Letter from the Director
When we started our search for solutions to AIS problems, we knew that it wouldn’t be easy. We knew we would have to look far and wide for creative answers and that we would have to attract new minds to the effort. It’s not just fisheries biologists or plant ecologists on our team; we also turned to experts in areas such as molecular biology, genetics, epidemiology, biochemistry, and more to address AIS problems.
That’s why MAISRC is enlisting the help of the best and brightest postdocs from around the world to help us find solutions to these AIS problems.
MAISRC currently has nine postdocs – researchers who have completed their PhD but are not yet faculty members – on our team. I like to think of these postdocs as the engine that is powering our research center. They coordinate research projects, manage undergraduate assistants, and frequently present their findings through published papers and research symposia.
Several MAISRC postdocs have joined our team from other countries. Not only are they now providing their subject matter expertise to our AIS efforts, but Minnesota benefits from the lessons they have learned in other areas of the world where similar dynamics may be at play.
For example, our postdoctoral researcher working on zebra mussels, Sophie, hails from France where she studied the pathways of spread of the invasive pinewood nematode using genetic analysis. Meanwhile, Luis, who is developing a model to predict risk factors and likelihood of AIS invasions, previously used modeling to assess risks of avian flu in Guatemala and bat-borne diseases such as rabies in Chile.
Additionally, building on the knowledge she gained studying hormones and pheromones to understand the reproductive biology of elephants in India, Ratna is now using pheromones to detect and control common and Asian carps in Minnesota.
Of course, MAISRC also seeks and develops talent from closer to home. Four of our postdocs – Jessica, Dan, Sunil, and Adam Kokotovitch – earned their PhDs from the University of Minnesota. And now, all four are contributing to MAISRC’s efforts to analyze risk, improve detection methods, and more effectively control invasive species. Adam Kautza received his PhD from Ohio State University and brings experience gained in Wisconsin and Idaho in fisheries ecology and food webs to his search for an effective biocontrol for Eurasian watermilfoil related to sunfish and weevils. Prince received his PhD from Marquette University in Wisconsin and brings expertise in using metagenomics to characterize microbial communities associated with key AIS such as Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels in the search for controls.
Aquatic invasive species present a vexing challenge, and one that will not be solved overnight or in one fell swoop. Protecting our lakes and rivers from AIS will require a sustained, multi-pronged, creative, and powerful response from researchers, lawmakers, and citizens alike. Here at MAISRC, we’re doing all that we can – including soliciting expertise from all over the world – to develop research-based solutions to reduce the impacts of AIS in Minnesota.
Dr. Susan Galatowitsch
Director, Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center