Catching Up With Alumni

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

2023 - Aaron Koning

Aaron and his wife and daughter smiling at the camera with river and landscape in backgroundCatching Up With Alumnus Aaron Koning

Earlier this year, Aaron Koning was awarded the Hynes Award for New Investigators by the Society for Freshwater Science for a paper he published in Nature. We thought that was a good excuse to catch up and see where he is these days!

Where are you now and what are you up to?
I am currently at the University of Nevada in Reno working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Wonders of the Mekong Project funded by the United States Agency for International Development and led by CFL alums, Zeb Hogan and Sudeep Chandra. Next June I will transition to a Teaching Assistant Professor position in the Department of Biology here, where I’ll be teaching ichthyology, introductory ecology and evolutionary biology, and a field methods course up near Lake Tahoe. 

What led you to study at the CFL?
I had been working with a study abroad program in Thailand that worked with American college students and introduced them to concepts in sustainability while spending lots of time living with Thai and Indigenous communities. I realized I liked this style of teaching and recognized I’d need a PhD to continue teaching at the college level. My decision to come to the CFL had to do with the reputation of the Center and the broader University, as well as finding an advisor there who was willing to take a risk on a student in Thailand with rather limited research experience!

Any fond memories?
 I have lots of fond memories of the CFL including going on the Sapelo Island field course, celebrations at the Terrace following successful proposal and thesis defenses (as well as paper rejections), and lively conversations with other students. I still use the standing desk I made to let me sneak a peak of Lake Mendota while writing my dissertation in the office next to Professor Stanley’s!

What’s next?
I’m wrapping up some projects from our work in Cambodia, including a paper with Luke Loken, with whom I graduated from the CFL and I’ll soon be starting a new project in my Thai study sites with a colleague from Oxford University. I’m also doing my best to support my partner, Stephanie (UW Ph.D. Population Health, M.S. Sociology 2018), who recently started an Assistant Professorship in UNR’s School of Public Health, and daughter, Ada (7), who is gearing up for her second winter on skis!

2022 - Elena Bennett

Catching Up with Alumnus Elena Bennett

Where are you now and what are you up to?
I am a Professor at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. I’m jointly appointed to the Department of Natural Resource Sciences and the Bieler School of Environment. I’m running a pan-Canadian network called “ResNet”, which does stakeholder-driven science in working landscapes (agriculture, fisheries, timber, and energy production areas) with the goal of improving understanding [of] ecosystem services in human-occupied lands. I’m also a coordinating lead author on an intergovernmental report, working with Oonsie Biggs (another former CFL PhD student). 

What led you to study at the CFL?

I came to Wisconsin thinking I might work on environmental history. In my first semester, I saw there was a new course being offered called “Lakes and Society.” I thought I would go check it out. The first day’s lecture was given by Steve Carpenter, and boy was I ever hooked!

Any fond memories you’d like to share? 

{I got to] my desk one morning after a really, really hard day the day before, to find that another student (Chris Harvey) had made me a little clay T.Rex holding a sign that said, “the next time you have a bad day, let Tyrannosaurus Rex chase it away!”. I still have that T Rex on my desk just in case! It is interesting to realize how many of the things I learned at CFL –scientific learning as well as knowledge about how to be a good scientist and a good person – are central to who I am and what I do today. 

Also, I’m still married to the guy I met in Wisconsin (Jeff Cardille, who was a postdoc with Steve and also with Monica Turner), and we have two kids, Talia (15) and Simon (13). They definitely keep me busy.

What’s next?

I’m running a pan-Canadian network called “ResNet”, which does stakeholder-driven science in working landscapes (agriculture, fisheries, timber, and energy production areas) with the goal of improving understanding [of] ecosystem services in human-occupied lands. I’m also a coordinating lead author on an intergovernmental report, working with Oonsie Biggs (another former CFL PhD student). And, in my free time, I’ve found a new sport that I do with colleagues at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics called SwimRun. The idea is that you run across an island in the Swedish archipelago, then swim to the next island, run across that one, swim to the next one, and so on!

