Our Team

Currently, MAISRC supports research and outreach conducted by teams including full- or part-time faculty members, post-docs, graduate students, undergraduate students, and technicians. The Center is also supported by a part-time director, a full-time associate director, a part-time office and communications specialist, and a full-time Extension Educator.


Faculty

przemek

Przemek Bajer is a research professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, specializing in sustainable control solutions for invasive fish such as common carp. He was instrumental in demonstrating that bluegill sunfish can control carp populations by consuming carp eggs and larvae, and that lakes become carp nurseries when they winterkill and lack bluegills. He also demonstrated that adult carp can be selectively removed from lakes by targeting their winter aggregations or by teaching them to aggregate near baited areas. His recent work explains why carp are invasive in some areas of Minnesota but not in others, and how lake productivity plays a major role in that process. The results of his work are being used to control several populations of common carp in central Minnesota.

chanlan Chanlan Chun is a research assistant professor at the Biotechnology Institute at the University of Minnesota, focusing on the roles of microbes associated with natural and engineering environment. She earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Minnesota, focusing on the identification of abiotic and biotic transformation processes of contaminants in environmental systems and development of alternative solutions to restore aqueous ecosystems. Recently, her research aims to develop selective and effective biocontrol agents for aquatic invasive species including Eurasian Water Milfoil, Zebra mussels, and Quagga mussels by examining microorganisms associated with the AIS.

sue

Dr. Susan Galatowitsch (PhD., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Iowa State University) is the Director of the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. She has led a research team at the University of Minnesota for over twenty years focused on ecosystem restoration; primarily wetlands, riparian corridors, and lakeshores. Her research has focused on developing invasive control strategies for wetland plants (e.g., reed canary grass, common reed), enhancing post-control ecosystem recovery (e.g., prairie potholes, South Africa headwater streams, Minnesota lakeshores), and assessing the risks of introduced aquatic plants. Galatowitsch and her team have published over 70 peer-reviewed publications and she has authored two books (Ecological Restoration-Sinauer Associates, 2012; Restoring Prairie Wetlands-Blackwell, 1994).

dan larkin

Dan Larkin is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota specializing in aquatic and wetland plant management and restoration. His research addresses applied problems concerning invasive plant species and ecological restoration. Larkin's work with the center involves research and extension on risk assessment, control, and post-treatment restoration of aquatic habitats impacted by Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed, non-native Phragmites, and other invasive plants.

mike m

Michael McCartney is a research assistant professor with MAISRC and the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. He earned his Ph.D. at SUNY Stony Brook and did postdocs at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Florida State University. He came to MAISRC to study zebra mussels after 13 years on the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. His research program has featured a broad range of marine and freshwater invertebrates and fishes—with a focus on mollusks—and he often uses molecular biology to study problems in ecology, evolution and conservation. By using the most modern genetic and genomic tools available, he aims to describe the pathways of zebra mussel spread in Minnesota and to develop early detection methods that target zebra mussel veliger larvae. The goal of his research is to help AIS managers around the state direct their efforts towards areas of the highest risk of invasion.

ray

Ray Newman is a Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota specializing in aquatic invasive plants. Dr. Newman is passionate about aquatic ecology and understanding the interaction between plants, invertebrates, and fish. Newman's work with the center involves restoring native plant communities after invasive plants have been introduced. Currently, two of the biggest invasive plant threats are Eurasian water milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed. Dr. Newman is evaluating sustainable methods of bio control involving weevils (and other insects) as well as the more traditional application of herbicides.

nick

Nicholas Phelps is an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine specializing in emerging infectious diseases of farmed and wild fish; development of molecular diagnostic assays; aquaculture systems and production; and aquatic ecosystem health. His work with MAISRC involves screening for Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus and researching biological controls of aquatic invasive species.

