Freshwater Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Lab

Lab Overview

We help ensure that Minnesota and Great Lakes aquatic resources are being used in sustainable ways, and that restoration activities truly achieve their goals. Our team specializes in research on the ecology of aquatic macroinvertebrate and fish assemblages and assessing the condition of their habitat in streams, the nearshore area of lakes, wetlands, including Great Lakes coastal wetlands. We excel at the design of experimental and monitoring studies, including designing and performing Before-After Control-Impact (BACI) studies to assess restoration and recovery efforts, identifying stressors that may be affecting aquatic resources, assessing the condition of aquatic ecosystems using fish and aquatic invertebrates, and determining the effects of aquatic invasive species on ecosystems and food webs.

Our team includes aquatic macroinvertebrate taxonomists certified by the Society for Freshwater Science and researchers with strong statistical skills. In addition, we pride ourselves on our quality control and quality assurance measures. Our clients are assured of high quality data and results. We have compiled and maintain decades worth of historic local data that allow us to put current results into historical context.

Lab Goals

We use aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish to assess the condition of Minnesota’s and the Great Lakes aquatic ecosystems. This includes assessing how well we humans are doing at meeting sustainable use goals, improving aquatic ecosystems through restoration activities, and understanding the effects of aquatic invasive species.

Capabilities, Expertise, Services

  • Wetland, stream, and lake nearshore fish sampling and community assessment with various methods (minnow traps, seine nets, fyke nets, backpack electrofishing, snorkeling, and environmental DNA)
  • Fish identification (certifications from the Royal Ontario Museum)
  • Experienced with fish aging and gut-content analysis
  • Aquatic invertebrate and zooplankton identification by Society for Freshwater Science-certified taxonomists
  • Aquatic invasive species research including eDNA, spread prevention, and assessment of effects
  • Fish and invertebrate habitat assessment in streams and wetlands
  • Aquatic plant and algal sampling in collaboration with the NRRI paleoecology group
  • Water quality sampling in collaboration with the NRRI Analytical Lab 
  • Food web assessment using stable isotopes
  • Study design to ensure client-requested sampling will answer their questions and meet their objectives with statistical rigor
  • Data management including data quality assurance based on EPA standards
  • Data analysis, interpretation, and professional report preparation

Additionally we maintain a fleet of research boats and have a wide variety of sampling gear for fish, aquatic invertebrates, zooplankton, and habitat assessment. 

Research Projects

  1. Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program funded by USEPA Great Lakes National Program Office, 2010 - 2025
  2. Which angling gear creates the highest risk of spread of the invasive spiny water flea? Funded by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, 2017-2022
  3. Optimizing eDNA Detection of Multiple AIS. Funded by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, 1/1/2021 - 12/31/2022.

Research Projects

A risk-based classification and map of watersheds contributing anthropogenic stress to Great Lakes coastal ecosystems.

Helping decision-makers prioritize where to restore and protect wetlands in Minnesota.

A comprehensive aquatic invasive species (AIS) presence database for St. Louis County lakes to help identify which may be at risk for new AIS introduction.