2020 - Jim Cloern

Jim Cloern aboard a USGS research vessel in San Francisco Bay

Catching Up With Alumnus Jim Cloern

Where are you now and what are you up to?
I live in the San Francisco Bay area, retired after 43 years at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) where I directed a research program on San Francisco Bay to understand how estuaries are changed by human activities like introductions of non-native species, river damming, water diversions, nutrient enrichment and landscape change as well as understanding variability of the climate system from events like heat waves, floods and king tides.

What led you to study at the CFL and fond memories?
I  had a great biology teacher at New Berlin high school and came to UW in 1966 already thinking about a Biology major. I was completely hooked after taking Intro Biology but had no idea where that interest would go until I took the Limnology course taught by Professors Arthur Hasler and John Magnuson. That course, followed by Fisheries Biology (Professor Magnuson) and Zooplankton Ecology (newly hired Professor Stanley Dodson) sparked a life-long passion for the aquatic sciences and gave me the foundation for graduate studies culminating in a Ph.D. from Washington State Univ. My memories of life at UW during the late 1960s are indelibly etched in my brain. I remember a meeting in Professor Hasler’s office, looking out his window onto Lake Mendota and thinking this is cool — how do I get to do this? I found the answer. Madison, Wisconsin is a special place, and its surrounding lakes provide a magical setting for the study of Limnology.

How have you been spending your time in this year of the pandemic?
We have spent most of 2020 safely distanced in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I’m fully engaged as a research scientist, editing ASLO’s newest journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters (please submit CFL!), serving on advisory committees for California and NSF, continuing to write in USGS San Francisco Bay research.

2019 - Gretchen Hansen

Gretchen with husband Jon and daughters Ada and Billie

Catching Up With Alumnus Gretchen Hansen
(Ph.D., Vander Zanden; Postdoc, Carpenter) @gretchen_H2O

Where are you now and what are you currently working on?
I am an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. The work in my lab focuses on how lake and fish communities are changing as a result of climate, land use, and invasive species; what makes some lakes more resilient to change than others; and how management can facilitate adaptation and promote resilience.

What led you to study at the CFL back in your grad school days?
After doing my master’s at Michigan State University, I was interested in doing a Ph.D. in a program that would increase my training in ecology to compliment my training in quantitative fisheries science. The CFL’s reputation as the premier place to study freshwater ecology combined with the opportunity to live in Madison made it a great place to pursue my graduate work.

How do you spend your non-limnological time?
Most of my non-limnological time is spent enjoying time at home and outside with my husband and two daughters, playing and coaching hockey, and teaching my new course on science and critical thinking in the information age.

2018 - Lucas Joppa

Lucas Joppa (Research Assistant, Vander Zanden)

Where are you now and what are you up to?
I’m currently serving as the Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft in Redmond, WA. After finishing my undergraduate degree at UW-Madison in Wildlife Ecology, doing a stint in the Peace Corps in Malawi and getting my Ph.D. in Ecology at Duke, I moved to Microsoft Research to lead research programs at the intersection of environmental and computer science. I now oversee environmental sustainability for Microsoft’s global operations, as well as run Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Earth, a cross-company program dedicated to deploying Microsoft’s 35 years of investments in AI research and technology to change the way society monitors, models and ultimately manages Earth’s natural resources.

What led you to study at the Center for Limnology (CFL)?
Ichthyology! I loved that Jim Kitchell and CFL still taught the time-honored traditions of the standard “ologies” and that started my time at CFL. I was exceptionally fortunate to spend much more time in the Center as a research associate with Jake Vander Zanden, who taught me so much about what it takes to be a scientist who practices both theory and application. And I grew up in Price County, WI not far from Trout Lake Station, so even before I knew anything about the CFL. Maybe it was the subliminal messages from my childhood?

Is there anything you learned at the CFL that’s been helpful in your current pursuits?
So much. I learned what science is, and how to practice it. I learned what computer science is, and how it relates to the natural sciences. And I saw how technology can accelerate scientific inquiry. Is it any wonder I chose the career path I did after my time at CFL?

