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People of PRI

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  • Katrina Cotten

    Katrina Cotten, terrestrial ecologist

    Katrina Cotten recently joined INHS as a terrestrial ecologist. She received her B.Sc. in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. During her undergrad and after graduation, she worked in the Human-Wildlife Interactions Lab, where she was first introduced to working with bats. She completed a summer research project examining predation risks at natural versus artificial roosts in southern Indiana. She also contributed to a literature review examining the temperature buffering capacity of tree microhabitats at a global scale.

  • Chris Taylor

    Chris Taylor, senior curator of INHS fishes and crustaceans collection

    With 30 years devoted to the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Chris Taylor, curator of the fishes and crustaceans collection, has been awarded the 2023 PRI Research Scientist Career Achievement Award. He has been described as a world-renowned expert in the systematics, ecology, and natural history of crustaceans, especially crayfish.

  • Allan Jones

    Allan E. Jones, hydrologist

    Allan E. Jones, a recently promoted assistant research scientist in hydrology, has received the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) 2023 Early Career Investigator Award for his excellence in research and leadership and his impact on the development of the groundwater flow model at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS).

  • Tanner Jones

    Tanner Jones, irrigation and hydrology specialist

    Tanner works with the Illinois Water Inventory Program (IWIP), specifically on the irrigation side to find new ways to collect water usage figures that can help us understand the water status and water needs around the state and work on the data side to pair irrigator information with the information existing in the Water Survey. He also helps to communicate water usage analysis to the general public.

  • Hafiz Salih

    Hafiz Salih, head of business development for point source carbon capture

    Hafiz Salih is a chemical and environmental research engineer and serves as the Head of Business Development for Point Source Capture at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC). Hafiz earned his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Cincinnati and has more than a decade of experience, but as a kid, he always thought he would go into biological science, before getting into engineering. 

  • scientist smiling and holding up a freshwater mussel

    Hugo Ruellan, aquatic ecologist

  • Abby Pagels in the field

    Abby Pagels, acoustic coordinator for the Illinois Bat Conservation Program

  • Anna Frailey

    Anna Frailey, field scientist/forest ecologist

    We're pleased to welcome Anna Frailey to the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) as a field scientist/forest ecologist! Anna brings her passion for land management to this role, and we look forward to having her on our team!

  • Tony Schutz

    Tony Schutz, primary desktop support

    The Computing and Data Services (CDS) team welcomes new staff member, Tony Schutz as the primary desktop support. Tony has been working with PRI p[art-time for the past eight years and has now joined us as a full-time employee. He will be the primary desktop support person for staff at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS), but will be pitching in on desktop support across PRI and helping the CDS server team as well. Tony is a familiar face for sure, and we’re very glad to have him as a full-time member of the team.

  • Janice Enos

    Janice Enos, avian biologist

    Janice Enos, an avian biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS). Her research broadly focuses on how social interactions influence nesting ecology and habitat selection in songbirds. Janice has been an animal lover and interested in science for as long as she can remember, crediting David Attenborough and PBS documentaries like “NOVA” and “Nature” for sparking her interest in science, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society for convincing her to become an ornithologist!

  • Manisha Pant

    Manisha Pant, macroinvertebrates coordinator

    Manisha Pant recently joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) as a macroinvertebrates coordinator with the Illinois River Biological Station (IRBS)’s long-term resource monitoring (LTRM) program. Manisha is looking forward to once again sampling and studying freshwater macroinvertebrates, and has always been interested in STEM fields since she was a kid. If you wonder if she's grossed out by looking at bugs all the time – her answer, emphatically, “No! Bugs are cool!” 

  • Katelyn McLaughlin

    Katelyn McLaughlin, environmental science writer

    I grew up in the Northwest Chicago Suburbs and moved to Champaign in June of 2021 for work. I graduated from Illinois State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in English and a focus on publishing and I’ve worked a few jobs unrelated to my major since then. My role at PRI is as an environmental science writer for through the Water Survey and this is the first writing-based job I have had since graduating college so I am very excited about that!

  • Matt Finzel

    Matt Finzel, INHS graduate student researcher

    At 4 or 5 years old, INHS grad student Matt Finzel remembers exploring the great outdoors, letting curiosity be his guide! Now he's using large datasets from INHS to search for indicator plant species of high quality wetlands in Illinois.

  • Rohini Vembar

    Rohini Vembar, INHS graduate student researcher

    INHS graduate student Rohini Vembar grew up surrounded by science, and—even as an elementary school student—knew she wanted to go into some STEM field.

  • Sophia Sagrestano

    Sophia Sagrestano, ISWS graduate student researcher

    Sophia Sagrestano's path toward a master's degree in atmospheric science started with watching the local meteorologist each morning before school in her childhood home. Now she's working with Water Survey researchers to better understand the planetary boundary layer and how it impacts lake effect snow formation over Lake Ontario!

