University of Wisconsin–Madison

Field Samples: Postdoc and Graduate Student Research

  • Limnology News, Number 25, Fall 2016

    Dom CiruzziDom Ciruzzi (PhD, Loheide) @domciruzzi
    When he wasn’t helping coach aspiring undergraduate researchers as a mentor at TLS this summer, Dom was out bending trees – driving stakes into the ground, shimmying up to a properly high point, tying a strap around a tree and then winching the whole set-up down toward the ground. It was all part of his PhD research on how forests respond to changing climates, specifically in groundwater-forest interactions and the attributes that allow some plants to reduce their vulnerability to drought. When he wasn’t in the woods, Dom could often be found indulging in other creative pursuits. He’s an avid musician – playing sax, piano, ukulele and even steel drums – and also dabbles in oil and digital painting. Unfortunately for Dom’s drought research, this was a wet year for Wisconsin’s Northwoods. The good news is that it means he “has” to go back to bending trees next summer.

    Jess CormanJessica Corman (Postdoc, Stanley) @limnojess
    Jess studies nature through the lens of chemistry, combining techniques from biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology to understand how elements flow through ecosystems – particularly those vulnerable to nutrient pollution. This year, Jess decided to take that research global, winning a seed grant from the UW’s Global Health Initiative to explore what’s driving the decline of water quality in Africa’s Lake Victoria. 30 million people live along its shore and Jess is excited at the chance to do “awesome, impactful” science in a social context. “[People] are getting their drinking water from the lake, they’re eating fish from the lake, they recreate on the lake. They want clear water, obviously, so [this project] is a nice way to combine basic science with endeavors to better communities,” she says. Considering that Jess often reminisces about the warmer climate of her grad school days in Arizona, we can’t help but think this project may also offer her a nice fieldwork site this winter!

    Eric PedersenEric Pedersen (Postdoc, Vander Zanden) @ericpedersen
    Eric has been a postdoc at the CFL for two years, where he’s spent his time being, as he puts it, “fascinated” by how the dispersal of species drives changes in populations and how human activity shapes ecosystems.  These interests have led to his own long migration. Originally from Saskatchewan, Eric completed a PhD at McGill University in Montreal before coming to Madison. Now he’s headed off to a new job pretty much at the easternmost point in North America – St. John’s on the coast of Newfoundland. This time, he’ll be modeling the dispersal of and helping manage aquatic invertebrates – chiefly shrimp and lobster fisheries – as a scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada at their Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre. Eric jokes that he fears for his safety, as populations of both invertebrates are declining and he’ll be helping set fishing regulations but, knowing that he’s both a really nice guy and a veteran of scientific research on the Atlantic’s cod population, we think he’ll be okay!

    John RodstromJohn Rodstrom (MS, McIntyre) @migratoryfishes
    John’s current research focuses on species of fishes that spend their adult life in the Great Lakes but must migrate up tributaries in order to reproduce. Which was why he spent the spring wading upstream of dams and road crossings in cold Lake Michigan tributaries “ground truthing” the McIntyre lab’s maps of the fish barriers in the Great Lakes Basin. “What we’re doing,” he says, “is surveying during migration to see how many of these barriers fish are able to pass by. We want to know which barriers are truly barriers to fish migration.” After the spring run, John was back on the road this summer surveying almost 500 dams in the Lake Michigan watershed to further improve the map. It meant a lot of knocking on doors and asking permission to access property, living out of a suitcase and logging well over 5,000 miles on state vehicles.  “The only way work like this gets done,” he says, “ is with a grad student.”

  • Limnology News, Number 24, Fall 2015

    Chelsey BlankeChelsey Blanke (MS, Vander Zanden) @chelseyblanke
    Chelsey is a graduate student in the Freshwater and Marine Sciences (FMS) program who, until recently, spent her days feeding swordfish to guppies and walleye to perch. It wasn’t some weird “Island of Dr. Moreau” thing, though. Chelsey was trying to use isotopic analysis of the resulting fish tissue to see if it properly reflected each fish’s spot in her experiment’s crazy food web. “The idea is that you should be able to go out and grab a fish from any lake, even one you’ve never studied before, and use this analysis to predict where [that fish] sits in the food web,” she explains, which would obviously be huge for our understanding of freshwater ecosystems.  Chelsey is a local and spent her summer, among other things, collaborating on a cool art/science project and hiking Wisconsin trails whenever possible.

    Hilary DuganHilary Dugan (Postdoc, Hanson) @hildug
    Hilary studies how terrestrial and atmospheric changes, such as a warming air temperatures or land use patterns, alter biogeochemical fluxes and aquatic processes in inland waters. While she’s currently working on northern Wisconsin lakes, one of her past research sites was Lake Vida in Antarctica, where she found that the brine beneath the ice was home to some hardy microbes. Hilary’s life in Madison is sedate compared to camping and playing Frisbee on Antarctic lakes, but she’s still up for adventure. In fact, she recently biked from Minneapolis to Madison (well, Elroy, long story) just for fun! Hilary calls Canada “the land of three million lakes” home, but doesn’t want to think about leaving the CFL, “I have been here a little over a year and loved every minute of it. I’m not ready to leave, so don’t ask me what’s next,” she says.

    Etienne Fluet-ChouinardEtienne Fluet-Chouinard (PhD, McIntyre)
    Etienne’s work at the CFL focuses on wetland degradation, freshwater ecosystem stressors and conservation at the global scale.  If it sounds like a big job, it is, which is why Etienne used his masters degree to get a better look at the problem, creating a new, higher-resolution map of the world’s freshwater. The resulting maps zoomed freshwater data points in from 25 square kilometer pixels to data points 500 square meters in size. “That gives you more resolution, and also allows you to distinguish between distinct water bodies and features – which for ecologists is important,” he says. Etienne came to the CFL from McGill University in Montreal.

    Luke LokenLuke Loken (PhD, Stanley) @lokenluke
    As seen previously in this newsletter, Luke had a busy summer, sampling 84 lakes and 1,000+ miles of river. His main fascination is “understanding how biology, geology, and chemistry interact” with aquatic ecosystems. What we see in the water, he explains, is the result of numerous complex processes and as humans continue to directly and indirectly affect aquatic resources, we must understand how these systems respond and will behave in a changing future. Although he hails from South Dakota, Luke hopes to wind up in an agency job in the Pacific Northwest. Luke’s love of freshwater sciences came naturally, he says, “I study rivers and lakes because I have always enjoyed being near them. Some of the best memories growing up were paddling down rivers or spending time along lakes. Why not make a career that allows you to enjoy the places you love?” Can’t argue with that!