2017 - Chris Harvey

Chris Harvey
(PhD 2001, Kitchell)
Where are you now and what are you up to?
Since 2001, I’ve worked at the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, where I’m a marine ecosystem ecologist. I lead a small team studying marine communities in Puget Sound and along the West Coast. I’m also one of the science leads of the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment project, a NOAA-led effort to provide quantitative, integrative science support for ecosystem-based management.

What led you to study at the CFL?
I am an Ohio native but ricocheted all over the country as I was growing up and when I was in school. The basic order (using state postal codes) was OH-CA-AZ-NC-WA-MA-WI-WA, with extended forays to OR, MD, AK and Sweden. So, I’m from Ohcaazncwamawiwaormdaksweden. A mentor encouraged me to apply to the CFL when I was looking at Ph.D. programs; I told her I was interested in aquatic food web studies and where I was thinking of applying, and she said, “Why the heck aren’t you applying to Wisconsin?!?” It turned out to be some of the best and most important guidance of my life.

Is there anything you learned at the CFL that’s been helpful in your current pursuits?
I would be hard-pressed to name something from CFL that HASN’T helped me. Core principles of ecology, the value of cross-disciplinary collaborative research, the essential and rejuvenating importance of side projects, appreciating interactions between natural and social systems…the list could go on and on.

Any funny/momentous memories from your time with us in Madison?
One Friday night, a group of students and post-docs went over to the Union Terrace. In the course of a conversation, I said the single funniest thing I’ve ever said in my life…it was so funny that it caused Tim Essington to spit his drink all over Elena Bennett. Thanks to that, I immediately forgot whatever it was I said. Someday I’m going to pay a hypnotist to help me recall what it was, because I mean it: it was comedy gold.

2016 - Cailin Huyck Orr, Norman Mercado-Silva, Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs

Cailin Huyck Orr
(MS 2002, PhD 2005, Stanley)
Cailin Huyck Orr, following postdoc positions at the University of North Carolina and the University of Minnesota, spent 5 years as an assistant professor in the School of the Environment at Washington State University. Returning to her alma matter in 2014, she is now the Assistant Director of the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College. SERC works with partners from 2- and 4-year institutions across the US to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning at the undergraduate level. Cailin’s current work is focused on supporting faculty in making program-scale changes to meet institutional goals such as increasing diversity of STEM majors, producing workforce-ready graduates and incorporating evidence-based practices into teaching. More information about this work, professional development opportunities, and teaching resources can be found on the SERC website.

Norman Mercado – Silva
(PhD 2005, Vander Zanden)
Norman joined the Center for Research in Biodiversity and Conservation at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, in Cuernavaca (City of Eternal Spring), Morelos, Mexico, as a Research Professor in 2015. He was part of a multidisciplinary legal team awarded the Conservationist of the Year Award from the Arizona-New Mexico Chapter of the American Fisheries Society for helping in the protection of streamflows in Cherry Creek and Aravaipa Creek, Arizona in 2016.

Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs
(PhD 2008, Carpenter)
Oonsie took up a postdoc after completing her PhD, and later a full-time research position at the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden. Here she led the development of a systematic synthesis of regime shifts ( and their impacts on ecosystem services and human well-being. Growing from her involvement in the Resilience Alliance Young Scientists network, Oonsie also led an edited volume that synthesized and critically assessed seven key principles for building resilience in social-ecological systems (published by Cambridge University Press in 2015). In 2012 she picked up her research connections back home in South Africa by initiating the Southern African Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (, linked to the international Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS) ( program which is a core project of Future Earth. In 2015 Oonsie was nominated for and awarded a prestigious South African Research Chair in Social-Ecological Systems and Resilience, and is now based in Stellenbosch University close to Cape Town, in a new flagship centre of the university, the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition. She retains a joint appointment at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and continues to be actively involved in collaborative grants and the PECS program. If you are ever in South Africa, please visit!

