Dr. Jeffrey A. Stein | Senior Research Scientist
My research interests focus on the study of basic and applied ecology of freshwater and marine fisheries to understand linkages between ecological function and exploitation of populations by human activities. Fundamentally, I seek to explore how human activities can impact the reproductive ecology and behavior of fishes, ultimately translating findings into meaningful and effective conservation actions.
Sarah King | Associate Fisheries Biologist
My research interest involves top predator demographics and their role in large river systems across Illinois. I became interested in aquatic research during my undergraduate at Eastern Illinois University, where I assisted graduate students with fish community sampling in Kickapoo Creek and the Wabash River. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in 2011, I continued my education at EIU and received my MSc in 2014. I joined the Sport Fish Ecology Lab in 2014 and kick started the state-wide ancient fish demographics studies. I lead several projects that examine movement and habitat use, genetic connectivity, hybridization rates, and age and growth of gars and bowfin. These projects will contribute to the knowledge gap on these species in Illinois and help managers evaluate the need for management and conservation. Read more about these studies on our Research page.
Justin Rondon | Pond Site Coordinator
I began my affiliation with Illinois Natural History Survey’s SFEL in 2011, where I worked during the summer at the INHS Pond Site helping with pond draining, animal care, pond site maintenance, and data collection. Over the years, my involvement has increased steadily, and I have had the pleasure of assisting in much of our lab’s current research, specifically our largemouth bass behavioral and physiological research. I now serve as our Pond Site Coordinator, managing site operations and keeping our fish habitats healthy. I also serve as the primary caregiver for our on-site dog, Bandit — his job is to keep away predators to our fish and he’s a riot. Throughout my time here I have developed an interest in telemetric application to mapping species movement patterns and spatial distribution, as well as aquatic science, particularly the limnology of small pond ecosystems. I also like running around with our action cameras, trying to capture our work in progress and anything else of captive interest. (A GoPro on a stick in a pond can yield interesting, nay, amazing footage!) I spend my spare time composing original music, producing audio/visual media, and musing philosophically.
Kimberly Stanhope | Outreach Coordinator
As the outreach coordinator at the Illinois Natural History Survey for the Sport Fish Ecology Lab, my work focuses on providing outreach communication to anglers via the SFEL and IFishIllinois websites and through social media outlets, as well as at fisheries-related conferences. I take scientifically written information and transform it into easily understood rhetoric for public consumption. As the content manager for the IFishIllinois website, our goal is to provide Illinois anglers with timely and relevant information regarding fishery-related information in Illinois — IDNR press releases, season start dates, new regulations, tournament information, etc.
Thomasine McNamara | Webmaster
I began working at the Illinois Natural History Survey in 2000 as an hourly assistant. In 2002, I became a database manager and webmaster. I have been working on the IFishIllinois website since 2003 as the webmaster and am an integral part of Sport Fish Ecology Lab team.
George Balto | Graduate Student
In the spring of 2019, I received my Bachelor’s Degree from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. During my undergraduate schooling, I spent 3 years working in the Sport Fish Ecology Lab, broadening my research experience. After graduation, I spent a year in remote Alaska working in an aquaculture facility assisting with the rearing and releasing of five of the six different species of salmon. From there, I came back to UIUC to continue my education in the Sport Fish Ecology Lab. I started my Master’s in the fall of 2019. My thesis research involves the habitat utilization of various sport fish species and how this can affect population assessment surveys. With this information I hope to make a sampling design that can effectively estimate the required effort needed to obtain various population parameters often used in management and help inform state managers of alternative survey methods that may be more accurate in estimating the parameters needed to answer any given research question.
Connor Fiolek | Technician
I am a graduate of Central Michigan University with a Bachelor degree in Biology and a concentration in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. I previously worked as a Fisheries Research Assistant at CMU where I assisted in aging Smallmouth Bass and Yellow Perch. While I am interested in marine fisheries research, I am also open to other possibilities as well. My plan is to pursue a Master’s degree after gaining some experience in the field, which led me to the pursuing the technician position in the Sport Fish Ecology Lab. I will be assisting with the hard parts aging of cool water sport fishes, electrofishing in various Illinois lakes, and pond draining/maintenance at the INHS Pond Site. I am super excited to further my experience and knowledge in the field of fisheries through the SFEL!
Conner Johnson | Technician
A graduate of Lake Superior State University, my degree is in Fisheries and Wildlife Management, with a concentration in Fisheries Management. I have previously worked several seasonal jobs in both freshwater research and fish culture. I have a variety of interests in freshwater ecology, from Great Lakes salmon and trout, which was my focus at LSSU, to aquatic macroinvertebrates. I was interested in the Sport Fish Ecology Lab because of the variety of ongoing projects in the lab which will expand my learning. I am excited to gain greater experience and knowledge in predator fish ecology, fish aging, lake mapping, and maintaining of the Pond Site. I am very excited to be a part of a variety of projects working to improve our fisheries knowledge at the SFEL.
