museum of Zoology. He is a conservation ornithologist and an evolutionary ecologist who studies the assembly of biological communities, and how different assembly histories can impact biotic responses to global change.Since 2017, Weeks has been at U-M, as a postdoctoral research fellow in EEB, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Museum of Zoology. He integrates his training in systematics and community ecology to examine community-level biotic responses to global change. In his research, he asks whether differences in the assembly histories of communities have altered their ecologies, with a focus on their vulnerability. Weeks’ research is focused on the birds of the Solomon Islands, and integrates field biology, molecular phylogenetics, and collections-based comparative morphology.
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.