Additional alumni news…

Elena Bennett (MS 1999, PhD 2002, Carpenter) was awarded the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship.

2015 - Tim Essington, Doug Beard

Tim Essington
(PhD 1999, Kitchell)
Tim Essington is a Professor at the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. He is presently the Associate Director of the School, and the Director of the Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management Interdisciplinary Research program. His office is situated immediately between CFL alumuni Daniel Schindler (PhD) and Julian Olden (Postdoc), so their portion of the hallway comprises the “CFL West Campus.”  His current work is focused on the improved application of ecological principles into the management of marine fisheries, and developing a better understanding of how novel stressors (hypoxia, ocean acidification, climate change) will alter coastal marine food webs.  He presently serves on several advisory bodies, including the Technical Advisory Board of the Marine Stewardship Council (the world’s largest seafood eco-labelling organization), the Puget Sound Partnership Science Panel, and is on more editorial boards than he cares to admit.

Doug Beard
(PhD 2002, Carpenter)
Doug completed his PhD in 2003, while working for the WDNR as the treaty fisheries program manager.  In 2003, he moved to the USGS Headquarters in Reston, VA, starting as manager of the National Aquatic Gap and Fisheries Informatics program manager.  He moved on to manage the entire Fisheries program for USGS and over the last five years, was asked by the USGS to lead the development of the National Climate Change & Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC).  His main task during this time was to lead the Department of Interior’s Climate Science Centers, a priority initiative for DOI.  He just completed a seven month stint as the Associate Director for Climate and Land Use, where most of this time was spent on the Land Sat satellite program in USGS.  Now back to his job as chief of NCCWSC, he looks forward to spending more time on a global inland fisheries initiative that he’s co-leading with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Administration and Michigan State University.

Additional alumni news…

Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs (PhD 2008, Carpenter) has published a new textbook Principles for Building Resilience: Sustaining Ecosystem Services in Social-Ecological Systems.

Julian Olden (Postdoc 2004-2006, Vander Zanden), Associate Professor, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences is co-director of the new Center for Creative Conservation at the University of Washington.

Brian Roth (PhD 2005, Kitchell), Associate Professor, Fisheries & Wildlife, appears in the June 2015 Delta Sky magazine ad for Michigan State University.

Daniel Schindler (MS 1986, PhD 1990, Frost and Magnuson, Postdoc 1991, Kitchell) was named the 2015 Frank Rigler Award recipient.

Pat Soranno (MS 1991, PhD 1995, Carpenter, Postdoc 1995-96, Kratz) has been appointed as the founding Editor-in-Chief of ASLO’s Limnology & Oceanography Letters.


Daniel Schneider
(MS 1986, PhD 1990, Frost and Magnuson, Postdoc 1991, Kitchell)
Daniel is a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and a scientist at the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois. He just finished up two years as interim department head, first of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and then of the Department of Landscape Architecture. He learned a lot, but is looking forward to getting back to his regular research
and teaching. He has been concentrating his research these days on environmental history. He recently completed a book, Hybrid Nature: Sewage Treatment and the Contradictions of the Industrial Ecosystem (MIT Press, 2011), on the history of biological sewage treatment. It received the George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book in environmental history from the American Society of Environmental History.
Peter Inskip
(MS 1980, Magnuson)
Following temporary appointments as a foreign fishery observer with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Alaska (1980) and as a fish ecologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Colorado (1981-82), Peter returned to graduate school to do a doctoral program in
epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He began working in the Radiation Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics in the National Cancer Institute in 1987, where he has remained, with the exception of a three-year interlude (1995-98) as an Associate Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. Peter currently is a Senior Investigator at NCI, where his research has most recently focused on the study of radiation-related second primary cancers in childhood cancer survivors and the etiology of brain tumors in adults. He began the latter line of research in response to public and Congressional concerns about the possible risk of brain cancer in relation to exposure to radio frequency radiation from cellular telephones. Peter lives in Rockville, Maryland. His hobbies include fishing and canoeing.
Chris Luecke
(Postdoc 1986-87)
Chris is currently Dean of the Quinney College of Natural Resources at Utah State University. Part of his duties are to oversee undergraduate degrees in Fisheries and Watershed Sciences, and graduate degrees in Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries Biology. Chris thinks fondly of his days at the CFL and is glad to see the continued vigor of the aquatic sciences programs at UW. The Quinney College is very pleased to be adding CFL recent graduate Jereme Gaeta to their faculty ranks this fall.
Additional alumni news
Pat Soranno gave a plenary lecture at the 2014 Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting.
Kathy Cottingham was a plenary speaker at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.
Shelley Arnott, Daniel Schindler, and Peter Leavitt were invited speakers at the Society of Canadian Limnologists/Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution/Canadian Society of Zoologists meeting in Montréal.


