Conservation Ecology Faculty Profiles

Associate Research Scientist

I investigate processes at the ecosystem level using statistical modelling. My main interest in research is to understand ecological processes and population dynamics of aquatic organisms at the ecosystem level, in particular those aspects that are relevant to resource management. Recently I have been investigating spatial and temporal scales needed to study the spatial distribution of fish abundance and obtain indices of abundance of fish populations in marine and freshwater ecosystems. Since fish, as other aquatic organisms, cannot be directly observed large scale population studies must rely on analysis of data from scientific surveys or commercial operations. The analysis of this information requires specialized statistical modeling. Currently my focus is in the Great Lakes.

Research Scientist, Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research

Dr. Beletsky has been with the SNRE Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (joint Institute between University of Michigan and NOAA) since 1995. His research expertise lies in the hydrodynamics of lakes and coupling lake physics with biological processes. Since the beginning of his career in limnology in Russia, he has worked on hydrodynamics and climatology of several large lakes in Europe (Ladoga and Onega), North America (Lake Champlain, Lake St. Clair, Lakes Michigan, Erie, Ontario and Huron), and the Baltic Sea. His major scientific interest is climatology and long-term changes of circulation patterns in the Great Lakes

Associate Research Scientist

I am affiliated with the SNRE Environmental Spatial Analysis Laboratory (ESALab) and the Children's Environmental Health Initiative (CEHI; a partnership of Rice University, the University of Michigan SNRE & Medical School, and Duke University). 

I am an ecologist who combines field and geospatial data and methods to study the pattern and process of ecological systems, biodiversity and health. I also strive to build bridges between science and social science. What motivates my work is recognition of the complexity of the relationship of humans and ecological systems. These relationships and their emergent properties can be studied at different spatial scales and levels of biological organization. Knowledge gained from field studies, geospatial data, and analysis can be used to build models that help scientists and to understand the implications of human actions on the social and natural systems of which they are a part and particularly on health of people and ecosystems.

Assistant Professor

As a broadly trained agroecologist, I use interdisciplinary research approaches to understand how different agrifood systems impact ecological and social processes. My ecological research focuses on soil nitrogen and carbon biogeochemical cycles, agroecosystem nutrient management, and legume nitrogen fixation. Current projects include assessing the socioecological resilience of family farms in Brazil, and research in the U.S. centered on cropping system diversification through winter cover crops and improving nitrogen retention in farm fields.


Research interests focus on land use change and its effects on ecosystems and on human vulnerability. This work connects a computer-based simulation (e.g., agent-based modeling) of land-use-change processes with GIS and remote sensing based data on historical patterns of landscape change and social surveys. We are working to couple these models with GIS-based data and other models to evaluate consequences of change. We are also working to understand the ways in which land-use decisions are made. Collaborative research investigate the effects of spatial and social neighborhoods on the physical and social risks on human health.


Dr. Burton is a Professor in the School of Natural Resources & Environment and also in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences.  He has an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Roskilde (Denmark), is a Concurrent Professor at Nanjing University, and an Honorary Professor at the State Key Laboratory of Environmental Criteria and Risk Assessment in Beijing China.

Assistant Professor

Bilal Butt is an assistant professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and a faculty affiliate of the African Studies Center. Bilal is a people-environment geographer with regional specialization in sub-Saharan Africa and technical expertise in geospatial technologies (GPS, GIS & Remote Sensing), ecological monitoring and social-scientific appraisals. His general research interests lie at the intersection of the natural and social sciences to answer questions of how people and wildlife are coping with, and adapting to changing climates, politics, livelihoods and ecologies in arid and semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa.  His current projects investigate: (1) the spatiality of livelihood strategies (resource access and utilization) among pastoral peoples under regimes of increasing climatic variability and uncertainty; (2) the nature of the relationships between wildlife and livestock in dry land pastoral ecosystems of East Africa - examining questions of wildlife-livestock competition; (3) violent and non-violent conflicts over natural resources, and; (4) how mobile information technologies such as cell phones influence natural resource management strategies among pastoral peoples in dry lands.

Professor and Director, Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystem Research (CILER)

I am an ecologist who uses mathematical models, novel experiments, observational studies and meta-analyses of existing data to examine how human activities impact biological diversity, and to predict how changes in biodiversity affect the goods and services ecosystems provide to humanity.  My research, teaching, and professional service are all tied together by a common thread, which is to produce and distribute the knowledge needed to conserve and restore the variety of life on Earth.


Bill studies the linkages among carbon, nutrient, and water cycling and energy flows and transformations in terrestrial ecosystems and human-environment systems.  He is interested in using our current understanding of ecosystems to explore creative, new understanding of the two-way interactions in human-environment systems.  He works at scales from field plots to landscapes, collaborating with other researchers and students to integrate understanding and build models for synthesis.  The goal of this research is to contribute to the developing field of sustainability science using an approach that grows out of ecosystem science. 

