Guest Experts: Dr. Carmen Aguilar-Diaz and Dr. Russell Cuhel (Part 1)
Date of Webinar: January 24, 2013, 8:00pm EST
Topic: Invasive Species of the Great Lakes
Title: Lake Michigan Food Web: Basic Structure and Early Alien Incursions
Description: A food web model representing Lake Michigan in the 20th Century will be developed from the ground up. Major drivers of ecosystem function will be sequentially described and incorporated, finally resulting in a 4-dimensional model (time included) of a moderately complex food web. Early nonindigenous species will be brought in in invasion sequence, and various possible scenarios will be developed.
Carmen Aguilar, Assistant Scientist, began with interests in Origins of Life and chemical evolution from early formation of the planet to present hydrothermal systems of Yellowstone Lake. Thesis studies of mineral-organic chemistry earned her both Bachelor’s (1983) and subsequent Master’s (1985) degrees from the National Autonomous University of México (UNAM) in Mexico City. An interdisciplinary outlook, developed through international workshops, lured her from México to the UW-Milwaukee Center for Great Lakes Studies to obtain the Ph.D. in Biological Sciences (Biogeochemistry) in 1992. Biogeochemical Cycling of Manganese in Oneida Lake, New York initiated collaborations with Cornell University scientists, and also marked the beginning of deep involvement in education and outreach through the CGLS Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and community programs. Geobiology and plankton dynamics were further integrated during a 3-year Postdoctoral position jointly sponsored by senior scientist advisors at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (D.C.) and the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Univ. of North Carolina (1993-1996). That research focused on atmospheric deposition (acid rain) as a nutrient source for coastal and open ocean environments including cruises into the Atlantic Ocean before, during, and after hurricanes.
Now an Associate Scientist at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences, her research on biogeochemical cycles is active in several environments. From small kettles like Elkhart Lake to coastal and open-water Lake Michigan, plankton ecology and effects of invasive species including Zebra and Quagga Mussels are major foci. These research sites lend themselves especially well to integration of research and education with learners “K through Gray”. Exploration Aquanauts, a teacher-student program; the National Ocean Science Bowl for high school students; the REU for undergraduates; and Pier Wisconsin with the public are a few of the regular local outlets for her skills and enthusiasm. The Aquanaut program offers teachers an opportunity to participate in ongoing research in Green Can Reef (Lake Michigan) using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) as a high-tech tool for visualization and sampling of local bottom habitats.
Extreme environments continue to intrigue her, and she won support for a continuing study of underwater volcanoes at Yellowstone Lake WY from the National Science Foundation Life in Extreme Environments, which was featured on the WUWM “At Ten” radio series. The work led to an invitation to study hydrothermal vents in the Guaymas Basin (Gulf of California) with the JASON team. Scientific research involved lithotrophic (“rock-eating”) bacteria and education included a variety of media: an oceanography video game, live “chat” from the vessel, and acting as “host scientist” for a JASON aquatic science study comparing local and marine sites (Bermuda) . These and many other activities in both aquatic scientific research and K through Gray education identify Carmen’s role in creating a better community.
Russell L. Cuhel, Senior Scientist, was born and raised in Hollywood CA and rode a 3-speed bicycle to the La Brea Tar Pits to study gas as a boy. He had already gathered over 150 days at sea, mostly in Antarctica with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and 6 peer-reviewed publications before he finished his Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Chemistry at the UC San Diego (1975).
As a graduate student in Marine Microbiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1975-1981), he studied extreme environments, which continues as a passion to this day. Next, research work at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (U. Miami 1981-1989) added another 600 days at sea covering most of the world’s oceans, and a yearlong time series on Lake Ontario that incited interest in freshwater ecosystems as well. Adept at bench research, he began to include research education (high school to graduate student levels) as a major, well-integrated component of his service to UWM beginning in 1990. He and Carmen Aguilar brought the only freshwater Oceanography site of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates to national recognition. Innovative integration of the REU education program and NSF-funded research on Yellowstone Lake hydrothermal vents allowed students to work side by side with active scientists in crosscutting and environmentally relevant disciplines (geochemistry, geology, chemistry, microbiology, policy, engineering).
Such Interdisciplinary Approaches are also the core of his diverse research programs, which include year-round sampling in Lake Michigan, Wisconsin Inland Lakes, Yellowstone Lake, and several marine sites including the Guaymas Basin hydrothermal system. Community outreach is also a critical component of UWM’s mission, and Cuhel and Aguilar are reliably present as educators at a variety of community functions. Peer review of proposals and manuscripts, panel participation at funding agencies, and chairing of annual undergraduate research poster sessions at national meetings provides a taste of widely-recognized national service, all undertaken in the name of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Great Lakes Studies (now School of Freshwater Sciences).
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