Pat Soranno
(M.S. 1991 and Ph.D. 1995, Carpenter; Post-doc 1995-1996 Kratz)
Pat Soranno is a Professor in Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University, although she studies neither fish nor wildlife. Never-the-
less, she finds the department to be an excellent fit for her approach to science that she learned from her time at the CFL – one in which both basic and applied research is necessary to solve problems, communication and engagement with stakeholders is valued, and where science is fun (or, at least should be).  She is leading a recent NSF-funded Macrosystems Biology grant (with a few folks from the CFL cur-
rently) to further develop the ideas of landscape limnology and to use lakes as model systems for helping to develop the emerging field of Macrosystems Ecology.
Beth Sanderson
(Ph.D. 1998, Magnuson and Frost)
Beth Sanderson is a Fisheries Research Biologist with NOAA Fisheries in Seattle, WA. Her research team investigates factors that in
fluence growth, distribution, and survival of commercially and culturally important species such as Pacific salmon. She is using long-term
field data collected in the Salmon River Basin, Idaho, to examine linkages between growth & survival of juvenile salmon and habitat condition. Ironically, one of the factors that Beth investigates is the role of popular non-native recreational fish species that were introduced from the eastern US in the early part of last century (smallmouth bass, brook trout, and walleye for example). The lessons she learned volunteering with the ‘Baylis Bass Crew’ at Trout Lake have proved invaluable in her NW research. Beth visited her parents in Cable, Wisconsin, this summer (along with her husband and two kids) and proudly reports that the first fish caught by her son was a 12 inch smallmouth bass!
Jim Lorman
(M.S. 1975, Ph.D. 1980, Magnuson)
Jim Lorman is Professor of Biology at Edgewood College, where he has taught for 32 years. Jim developed an interdisciplinary graduate program Sustainability Leadership at Edgewood in 2010 and currently serves as the lead faculty and Academic Director for that program.
This work supports his passion for collaborative community projects aimed at planning and implementing sustainable practices, especially in the area of watershed management. This work is also related to and supported by his leadership in the Friends of Lake Wingra, his previous role as a member of the Dane County Lakes & Watershed Commission, and his participation in a number of community organi-
zations and government-sponsored committees, including the Capital Region Sustainable Communities, Clean Lakes Alliance, Gardens for Empowerment, and Wisconsin Green Tier. Jim and his wife, Anne Forbes (whom he met at the Center for Limnology in 1973 and married in 1981), are enjoying their first grandchild, born this past July.
Additional alumni news…

Elena Bennett (M.S. 1999, Ph.D. 2002, Carpenter) was McGill’s 2013 recipient of the Carrie M. Derick Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching & Supervisio n. She also received an award for undergraduate teaching on campus in the past year, and was selected as one of the top 40 scientists under 40 by the IAP Global network of Science Academies.

Graeme Cumming (Post Doc 1999-2001, Carpenter) received the South African Association for the Advancement of Science British Association Medal for 2013.

Pieter Johnson (Ph.D. 2006, Carpenter) has been named an Early Career Fellow by the Ecological Society of America (ESA). He also received ESA’s George Mercer Award for his 2012 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.