Peter Sorensen

Peter Sorensen, PhD, is the founder of the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and a professor in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conversation Biology where he mentors students in Conservation Biology, Ecology Evolution & Behavior, Water Resources Sciences, and Neuroscience. His interests are focused on understanding the mechanisms that drive the behavior of fishes with an emphasis on using this information to control of aquatic invasive species. He is probably best known for his work on pheromones in fish (chemical signals that pass between of the same species) but locally he is known for his work on invasive carp biology and control. At the request of the state legislature in 2012, he founded the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) to develop new scientific and sustainable solutions to targeted AIS. Peter obtained a B.A from Bates College, a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island, and was an Alberta Heritage Fellow in Medical Research prior to arriving at the University in 1988. Peter has published approximately 135 peer-reviewed scientific articles, 30 book chapters, 2 books, and has a patent on sea lamprey pheromones and control. He is interested in solving the root causes of AIS.

paul

Paul Venturelli is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota specializing in quantitative fisheries biology. Originally from Ontario, Canada, Paul has a passion for solving real-life biological problems using a combination of data synthesis and analysis, modeling, and theory. Dr. Venturelli's work with MAISRC involves developing simulation models to that predict the population dynamics of AIS. Specifically, he is using these models to identify potential control measures for AIS, predict the impact/effectiveness of said measures, and then optimize these methods to eradicate populations of AIS in Minnesota lakes.


Postdoctoral researchers

jessica

Jessica Eichmiller is a Research Associate in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. She obtained her Ph.D. in Water Resources Science at the University of Minnesota, and she joined MAISRC in 2012. Her past and present research has utilized molecular techniques to study aquatic ecosystems, particularly those impacted by bacterial pollution and invasive species. Dr. Eichmiller currently researches environmental DNA (eDNA) methods for invasive carps. Her overarching research goal is to develop molecular tools for reliable and sensitive detection and quantification of aquatic species that can be implemented for routine monitoring or research applications.

luis

Luis E. Escobar is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Escobar is a veterinarian from Guatemala and earned two Master's Degrees in wildlife management and veterinary science. He then moved to Chile where he obtained his PhD in conservation medicine at Andres Bello University in Santiago with a focus on landscape epidemiology. His research interests include macroecology and ecological niche modeling. Using climate and remote sensing data, Dr. Escobar aims to investigate areas of potential invasion of micro (disease) and macro (fish) species. His goal is to validate tools and theory from invasion biology into disease ecology to enhanced the field of spatial epidemiology. He also assesses methods and variables for assertive predictions of biological invasions in Minnesota freshwater ecosystems at coarse and fine geographic scales.

Ratna

Ratna Ghosal is a research associate in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology specializing in the study of fish hormones, pheromones, and behaviors. Originally from India, she has been with the University since 2012 after completing her Ph.D. in ecology and wildlife endocrinology on the endangered species, the Asian elephants. She is interested in understanding the proximate/physiological causes of animal behavior and its potential applications in the field of conservation biology. Currently, she is studying the use of chemical attractants (in this case, pheromones) as a control for the Asian carp. By implanting species-specific pheromones in otherwise sterile fish, she plans on tracking these fish, with the idea that these pheromones will lead to an aggregation of conspecifics. Similar experiments in goldfish and the common carp have generated positive results, and the hope is that the same success will translate to managing Asian carp.

adam

Adam Kautza is a postdoctoral research associate at MAISRC. He received his bachelor's degree in Zoology and Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin, and went on to get his master's degree in Fisheries Science at the University of Idaho where he studied growth, size-structure, and mortality in exploited black crappie fisheries across Idaho. He then moved to Ohio State University where he completed a Ph.D. in Ecosystem Science. At Ohio State, he studied anthropogenic influences on food web structure and energy flux in linked river-riparian food webs. A primary piece of his current research at MAISRC will focus on developing a better understanding of the indirect influences that sunfish may have on invasive Eurasian water milfoil. Sunfish have the potential to be a strong top-down control on milfoil, largely via predation on native invertebrate herbivores such as milfoil weevils (and other aquatic insects). Identifying the unique effects of sunfish on milfoil herbivores can lead to important insights into methods for managing fisheries in ways that promote effective and safe long-term biocontrol of Eurasian water milfoil.

