“Shedd Aquarium Expands Conservation Team,” by S.M. O’Connor

Three new research biologists joined the John G. Shedd Aquarium’s conservation research team: Dr. Austin Happel, Dr. Kentaro Inoue, and Dr. Lynn Waterhouse.  They bring new areas of expertise in freshwater and marine ecosystems to the Shedd Aquarium’s Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research.  Dr. Happel will study aquatic wildlife in urban settings, while Dr. Inoue will study freshwater mussels in the Great Lakes, and Dr. Waterhouse will study fishes in The Bahamas.  With the continued expansion of the Haerther Center, the Shedd Aquarium aspires to both study and protect more aquatic animals the ecosystems in which they live.

“In order to protect our planet’s wildlife, we must first understand its complexities and what makes it unique,” stated Dr. Chuck Knapp, Vice President of Conservation Research at the 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.”

Doctors Austin Happel and Kentaro Inoue joined the Shedd Aquarium’s Freshwater Research team in January.  Happel earned his B.S. at Perdue University in 2010, his M.S. at the University of Illinois in 2013, and his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois in 2017.  His master’s thesis in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences was entitled, “A multi-indicator approach to dietary assessments within Lake Michigan’s nearshore area,” and his doctoral dissertation was entitled, “Tracing the effects of diets in freshwater fishes using fatty acids.”

A freshwater ecologist by training, he came to the Shedd from Colorado State University, where he was an instructor within the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Happel works on a number of the Shedd Aquarium’s urban freshwater ecology initiatives.  He is drawing on his expertise in native species conservation. Largely, he focuses his research on the Chicago River ecosystem, leading volunteers (“citizen scientists”) and working with other local collaborators as they collect data about the health of the Chicago River. [This is important at a time when the Asian Carp species has made its way to Lake Calumet.  If the Asian Carp makes it into Lake Michigan, it will have a detrimental impact on the Great Lakes.]  Happel’s surveys include assessments of the impact of artificial floating islands, such as the Shedd’s River Island, installed in 2018 and the destination for the Kayak for Conservation program.

Dr. Austin Happel

Figure 1 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, © Shedd Aquarium Caption: This is Dr. Austin Happel standing outside the Shedd Aquarium on January 14, 2019.

Inoue earned his B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 2007; his M.S. in Environmental Sciences at Arkansas State University in 2009; and his Ph.D. in Zoology with a certificate in Ecology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 2015.  His master’s theses was entitled, “Molecular phylogenetic, morphometric, and life history analyses of special concern freshwater mussels: Obovaria jacksoniana (Frierson, 1912) and its closest congener Villosa arkansasensis (Lea, 1862).”  The title of his doctoral dissertation was “A comprehensive approach to conservation biology: from population genetics to extinction risk assessment for two species of freshwater mussels.”  From September of 2016 to January of 2019, he worked as a research scientist at Texas A&M University in Dallas.

Inoue came to the 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, Bavaria, Germany.  Inoue studies freshwater mussels, which are among the most imperiled organisms in the world. Using both field and laboratory studies, he endeavors to understand the environmental challenges that mussels face and help to improve conservation of them.

Dr. Kentaro Inoue

Figure 2 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, © Shedd Aquarium Caption: This is Dr. Kentaro Inoue standing outside the Shedd Aquarium on January 14, 2019.

“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,” stated 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 Shedd Aquarium’s Marine Research team, Dr. Lynn Waterhouse conducts research on the mid-level predators of the ocean, known as “mesopredators,” focusing primarily on grouper and snapper species in The Bahamas. Her research should enhance sustainable fisheries in the region.

Ms. Waterhouse came to the Shedd from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, where she completed her Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography. The focus of her graduate studies was on Nassau grouper in the Cayman Islands. Previously, she 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.

Dr. Lynn Waterhouse

Figure 3 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, © Shedd Aquarium Caption: This is Dr. Lynn standing outside the Shedd Aquarium on January 14, 2019.

“Lynn brings considerable expertise in fisheries stock assessments to Shedd’s Marine Research program,” stated Dr. Steve Kessel, Director of Marine Research at the 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.”

The Shedd Aquarium aspires with its freshwater and marine field research programs to deepen our understanding of wild animal populations 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 iguanasqueen conchgrouper, spiny lobster, blue crab, snapper, coral, sharks and rays in The Bahamas. In a press release, the Shedd Aquarium states, “The end goal is to develop proactive mitigation and applied management strategies to protect those populations into the future.”

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