“Dr. Scott Colborne Joins the Shedd Aquarium’s Research Staff,” by S.M. O’Connor

The John G. Shedd Aquarium announced yesterday, Thursday, December 5, 2019 that scientist Scott Colborne had joined the Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research’s “conservation research team to contribute to the aquarium’s ongoing efforts to preserve aquatic biodiversity and ensure a balance between humans and nature.  As a freshwater research biologist, Colborne will study aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes region to understand how they are influencing inshore native fish communities at large.  As more than 180 non-native species have invaded the Great Lakes, the research will help inform management strategies that benefit the health of the ecosystem.”

Dr. Scott Colborne is at least the fourth scientist to join the Shedd Aquarium staff this year.  As I wrote about in May, three research biologists joined the conservation research team: Dr. Austin Happel, Dr. Kentaro Inoue, and Dr. Lynn Waterhouse. 

“Aquatic invasive species are known to tremendously alter the ecosystems they invade,” stated Dr. Karen Murchie, Director of Freshwater Research at the Shedd Aquarium.  “As Shedd Aquarium’s freshwater research team aims to advance our understanding of the species and waterways of the Great Lakes region, studying the interaction of invasive and native species will provide a clearer picture of the overall health of this important freshwater resource.  With vast experience in this area of focus, Scott will be an invaluable addition to our freshwater research team.”

In a press release, the Shedd Aquarium stated, “Aquatic invasive species pose one of the most significant threats to the health and native biodiversity of the Great Lakes.  They can out-compete native species, short-circuit food webs and degrade the habitats they invade.  The cascading effect to the ecosystem can also threaten human health via changes in water quality and can disrupt the Great Lakes economy by damaging critical industries such as commercial and recreational fisheries, along with tourism.”

The aquatic wildlife of the Great Lakes supports a $7,000,000,000 fishery, $16,000,000,000 tourism industry, and over 1,600,000 jobs within the region.  The Shedd aquarium estimates that just in economic terms, the cost of invasive species to our region is $200,000,000 annually.

“When an aquatic invasive species arrives in an ecosystem, there is often a delay in documenting its affects, which can shift over time,” the Shedd Aquarium explained.  “The long-term research goals of Colborne will focus on understanding how aquatic invasive species ate influencing inshore native fish communities—such as yellow perch, walleye, smallmouth bass, sturgeon, catfish, and panfish—as these fishes play an important role in the aquatic food web and sustaining a healthy aquatic ecosystem.  His findings will provide useful information to fishery management and conservation authorities in the Great Lakes.”

“Understanding changes in ecosystems requires ongoing monitoring and long-term support, especially when it comes to understanding how an ecosystem changes when a new species is introduced to it,” stated Dr. Colborne.  “Using the resources at Shedd Aquarium, I look forward to partnering with universities and   government agencies to advance our scientific understanding of Great Lakes species, inform management strategies and educate the public about this unique region of the world.”

“Aquatic invasive species are known to tremendously alter the ecosystems they invade.”

Dr. Karen Murchie, Director of Freshwater Research at the Shedd Aquarium

Mr. Colborne comes to the research team with an extensive background in the study of the diet and movement of both native and invasive freshwater fish, such as bluegill and sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, zebra mussels, bowfin, lake sturgeon, and more.  [For example, Colborne published a study that documented the diets of native pumpkinseed sunfish in Ontario, Canada.  The study described how the species is primarily consuming invasive zebra mussels and thus it is altering the dependence of pumpkinseed sunfish on other native food sources—resulting in ecosystem-wide changes to the food web.]  He earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Zoology from the University of Guelph—the U of G being a public research university located in Guelph, Ontario, Canada—and his doctorate in Biology with a focus on Ecology and Evolution from the University of Western Ontario.  He then served as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and Research Associate for the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor, before becoming a Research Associate at Michigan State University and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center.

“Shedd’s portfolio of freshwater and marine field research programs aims to advance understanding of wild populations of animals to inform management strategies to protect them,” the Shedd Aquarium explicated.  “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, quench conch, grouper, spiny lobster, blue crab, snapper, coral, sharks and rays in The Bahamas.  The goal is to develop proactive mitigation and applied management strategies to protect those populations into the future.”

In the autumn, the Shedd aquarium joined an alliance with the Great Lakes Business Network in an effort to defend the Great Lakes from the peril of invasive species.  The Shedd Aquarium stated, “As many businesses in the region rely on the Great Lakes for water, seafood, recreation and more, the collaboration aims to unite and amplify the business community’s voice to better advance science-driven conservation policy locally, federally and bi-nationally.”

Figure 1 Credit: Brenna Hernandez, ©Shedd Aquarium Caption: Ms. Hernandez took this picture of Dr. Scott Colborne late last month.

      The Shedd Aquarium is a Smithsonian Affiliate.  It is located on the Museum Campus in the Chicago Park District’s Burnham Park.  Normally, the Shedd Aquarium is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the workweek (Mondays through Fridays) and from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays).    Click here for updates on hours.  The last ticket sale is forty-five minutes before closing.

      The address is 1200 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605.  The Website is https://www.sheddaquarium.org.  The phone number is (312) 939-2438.

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