Monday, September 14, 2009

Featured Research by Norine Dobiesz

Dobiesz, N.E. and Lester, N.P. 2009. Changes in mid-summer water temperature and clarity across the Great Lakes between 1968 and 2002. Journal of Great Lakes Research 35:371-384.

Norine Dobiesz and her colleague examined data from more than 15,000 sites across Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario and documented significant changes in water temperature and clarity between 1968 and 2002. Surface water temperature in August rose by 2.9°C in Lake Huron and 1.6°C in Lake Ontario, and water clarity increased in all three lakes by 2 to 3 meters. Norine identified three important contributors to these changes: 1) warmer climate, 2) reduced phosphorus loading, and 3) invasion by zebra and quagga mussels. These changes have the potential to alter lake mixing and may inhibit nutrient and oxygen exchange, modify photosynthesis rates that drive the lakes’ food webs, and change fish distribution and growth.

Norine received a dual Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior from Michigan State University in 2003. She is currently a Research Associate with the Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota Duluth where her work focuses on identifying metrics of ecosystem health for global large lakes.

Featured Professional: Carol Stepien

Carol Stepien is the Director of the Lake Erie Research Center and Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Toledo. Carol spent much of her childhood collecting salamanders and trilobite fossils in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and there formed a lasting passion for aquatic ecology and evolution. She pursued her interests in marine biology by doing graduate and postdoctoral work in California, before returning to the Great Lakes region.

As director of the Lake Erie Center, Carol's goal is to build a think-tank for applied environmental research with the ultimate goal of improving environmental and public health in the Great Lakes region. Her busy lab at the university focuses on the conservation genetics of native fishes and the invasion genetics of dreissenid mussels, gobies, and ruffe. Carol enjoys mentoring her students, all of whom are outstanding, and is currently looking for new Ph.D. student applicants. Projects on the horizon include field trips to the Baltic Sea to work on Great Lakes invaders in their native range and to Australia to work on kelpfishes.

In addition to research, Carol is actively involved in outreach and high school education activities. Carol is the mother of Andrew and Anna, and her hobbies are SCUBA diving (she has logged over 1000 research dives), underwater photography, bicycling, and snow-skiing.

Featured Student or Postdoc: Nicola Lower

Nicola Lower is a post-doc at the University of Guelph, where she is carrying out research on the sea lamprey. Nicola is from England but came to Canada in 2007 on a Canadian Commonwealth Fellowship Program. After completing a BSc at the University of Nottingham and an MSc in Natural Resource Management at the University of Leicester, Nicola started work for the UK Government Agency CEFAS (The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science). Nicola was a researcher and project manager in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Team and was involved in a number of projects investigating the factors affecting freshwater fisheries in England and Wales. During this time she completed a part-time PhD (University of Portsmouth) on the impacts of environmental contaminants on different life cycle stages of the Atlantic salmon.

Nicola’s research on sea lampreys focuses on their use of daytime refuge sites during the upstream spawning migration. This cryptic behaviour is largely uncharacterized. Knowledge of this behaviour could help improve the effectiveness of control techniques, such as portable trapping, throughout the Great Lakes. Nicola is enjoying her time in Canada, particularly fieldwork in some of the streams of Lake Ontario.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Featured Research by Janel Hanrahan

Hanrahan, J.L, S.V. Kravstov, P.J. Roebber. 2009. Quasi-periodic decadal cycles in levels of Michigan and Huron. Journal of Great Lakes Research 35:30-35.

In this paper, Janel Hanrahan and colleagues describe their discovery of two multi-decadal cycles in the water levels of the Michigan-Huron system, which they believe stem from previously identified cycles in the North Atlantic region. Changes in precipitation appear to play a key role in the transmission of these cycles.

According to Janel, this discovery may eventually allow predictions of lake-level changes to be made beyond a few months in advance. This is important because the lakes provide transportation for shipping, hydroelectric power, sustenance, and recreation for more than 30 million people and lake-level variations can have immediate and profound impacts on the economy and environment.

Janel is currently a Ph.D. student in the Mathematics Department at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Her research focuses on atmospheric science, which nicely integrates her favourite disciplines of Mathematics and Computer Science. This paper represents an exciting accomplishment for Janel because it is her first publication!

Featured Professional: Lynda Corkum

Lynda Corkum is a professor of aquatic ecology at the University of Windsor, Ontario. Lynda studies the ecology and behaviour of fishes, much of which involves close collaboration with government agencies. She especially enjoys working and forming friendships with her students and colleagues.

Lynda grew up in Toronto, but loved the outdoors, especially summer camp in Haliburton where she became “Head of Nature,” and taught swimming and canoeing. She completed her education at Drake University (B.A., M.A.) and the University of Toronto (Ph.D.), where she also met her husband, Jan Ciborowski. After 7 years of postdoc and consultant work in Alberta, Lynda returned to Ontario to work at the International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes regional office in Windsor and earn a B.Ed. degree. She became a permanent faculty member at the Univ. of Windsor in 1994 and eventually became Associate Dean of Science. In addition to all these accomplishments, Lynda has been secretary of the North American Benthological Society, president of the International Association of Great Lakes Research, and associate editor for both. Lynda is someone who likes to work hard, help people, and learn something new each day.

Featured Student or Postdoc: Bethany Thurber

Bethany is new to Ontario, hailing from southwestern Nova Scotia. She completed an undergraduate Honour’s degree at Acadia University where she studied the breeding biology of sundews and roses. To gain experience with a different study system, she moved to the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, to pursue a graduate degree in avian ecology and evolution with professors Chris Guglilemo and Phil Taylor. Bethany’s M.Sc. research focuses on bird migration through the Great Lakes region. She is studying the migratory flight responses of migrating birds as well as their behavioural ecology at an important stopover site (the rest and refuelling portion of migration) at Long Point, Lake Erie.

Bethany is tracking birds using modified marine radar and radio-telemetry to answer several research questions within the general theme of stopover behaviour and ecology. Her main interests include the specific effects of weather and body condition on the timing of arrival to and departure from stopover sites, and how the topographical features of a landscape affect flight altitude, heading, and speed.

This work is important, because the Great Lakes present a major geographic barrier to migrating birds, and flight responses to weather conditions paired with topographical shifts provide important clues to the migratory success of individual birds.

Instructions to contributors

I'm looking for female students and professionals to profile on upcoming issues of The Siscowette! If you would like to be profiled, please contact Yolanda at Contributors will be asked to prepare a 200 word biography.