Paul Seelbach

Professor of Practice


PhD, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment (Fisheries Science)

MS, Bucknell University (Aquatic Ecology)

BS, Bucknell University (Biology)

(734) 763-6280


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.

  • Empowering local engagement in revitalization of coastal Areas of Concern.  Partnership with MI Office of the Great Lakes to improve their AOCs program effectiveness.
  • Ecological smart-flows for urban watersheds.  Partnership with UM Environmental and Water Resources Engineering and MI Office of the Great Lakes; working to optimize river flow regimes in response to storms in SE Michigan watersheds.
  • USGS Prospectus for Great Lakes Coastal Science.  Encouraged collaborative ecosystems approach, with emphasis on watershed-nearshore-lake linkages.
  • USGS National EcoFlows Strategy.  Co-led agency effort to design internally cohesive and externally effective national ecoflows science program.  Also co-authored federal white paper re ecoflow recommendations.
  • Great Lakes Blue Accounting.  As charged by Council of Great Lakes Governors, co-led regional workgroup in design of innovative, comprehensive regional water monitoring framework.
  • Great Lakes Nearshore Framework.  Co-authored framework called for by Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Highlighted importance of nearshore zone and applied Integrated Coastal Zone Management philosophy.
  • Structure and function of Great Lakes rivermouths.; Led USGS science effort and co-led (with GL Commission) a regional collaboratory to highlight nature and importance of these key freshwater estuaries.
  • Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Program.  Co-led state Water Resources Conservation Advisory Council in collaborative design of science-based ecoflows management program.  Led to first state water quantity legislation in support of the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River Water Resources Compact.

  • Water Conservationist of the Year. Michigan United Conservation Clubs (2007). 

Select publications: 
  • Mazur, M.L.C., J. Schaeffer, J.E. Granneman, N. Goldstrohm, F.A. Fitzpatrick, J.H. Larson, P.C. Reneau, K.P. Kowalski, and P.W. Seelbach. 2019. Seasonal patterns in hydrochemical mixing in three Great Lakes rivermouth ecosystems. Journal of Great Lakes Research, Online.
  • McKenna, J.E., H.W. Reeves, and P.W. Seelbach. 2018. Measuring and evaluating ecological flows from streams to regions: Steps towards national coverage. Freshwater Biology 00:1–17.
  • Many Authors; P.W. Seelbach was member of the Writing Team.  2016.  The Great Lakes Nearshore Framework.  Environment and Climate Change Canada and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Nineteen authors including P.W. Seelbach.  2015.  White Paper: Protection of aquatic life from adverse effects of alteration to hydrologic conditions.  US EPA and US Geological Survey, Washington DC.
  • Seelbach, P.W., J.G. Read, K.A. Buckner, T. Eder, and C. Manninen.  2014.  Great Lakes Blue Accounting: empowering decisions to realize regional water values.  Great Lakes Commission, Report to the Council of Great Lakes Governors, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Larson J.H., A.S. Trebitz, A.D. Steinman, M.J. Wiley, M.C. Mazur, V. Pebbles, H.A. Braun, and P.W. Seelbach.  2013.  Great Lakes rivermouth ecosystems: Scientific synthesis and management implications.  Journal of Great Lakes Research 39:513-524.
  • Zorn, T.G., P.W. Seelbach, and E.S. Rutherford.  2012.  A regional-scale habitat suitability model to assess the effects of flow reduction on fish assemblages in Michigan streams.  Journal of the American Water Resources Association 1-25.
  • Hamilton, D.A., and P.W. Seelbach.  2011.  Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Assessment Process and Internet Screening Tool.  Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Special Report 55, Ann Arbor.
  • Steinman, A.D., J.R. Nicholas, P.W. Seelbach, J.W. Allan, and F. Ruswick.  2010.  Science as a fundamental framework for shaping policy discussions regarding the use of groundwater in the State of Michigan:  A Case Study.  Water Policy 13:69-86.
  • Hughes, R., L. Wang, and P.W. Seelbach, Editors. 2006. Landscape influences on stream habitats and biological communities.  American Fisheries Society, Symposium 48.


Current MS Projects and Theses:

  • Beeler, M., I. Nasir, and M. Willig.  Present.  Long-run Risk Management of Contaminated Aquifers in Michigan.  M.S. Project, University of Michigan.  Co-advisor Dr. A. Burton.
  • Brown, C.  Present.  Incorporating Environmental Response into the Clinton River Watershed Information System: A Methodology Evaluation for Pathogen Monitoring.  M.S. Thesis, University of Michigan.  Co-Advisors Drs. B. Kerkev and D. Gronewold.
  • Lugten, E., O. Mitchinson, M. Puz, M. Sens, and K. Vogel.  Present.  Planning and implementing monitoring during hydrologic restoration of the Shiawassee Flats floodplain ecosystem.  M.S. Project, University of Michigan.  Co-advisors Drs. K. Alofs and C. Riseng.
  • Madden, E., K. Pettibone, and A. Rentschler.  Present.  Mapping Partnership Opportunities in Michigan Areas of Concern.  M.S. Project, University of Michigan.

Completed MS Projects and Theses:

  • Arend, A., Lui, L., Vapenik, K., Ye, N., and Yu, K.  2019.  Blue Communities Initiative: a freshwater ethic as foundation for decision-making.  M.S. Project, University of Michigan.
  • Knauss, C., J. Lisuk, J., and B. Pollins.  2019.  Sustaining Environmental Stewardship in Michigan Areas of Concern.  M.S. Project, University of Michigan.  Co-Advisor Dr. J. Wondolleck.
  • Voglesong-Zejnati, A.  2019.  Why remediation progress differs among Great Lakes Areas of Concern: Factors that enable and constrain Michigan PACs.  M.S. Thesis, University of Michigan.  Co-Advisor Dr. J. Wondolleck.

  • 2017 Senior Fellow, Michigan Office of the Great Lakes.
  • 2016 USGS Co-Lead for US Department of Interior, National Ocean Policy Implementation Workshop.
  • 2015-2018 Review Panel, NOAA National Estuary Research Reserves Annual RFP.
  • 2014 Senior Science Advisor, Great Lakes Commission.
  • 2010. Fellow, Collaborative Governance Semester, Michigan State University.