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Staff member Austin Happel stands before Shedd's historic bronze doors.

Austin Happel, Ph.D.

Research Biologist

Austin Happel is a research biologist focusing on freshwater ecosystems.

Education

Ph.D., Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign
M.Sc., Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign
B.Sc., Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Purdue University: West Lafayette

“Since I could walk I’ve been fascinated by what lies beneath the water’s surface. It’s exciting to be in a position to not only continue my curiosity through research but spark it in others through interactions with guests.”

Austin Happel joined the Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research at Shedd Aquarium in 2019. His research focuses on how we can be better conserve, manage and restore freshwater aquatic ecosystems to promote thriving and diverse fish communities.

Happel’s research focuses on several urban freshwater ecology initiatives and draws on his Great Lakes region expertise. He is especially interested in investigating what benefits restoration activities, such as Shedd’s floating island in the Chicago River’s “Wild Mile,” provide below the surface and how these benefits can be amplified in other areas. Happel also has an interest in understanding the role forest preserves have in structuring fish communities.

Happel’s previous research involved figuring out what fishes eat and how their diets affect them or their offspring. He has become an expert in the use of fatty acids in trophic ecology and worked to try to decipher what sea lampreys prey on, how salmon and trout diets differ across the Great Lakes and how formulated diets affect growth and spawning of hatchery-raised trout.

Before coming to Shedd, Happel was an instructor in fish, wildlife and conservation biology at Colorado State University, where he taught courses on fisheries science and fish biology. Happel earned his Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Illinois, where he focused on feeding ecology of fishes. He received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University in fisheries and aquatic sciences.


Diet complexity of Lake Michigan Salmonines: 2015–2016

Leonhardt, B. S., Happel, A., Bootsma, H., Bronte, C. R., Czesny, S., Feiner, Z., ... & Höök, T. (2020). Diet complexity of Lake Michigan Salmonines: 2015–2016. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 46(4):1044-1057. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2020.05.010

Chicago’s fish assemblage over ~ 30 years – more fish and more native species

Happel, A., & Gallagher, D. (2021). Chicago’s fish assemblage over ~ 30 years – more fish and more native species. Urban Ecosystems, 24, 311–325 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-020-01020-3

Fatty acid profiles of lake trout reveal the importance of lipid content for interpreting trophic relationships within and across lakes

Happel, A., Stafford, C. P., Rinchard, J., & Czesny, S. (2020). Fatty acid profiles of lake trout reveal the importance of lipid content for interpreting trophic relationships within and across lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 46(1), 188–197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2019.10.015

Great Lakes Fish Finder App; a tool for biologists, managers and education practitioners

Happel A., Murchie, K. J., Willink, P. W., & Knapp, C. R. (2020). Great Lakes Fish Finder App; a tool for biologists, managers and education practitioners. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 46(1), 230–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2019.12.002

Fatty acids differentiate consumers despite variation within prey fatty acid profiles

Happel, A., Maier, C., Farese, N., Czesny, S., & Rinchard, J. (2019). Fatty acids differentiate consumers despite variation within prey fatty acid profiles. Freshwater Biology, 64(8), 1416–426. https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13315

A volunteer-populated online database provides evidence for a geographic pattern in symptoms of black spot infections

Happel, A. (2019). A volunteer-populated online database provides evidence for a geographic pattern in symptoms of black spot infections. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, 10, 156–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijppaw.2019.08.003

Fatty Acids Reveal Salmonine - Prey Relationships in Lake Michigan

Happel, A., Leonhardt, B.S., Bootsma, H., Bronte, C.R., Czesny, S., Feiner, Z., ... & Höök, T. (2020). Fatty Acids Reveal Salmonine - Prey Relationships in Lake Michigan. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 46(6), 1689-1701. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2020.08.005

Decreases in wastewater pollutants increased fish diversity of Chicago's waterways.

Happel, A., & Gallagher, D. (2022). Decreases in wastewater pollutants increased fish diversity of Chicago's waterways. Science of The Total Environment, 824, 153776 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153776

Increasing fish diversity of Chicago's waterways

Happel, A. (2022). Increasing fish diversity of Chicago’s waterways. Knowledge and Management of Aquatic Ecosystems, 423(6), 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1051/kmae/2021038

An empirical test of fatty acid based diet estimation models.

Happel, A., Pike, J., Czesny, S., & Rinchard, J. (2021). An empirical test of fatty acid based diet estimation models. Food Webs, 28, e00197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fooweb.2021.e00197

At-sea feeding ecology of parasitic lampreys.

Quintella, B. R., Clemens, B. J., Sutton, T. M., Lança, M. J., Madenjian, C. P., Happel, A., & Harvey, C. J. (2021). At-sea feeding ecology of parasitic lampreys. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 47(Supplement 1), S72–S89. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JGLR.2021.07.008

Effects of varying dietary levels of digestible protein and digestible energy on growth performance in juvenile Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkia bouvieri).

Happel, A., Sealey, W. M., Myrick, C. A., & Powell, M. S. (2020). Effects of varying dietary levels of digestible protein and digestible energy on growth performance in juvenile Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkia bouvieri). Aquaculture Reports, 17, 100336.