2023 Gillum Award for Outstanding Graduate Achievement

by Adam Hinterthuer

In 2021, Sandy Gillum generously worked with TLS to implement the annual Gillum Award for Outstanding Graduate Achievement. Sandy knew that graduate students are at the heart of the TLS community, serving as undergraduate student mentors, driving cutting-edge research and working to chart their future path in the freshwater sciences. With her award, Sandy helped ensure that we are able to foster the careers of these young scientists and recognize achievements in both research and publication in scientific journals. Holly Embke received the first ever Gillum award in 2021 for her deep involvement on station and research on how recreational fishing can impact species of fish, like the Northwood’s iconic walleye.

Joe Mrnak, in camouflage winter gear with hood over his head and wearing sunglasses, sitting in boat on Sparkling Lake holding a very large fish in front of his body.Northern Wisconsin fisheries continued to be a focus in 2022, as the Gillum award went to support Joe Mrnak, a graduate student working with both the CFL and the WI DNR. Joe is researching the role that a lake’s food web structure might play in tipping the balance between native and invasive fishes. One of his recent studies involved stocking Sparkling Lake with a native species of fish called cisco to see if they could help control populations of invasive rainbow smelt and encourage the production of more walleye in the lake. Joe hopes his work can show the importance of a more “whole ecosystem” approach to fisheries management and provide more tools for maintaining healthy fisheries.
“I am very grateful for Sandy and her support,” Joe says. He adds that the award helps him continue to be a mentor to the undergraduate students that work with him. “Mentorship has always been important to me,” Joe says. “The famous quote by Sir Issac Newton always stuck with me, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ I would not be where I am without my countless mentors [and] I try to ‘pay-it-forward’ every chance I get.”