Torri Leek | Technician
I am a graduate of the University of Illinois with a Bachelor degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and a concentration in Resource Conservation and Restoration Ecology. I am interested in marine fisheries research. More specifically, I am interested in the restoration of vital feeding and spawning habitat for oceanic fish. With this interest, I applied as a technician for the Sport Fish Ecology Lab. I will be assisting in gar and walleye hard parts aging, as well as gar movement via telemetry within the Illinois River. I am excited to learn more within this field and can’t wait to make a mark in the fisheries community!
Dr. David P. Philipp | Principal Scientist, Emeritus
Dr. David Philipp’s research interests focus on three major areas: conservation genetics, reproductive ecology, and the effects of fishing on natural populations. His findings have helped to document the negative impacts of outbreeding depression that can result from hatchery stocking programs, as well as to illustrate the evolutionary effects that fishing can have on natural populations. Much of his research has targeted centrarchid species, particularly focusing on the factors that impact their parental care activities, reproductive success, and annual recruitment. In recent years, Dr. Philipp has broadened his interest in these research topics to include the marine flats ecosystem, studying bonefish reproductive behaviors and the effects of recreational angling on post-release behavior and survival of flats fishes.
Julie E. Claussen | Research Scientist, Retired
I began working at the Natural History Survey in 1984, and after a short stint working on stream ecology projects, I joined the fish genetics laboratory working on the conservation of native fish populations. Over the years, my interests in fish and fisheries research have evolved to include the reproductive life history of centrachids, sustainable fisheries practices and management, and the impact humans have on sport fish populations. Many of the studies I am involved with focus on the effects of recreational fishing, including its impact on reproductive activities, reproductive success, recruitment, post-release behavior and survival. Another large area of focus is the long-term effect of fisheries management stocking practices and outbreeding depression in fish populations. In more recent years, I have worked on new methods for fisheries outreach and education, recognizing the need for scientists to engage with the natural resource constituents.
Former Graduate Students
Sarah Molinaro, M.S. (2019) — Fisheries Biologist, Indiana DNR
Dr. Michael Louison (2018) — Assistant Professor, McKendree University
Austin Rundus, M.S. (2017)
Interns and Undergraduate Students
Each field season, our lab provides internships to undergraduate students to gain valuable experience in fisheries field ecology. Through our collaboration with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Fisheries, we place students side by side with professional fisheries managers to assist with extensive field sampling of fish populations throughout Illinois. Our interns gain valuable, real-world experience in fisheries ecology and are an important part of many of the fisheries research and management activities throughout the state of Illinois.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an intern for our Lab, please contact Sarah King at firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, students can work in our lab to gain valuable research experience and class credit during the fall and spring semesters. If you are an undergraduate student interested in research credit (NRES293 or NRES294), contact Dr. Stein at email@example.com.
Haruma Kurita (2020)
Jenna Mattes (2019)
Robbie Schmidt (2017-2019)
George Balto (2017-19)
Haley Capone (2017-18)
Joseph Nolan (2018)
Matthew Fabian (2018)
Hannah Winter (2017)
Brandon Kohler (2016)
Emma Easterly (2016)
Shane Sinclair (2015-16)
Jason Buckley (2015)
Sarah Molinaro (2014-15)
Travis Shoemaker (2014-15)
Samantha Jaworski (2014)
Brian Sorrentino (2014)
Anthony Kloppenborg (2014)
David Ollesch (2014)
Andrew Mathis (2014)
Michelle Singh (2014)
Katie Fleming (2013)
Sarah Buhman (2013)
Rosindo Garcia (2013)
Zach Harms (2012-14)
Nick Guth (2012)
Kyle Eckstrom (2012)
Rebeckah Haun (2012)
Greg King (2012)
Craig Mack (2012)
Austin Rundus (2011-12)
Andy Stites (2011)
Brian Sopcak (2011)
Kevin Chapman (2011)
Ethan Stephenson (2010-12)
Scott Cleary (2010-15)
Kristina Tranel (2010-11)
Cory Anderson (2010)
Nick Anderson (2010, 2013)
Rob Sweedler (2010-14)
Dan Kates (2010-11)
Kevin Chapman (2010)
Jordan Panger (2010)
Miles Kuiling Bensky, Post Doctoral Researcher
Bob Illyes, Research Programmer
Sean Landsman, Fisheries Researcher
Dr. James Lukey, Post Doctoral Researcher
Lynnette Miller-Ishmael, Data Coordinator
Kristen Patterson, Fisheries Researcher
Josh Sherwood, Fisheries Researcher
Zachary Zuckerman, Associate Fisheries Biologist