Adam K.

Adam Kokotovich is a postdoctoral research associate at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. Trained as a social scientist, he studies decision-making concerning science, risk, and the environment. At MAISRC, he is using risk analysis and qualitative methods to study and help improve Asian carp management in Minnesota. His dissertation research examined contestations of risk and risk assessment in the context of plant genetic engineering.

sophie

Sophie Mallez is a post-doctoral research associate in the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center at the University of Minnesota, specializing in population genetics. Originally from France, Sophie obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Nice, Sophia Antipolis, France, and her M.S. in Ecology, Biodiversity and Evolution from the Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris, France. She did her graduate research on the invasion of the pinewood nematode, responsible of the pine wilt disease, and she mainly investigated the pathways of invasion of this species in Europe. At MAISRC, Sophie's work will focus on understanding invasion sources and pathways of spread of the zebra mussels throughout Minnesota and the Upper Mississippi and Great Lakes Basins, using population genetics and genomics.

prince

Prince Mathai is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the BioTechnology Institute at the University of Minnesota. He obtained his PhD in Microbiology from Marquette University where he studied microbial communities involved in fatty acid degradation in methanogenic reactors. A microbial ecologist by training, his research interests span across environmental microbiology and he is particularly interested in deciphering structure-function relationships of microbial communities in natural and engineered environments. His current project, in partnership with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, utilizes metagenomics to characterize microbial communities associated with aquatic invasive species (Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, and quagga mussels).

sunil

Sunil Kumar Mor is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Dr. Phelps's lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota, specializing in emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases of farmed and wild fish. He is experienced in detection and characterization of unknown fish pathogens and development of molecular diagnostic assays. His work with MAISRC involves researching biological controls of aquatic invasive species.

dan

Daniel Zielinski is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota specializing in ecohydraulics, fluid mechanics/dynamics, and computational modeling. With a Ph.D. in civil engineering, Dan is now working on developing an acoustic deterrent for carp. His dissertation

research focused on bubble curtains, which produce complex acoustic and hydrodynamic fields, as a means to control the movement of common carp in shallow, slow moving water, where existing barrier technologies are ill-suited.


Graduate Students

Nate

Nate Banet is currently working on his Master's Degree in Conservation Biology with a focus in Fisheries and Aquatic Biology. Nate completed his undergraduate work at the University of Portland with a degree in Biology and Environmental Science. Originally from Saint Louis, Missouri, Nate is interested in restoration ecology while also finding a sustainable way to control invasive species. Nate works in the Rice Creek Watershed District, tracking radio-tagged common carp and their movement year-round throughout several lakes along Rice Creek. Other components of his research include recording 24-hour movements and monitoring inter-lake movements continuously through a stationary tracking station. Having a more complete understanding of the large-scale movements of adult carp in complex watersheds such as the Rice Creek Watershed throughout the year will contribute to more effective and sustainable means for managing carp populations.

clark Clark Dennis is a Graduate Student in the Conservation Biology Graduate Program at the University of Minnesota. Clark obtained his undergraduate and M.S. degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he examined the efficacy of carbon dioxide gas to deter the spread of invasive carps. Clark is now working on the development and full-scale testing of acoustic deterrents meant to deter the movement of invasive carps (i.e., common carp, bigheaded carps) from entering lock chambers, while aiming for minimal impact on native fish movement.
adam doll

Adam Doll is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota and is currently working on a Master's Degree in Conservation Biology with an emphasis in Fisheries and Aquatic Biology.  His focus is on invasive species, and will be researching how zebra mussel veligers may be transported in residual water present in recreational watercraft.  Adam completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, and currently works for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' invasive species program as the Watercraft Inspection Coordinator.

melaney

Melaney Dunne is a Graduate Student at the University of Minnesota and is working toward her Master's Degree in Conservation Biology with a focus in Fisheries and Aquatic Biology. Melaney completed her undergraduate degrees at Loyola University Chicago majoring in Biology and Environmental Studies. Hailing from Chicago, Melaney is passionate about aquatic ecosystem conservation and management and seeks to explore various restoration methods on lakes and streams. Melaney is working in the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District studying the native plant response to both carp removal and early season herbicide application on invasive aquatic plants with the aim to compare management strategies on the lakes in the study.

