Shedd Expands Conservation Research Team to Preserve Freshwater, Marine Biodiversity

By: Shedd Aquarium Last Updated: March 5, 2019

Shedd-Expands-Conservation-Research-Team-to-Preserve-Freshwater-Marine-BiodiversityThree new research biologists joined the conservation research team at Shedd Aquarium, bringing new areas of expertise in freshwater and marine ecosystems to the aquarium’s Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research. The biologists – Dr. Austin Happel, Dr. Kentaro Inoue, and Dr. Lynn Waterhouse – are set to study aquatic wildlife in urban settings, freshwater mussels in the Great Lakes region and fishes in The Bahamas, respectively. With the continued expansion of the Haerther Center, Shedd aims to study and protect more aquatic animals and their ecosystems.

“In order to protect our planet’s wildlife, we must first understand its complexities and what makes it unique,” said Dr. Chuck Knapp, vice president of conservation research at Shedd Aquarium. “As we add more research biologists to our growing conservation team at Shedd Aquarium, we add decades of expertise in freshwater and marine ecosystems, which can help us preserve biodiversity and ensure a balance between humans and nature.”

Joining the aquarium’s Freshwater Research team are Dr. Austin Happel and Dr. Kentaro Inoue.

Happel will focus on a number of urban freshwater ecology initiatives, drawing on his expertise in native species conservation. Largely, he will focus his research on the Chicago River ecosystem, leading citizen scientists and working with other local collaborators as they collect data about the health of the Chicago River. His surveys will include assessments of the impact of artificial floating islands, such as Shedd’s River Island, installed in 2018 and the destination for the Kayak for Conservation program.

A freshwater ecologist by training, he joins Shedd from Colorado State University where he was an instructor within the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Happel completed his Ph.D. and master’s degree in Nature Resources and Environmental Sciences from the University of Illinois, and a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from Purdue University.

Inoue will study freshwater mussels, which are among the most imperiled organisms in the world. Using both field and laboratory studies, he will aim to understand the environmental challenges that mussels are facing and help to improve their conservation.

Inoue comes to Shedd from Texas A&M University where he was leading efforts to characterize and conserve the genetic diversity of freshwater mussels in Texas. Prior to A&M, Inoue studied European freshwater mussels and fishes in Munich, Germany. He completed his Ph.D. in Zoology at Miami University in Ohio, after receiving his master’s degree in Environmental Sciences and his bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management from Arkansas State University.

“With the addition of Austin and Kentaro to our Freshwater Research team, we add valuable insights into applied conservation strategies in the Great Lakes region,” said Dr. Karen Murchie, director of freshwater research at Shedd Aquarium. “Our Freshwater Research program not only provides a multi-species approach to understanding how human activities and environmental change affect freshwater biodiversity – from mudpuppies to migratory fishes – but also how restoration initiatives in both Forest Preserves and urban rivers can reverse declines.”

Joining the aquarium’s Marine Research team, Dr. Lynn Waterhouse will conduct research on the mid-level predators of the ocean, known as mesopredators, focusing primarily on grouper and snapper species in The Bahamas. Her research will aid the improvement of sustainable fisheries in the region.

Waterhouse joins Shedd from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, where she completed her Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography, focusing her graduate studies on Nassau grouper in the Cayman Islands. Prior to her Ph.D., Lynn completed a master’s degree in Fisheries Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences at The College of William and Mary, another master’s degree in Statistics at Penn State University, and received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Dayton.

“Lynn brings considerable expertise in fisheries stock assessments to Shedd’s Marine Research program,” said Dr. Steve Kessel, director of marine research at Shedd Aquarium. “With the addition of Lynn and her study of Caribbean mesopredators, our suite of research projects will give us insight into the broader ecosystem in the Bahamas, from the corals that supply food and homes for marine fishes all the way up to sharks as the apex predators.”

Shedd’s portfolio of freshwater and marine field research programs aims to advance understanding of wild populations of animals and the threats they face. The team consists of ten research biologists studying white suckers, longnose suckers, mussels, amphibians, mudpuppies and urban aquatic ecosystems in the Great Lakes region, as well as Exuma iguanas, Andros iguanas, queen conch, grouper, spiny lobster, blue crab, snapper, coral, sharks and rays in The Bahamas. The end goal is to develop proactive mitigation and applied management strategies to protect those populations into the future.