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.

Professor Emeritus

Teaching emphasis is on the application of ecological knowledge to species conservation and ecosystem management. Research interests center on the influence of human activities on the condition of rivers and their watersheds, including the effects of land use on stream health, assessment of variation in flow regime, and estimation of nutrient loads and budgets. Additional, collaborative activities are directed at the translation of aquatic science into useful products for management, conservation, and restoration of running waters. 

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

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.

Professor and Director, Cooperative Institute for Limnology & Ecosystems Research; Director of the University of Michigan Water Center

Dr. Burton is a Professor in the School of Natural Resources & Environment and also in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, and Director of the Cooperative Institute of Limnology and Ecosystems Research at the University of Michigan.  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. His research on ecological risk assessment, sediment quality criteria, and aquatic ecosystem stressors has taken him to all seven continents with Visiting Scientist positions in Denmark, New Zealand, Italy and Portugal.  His research has focused on sediment and stormwater contaminants and understanding bioavailability processes, effects and ecological risk at multiple trophic levels, and ranking stressor importance in human dominated watersheds.  He is Editor-in-Chief of the international journal, Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, past president of the Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, and has served on numerous national and international panels with over 160 peer-reviewed publications.  


I use theory, experiments, and observational studies to address questions aimed at understanding how human alteration of the environment impacts the biotic diversity of communities and, in turn, how this loss can affect fluxes of energy and matter that are required to sustain life on the planet. I focus on this topic because I believe that global loss of biodiversity ranks among the most important and dramatic environmental problems in modern history.

Associate Professor

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

I am a Professor of Natural Resources, as well as Director of the Michigan Sea Grant Program, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. My 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 most important 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. My 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. My research focus in fish ecology is on the management, restoration, and rehabilitation of wild populations that have been inevitably influenced by human disturbance. My teaching is in Aquatic Sciences, in particular, courses in Ecology of Fishes and Sustainable Aquaculture. In addition, I supervise 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), Food Land and Society (Environ 318) and Field Ecology (SNRE 556). She is co-author of three books, Breakfast of Biodiversity,  Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty, and the forthcoming Coffee Agroecology.

Assistant Research Scientist

I am 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 ecosystems. A large part of my work has been to develop 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.

Professor Emeritus

Paul Webb holds a joint appointment with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Teaching includes Ecological Issues and mainly independent studies and projects, especially with undergraduates on aquatic restoration. Research includes physiological ecology and functional morphology of aquatic vertebrates, primarily fishes. Research seeks to identify and understand fundamental principles of energetics and form and function, which in turn affect distributions of fishes and their populations and assemblages. These interests are currently focusing on how physical factors shape shorelines and hence shoreline fish communities, affecting management and restoration. Another area of research concerns factors that affect fish assemblages in coastal marshes. Much of these researches are done in collaboration with faculty in the engineering school.


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.