Shedd Aquarium Expands Conservation and Research Team

June 25, 2014

New Postdoctoral Research Associate Joins Shedd to Study Native Crayfish Communities 

CHICAGO Shedd Aquarium, a global leader in research and conservation, announces the hiring of Eric Larson, Ph.D. as a postdoctoral research associate for the aquarium’s Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research. In partnership with the University of Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI), Dr. Larson’s work will focus on the impacts of invasive species and climate change on native crayfish (Astacoidea) communities. Working from one of North America’s largest and most extensive crayfish datasets at Notre Dame in order to predict the longer-term implications of invasives and climate change on crayfish, Dr. Larson will also be conducting field research from around the Great Lakes region in order to fill data gaps. 

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Larson to our team of researchers doing critical conservation work in the Great Lakes region,” said Charles Knapp, Ph.D., vice president of conservation and research at the aquarium. “Shedd has a deep passion for protecting our Great Lakes and the wildlife that inhabit them. Dr. Larson’s work in the field will help drive efforts to prevent the spread of the invasive rusty crayfish in the region and give us a better understanding on how climate impacts their populations.” 

Starting in July, Dr. Larson will work at the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center (UNDERC) in northern Wisconsin and Michigan to continue long term crayfish research that has been taking place there since the mid-80s. He will conduct research investigating “boom and bust” population dynamics of invasive rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus), as well as evaluating whole-lake food web effects of crayfish invasions. Dr. Larson’s fieldwork will involve trapping crayfish in lakes of Wisconsin and Michigan to evaluate abundance and population trends, and relating these to other members of lake communities including aquatic plants, snails and fish. 

“I’m excited to bring my background in freshwater ecology and conservation to the wonderful team at Shedd,” said Dr. Larson. “The many crayfish of North America include a number of species highly threatened with extinction, as well as a number of species that have caused substantial impacts to freshwater ecosystems as invasives. We have the opportunity to use incredibly valuable long-term data collected by Dr. David Lodge and his laboratory at the University of Notre Dame to better understand why some species experience declines whereas others invade and expand their range, as well as the food web and whole ecosystem consequences of these changes.”

Over the course of his career, Dr. Larson has been broadly focused on understanding and managing the impacts of invasive crayfish at local, regional and global scales. He has conducted field and laboratory work on invasive crayfish interactions with native crayfish and freshwater communities in the Ozark Plateaus of Arkansas and Missouri, the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and Canada, and in northern Japan.

Dr. Larson earned his Ph. D. in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, his master’s degree in biology from the University of Arkansas, and his bachelor’s degree in fishery resources at the University of Idaho.

Shedd’s Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research focuses on local and global field research, on-site research, and conservation awareness and action. The center is committed to creating and supporting strong programs that build connections between our animals and their counterparts in the wild. Shedd’s conservation work includes more than two decades of research on Bahamian rock iguanas, one of the world’s most critically endangered lizards, as well as studies of endangered arapaima in Guyana, migratory fish, endangered Nassau grouper and endangered species in the Great Lakes region,  and seahorses in Southeast Asia. For more information on Shedd’s conservation efforts visit http://www.sheddaquarium.org/4059.html.

Shedd Aquarium is supported by the people of Chicago, the State of Illinois and the Chicago Park District. Shedd Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

The Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research at John G. Shedd Aquarium is committed to conserving species and ecosystems through research that advances understanding, informs policy and enhances livelihoodsas responsible stewards of the animals in our care.

The Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI) is tackling the interrelated problems of invasive species, land use, and climate change, focusing on their synergistic impacts on water resources. The goal of ND-ECI is to provide solutions that minimize the trade-offs between human welfare and environmental health where trade-offs are unavoidable, and to discover win-win solutions where they are possible.

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