Joey

Joey Lechelt is currently working on his Master's Degree in Conservation Biology. He completed his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Biology and a minor in Environmental Science. Originally from Minnesota, he is interested in aquatic environments and seeks to understand the impact that invasive species have within these ecosystems. He is studying factors that influence young of year common carp survival, specifically bluegill predation on carp eggs, larval carp diet, and carp out-migration from winterkill-prone marshes.

josh

Josh Poole is a Graduate Student at the University of Minnesota and is currently working on his Master's Degree in Conservation Biology with a focus on Fisheries and Aquatic Biology. Josh completed his undergraduate work at Minnesota State University, Mankato with a degree in Ecology. Originally from Minnesota, Josh is interested in aquatic ecosystem health and management and seeks to understand how invasive species can be sustainably managed. Josh is studying control of the Common Carp through the use of biological control and through the use of piscicide.

Reid Reid Swanson is a Junior Scientist and is working on his master's degree in the Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Department at the University of Minnesota. Reid completed his undergraduate work here at the University of Minnesota, with a degree in the fisheries and wildlife and a minor in forest resources. Originally from Wisconsin, Reid is passionate about nature and the outdoors. He is interested in discovering methods that will be successful in managing aquatic invasive species and applying this knowledge for the betterment of our local environment. Reid helps facilitate the research projects at the center, working in the field and in the lab to gather and analyze data for several ongoing experiments involving carp and other invasive species. He also manages the facilities and ensures that all laboratory equipment is maintained and operating efficiently.

megan

Megan Tomamichel is a PhD student in Paul Venturelli's lab. Her project focuses on developing a model to predict the spread and impact of the emerging Heterosporosis disease on the harvestable biomass of yellow perch (Perca flavescens). Megan graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a BA in Zoology. As an undergraduate she worked with the UW's Cascade Research Team on a whole-lake manipulation experiment testing the influence of allochthonous carbon sources in a lake system, and with Dr. Carol Lee mapping the genome of invasive copepods. Her hobbies include fishing, cross country skiing, camping and taking care of her freshwater planted aquarium.


Research Fellows

Justine

Justine Koch is a research fellow in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology specializing in applied research and management of aquatic invasive species at a watershed scale. She recently earned her Master's Degree from the University of Minnesota in Conservation Biology with a focus on fisheries and aquatic biology. She completed her undergraduate work at Gustavus Adolphus College, studying biology and environmental studies. Originally from Forest Lake, she is passionate about working on aquatic environments and analyzing how they respond to AIS. She is studying how to quantify common carp nursery contribution at a watershed scale using population genetics. Understanding where carp spawn and the patterns they establish throughout a watershed is key in developing multi-faceted, science-based management plans.


Staff

becca Becca Nash is the Associate Director of the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. She has been with the Center since 2012 and oversees all day-to-day operations, as well as grants management and administration. Previously, she was a project manager for the Trust for Public Land and coordinated research studies at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Becca holds a degree in Biology from the University of Minnesota and tries her hand at fly-fishing in her free time.
eleanor Eleanor Burkett is a Water Resource Extension Educator at the University of Minnesota. She has been providing educational programs about native plants and water quality for the past 16 years. Currently she is partnering with MAISRC to develop a statewide Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Detectors program to aide in the rapid response of new AIS infestations.
christine Christine Lee is the Executive Office and Communications Specialist for the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. She holds a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Minnesota and previously worked in nonprofit organizations. She specializes in electronic communications, web design, social media, and graphic design.


Additional guidance

MAISRC also receives guidance from two groups:

  • A ten-member Advisory Board which is made up of representatives from key governmental and nongovernment organizations and helps guide overall activities; and
  • A Technical Committee which is made up of scientists from academia and governmental agencies and advises on scientific and technical matters, including which species to research.