Professor and Director of Michigan Sea Grant

Jim Diana is a Professor of Fisheries and Aquaculture, as well as Director of the Michigan Sea Grant Program, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. His research focuses on aquatic animals and their interactions with the environment. This is expressed in two major research areas: sustainable aquaculture and its role in feeding the world, and the ecology of natural fish populations, particularly in the Great Lakes region. As aquaculture is the dominant means of producing seafood today, its environmental impacts are important, and we need to understand and remediate them in order to more sustainably produce aquaculture crops. Jim’s research focuses on the interaction between aquaculture practices and environmental impacts and seeks to find solutions for more sustainable production in the future. Secondly, human impacts on natural systems have resulted in dramatic declines in many fish species throughout the world, particularly in the Great Lakes region. His research focus in fish ecology is on the management, restoration, and rehabilitation of wild populations inevitably influenced by human disturbance. Jim’s teaching is in Aquatic Sciences, in particular, courses in Ecology and Biology of Fishes and Sustainable Aquaculture. In addition, he supervises research of a large number of graduate students in Aquatic Sciences.

Associate Professor

Research in the lab focuses on fundamental conservation biology questions and on issues related to the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases. Major research projects examine how habitat fragmentation, invasive organisms and global climate change result in species extinction. Other projects address questions regarding the impact of diseases on wildlife populations and the environmental causes leading to disease emergence.

Associate Professor

My major research interests focus on the current challenges that plant communities are facing in the context of global change, i.e. climate change, invasive species, and landscape fragmentation. These challenges are interconnected as they form the novel environment under which plants are growing. The fact that forest communities are highly dependent on recruitment dynamics makes the study of early demographic stages critical for understanding the impact of global change on the natural ecosystems around us.

Research Scientist & Director of Academic Programs, Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research

Dr. Johengen is an Associate Research Scientist and Associate Director of the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER), which is a NOAA Joint Institute program at the University of Michigan with the NOAA-Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory serving as the host lab. CILER's research activities are focused around five themes including: Climate and Large-Lake Dynamics, Coastal and Nearshore Processes, Lare-Lake Ecosystem Structure and Function, Remote Sensing, and Marine Environmental Engineering. Dr. Johengen's individual research interests focus on nutrient cycling and lower food-web dynamics in the Great Lakes, controlling the introduction of invasive species, and development of in situ water quality sensors and observing systems.


Today, as we face conservation issues in sustainability, few of us realize how important human behavior is in conservation, and further, how, because the desire for “more” of any resources was favored throughout our evolution, harvesting sustainably may be difficult to achieve.  I work in evolutionary and behavioral ecology, studying resource control and reproductive success in vertebrates, including humans; I integrate evolutionary theory and resource management, studying resources and reproductive variance, and reproductive and resource tradeoffs for modern women.


Ivette Perfecto is the George W. Pack Professor of Ecology, Natural Resources and Environment. Her research focuses on biodiversity and arthropod-mediated ecosystem services in rural and urban agriculture. She also works on spatial ecology of the coffee agroecosystem and is interested more broadly on the links between small-scale sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and food sovereignty. She teaches Our Common Future (a course on globalization) (Environ 270), Diverse Farming Systems (SNRE 553), Field Ecology (SNRE 556). She is co-author of three books, Breakfast of Biodiversity,  Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty, and Coffee Agroecology.

Assistant Research Scientist

Catherine Riseng is an Assistant Research Scientist an aquatic ecologist with specific focus on fluvial ecosystems and benthic invertebrate ecology. I am interested in assessing and understanding the effects of human landscape alteration on river and lake ecosystems. My work has included landscape-based models of riverine condition using biological indicators and regression-based models that predict expected condition for rivers of Michigan and Wisconsin.

Professor and Director of the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute

Research interests include the effects of natural and anthropogenic stresses on Great Lakes and marine ecosystems, with a focus on the use of models and integrated assessments in transferring knowledge to the decision-making process. Teaching interests include the roles of conveying uncertainty, peer review, stakeholder input, interpreting trends, prediction, scale, and government interaction in developing and applying Integrated Scientific Assessments.


Teaching involves various aspects of aquatic  ecology. Research interests include ecology of rivers and lakes, watershed management, community dynamics and population regulation, trout stream food webs, behavioral adaptations of aquatic insects, fish-invertebrate interactions, and fisheries management in North America and SE Asia.

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Burton V. Barnes Collegiate Professor of Ecology

Don Zak holds a joint appointment in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, College of Literature, Science, and Arts. His research investigates links between the composition and function of soil microbial communities and the influence of microbial activity on ecosystem-level processes. This work draws on ecology, microbiology, and biochemistry and is focused at several scales of understanding, ranging from the molecular to the ecosystem scale. Current research centers on understanding the link between plant and microbial activity within terrestrial ecosystems, and the influence climate change may have on these dynamics. Teaching includes courses in soil ecology and ecosystem ecology.

Assistant Research Scientist, Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research

Dr. Zhang’s research interests focus on investigating ecosystem responses to singular or combined natural and anthropogenic stressors including eutrophication, invasive species, contaminants, climate change, and land-use change, and how the understandings of those responses will help to enhance lake resources management and habitat restoration.  Dr. Zhang has been using numerical models (e.g., water quality model, Ecopath with Ecosim, and the Atlantis Ecosystem Model) to study the Laurentian Great Lakes Ecosystems.