  • Katey Strailey seated by a fish tank

    Katey Strailey, postdoctoral researcher

    I’m really excited to get to do applied research. For me, it’s the best of both worlds–I get to do work that is both scientifically engaging and valuable for conservation. Conservation and management of our aquatic resources are really important to me, and I want to make sure that whatever I do for work is supporting those resources.

  • Glenn Hesitant holding award

    Glenn Heistand, section head of Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program (CHAMP)

    Glenn Heistand is the section head of the Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program (CHAMP) at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) where a staff of 27 employees made up of engineers, GIS specialists, and outreach specialists, produce hydrologic and hydraulic models, flood insurance studies, digital flood insurance rate maps, mitigation plans, and related items in partnership with FEMA and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). 

  • Mario Navarro, Lily Hearn, and Tahj Crofton sitting

    Lily Hearn, Tahj Cortes Crofton, and Mario Owens Navarro, 2022 Potter interns

    Lily Hearn, Tahj Cortes Crofton, and Mario Owens Navarro have been working with PRI scientists on research tackling some of the most pressing environmental issues. This group of undergraduate students was part of the first cohort of the Illinois State Geological Survey's Paul Edwin Potter Internship Program. 

  • Sara Sawicki waving

    Sara Sawicki, water quality specialist

    Sara Sawicki joined INHS on August 16th as a water quality specialist with the Illinois River Biological Station (IRBS) long-term resource monitoring program. She earned her bachelor's degree in environmental science from Dominican University and her Master’s degree in environmental science from Alaska Pacific University, where she performed water sampling and analysis work for a USGS project involving a glacier and its watershed. 

  • IRBS staff, alumni, and family members gathered at Riverfront Park to mark the field station's 50th year

    Illinois River Biological Station marks 50th anniversary

    On July 23, the Illinois Natural History Survey's Illinois River Biological Station (IRBS) celebrated its 50th anniversary with a reunion at Riverfront Park in Havana, Illinois. IRBS has grown to a staff of more than 50 people, including PhD. scientists, post-doctoral research associates, large river ecologists, aquatic field technicians, and many graduate students. More than 300 scientists have been part of IRBS since its founding in 1972. 



  • Anne Krippenstapel holding a gosling

    Anne Krippenstapel, field scientist

    Anne Krippenstapel recently joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) as a field scientist. She earned her bachelor's degree in forestry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and worked as a forestry tech, running a chainsaw, treating invasive plants, and doing timber stand improvement.

  • Katie O'Reilly holding a turtle

    Katie O'Reilly, aquatic invasive species specialist

    Katie's doctoral research focused on understanding changes to Lake Michigan coastal wetland food webs using stable isotope analysis and otolith microchemistry. Her post-doc research expanded into the ecological impacts of an invasive aquatic plant (Elodea canadensis) in Alaskan freshwater ponds. Beyond her formal training as an aquatic ecologist, Katie is also passionate about understanding how scientists can more effectively communicate with different audiences.

  • Lee Green smiling

    Lee Green, chemist

    Lee Green is a chemist in the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s Applied Research on Industrial and Environmental Systems (ARIES) group. She studies persistent contaminants, specializing in microplastics and PFAS. Scientists are just beginning to discover the impacts that these contaminants have on the human body and the environment.

  • Miriam holding a PCR tray

    Miriam Schlessinger, 2022 PRI SROP intern

    Miriam Schlessinger, an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recently participated in the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP), a 10-week hands-on summer internship at PRI that aims to enable undergraduate students from underrepresented populations to explore careers in applied science.

  • Liane Rosario

    Liane Rosario, 2022 Potter intern

    Liane Rosario, a senior at the University of Illinois Chicago studying earth and environmental sciences is a 2022 Potter intern working on coastal research at the ISGS Lake Michigan office, gathering data using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) in caves and on beaches, and measuring the depths of Lake Michigan via boat using bathymetry data.

  • Ahmani Browne sitting at a computer

    Ahmani Browne, 2022 PRI SROP intern

    Ahmani Browne, a senior studying marine biology at Mitchell College, is working with Liang Chen, a research climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS), studying the risks of winter severity in the Midwest due to climate change. Browne and Chen are using state-of-the-art climate models to quantify past and future winter storms, and investigate strong-wind and heavy snowfall events using climate simulations. Browne recently answered some questions about his internship experience.

  • Dana Brown

    Dana Brown, vector biologist

    Dana Brown recently joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) as a vector biologist. Prior to joining INHS, Dana spent four years assisting with microbiological research in laboratories focused on virology, immunology, and cancer biology.

  • Vanessa DeShambo

    Vanessa DeShambo, environmental engineer

    Vanessa joined the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) in December 2021 as an environmental engineer. Prior to joining the ISTC team, she worked at the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine performing case work and research related to veterinary infectious disease with a primary focus on micro and molecular biology. She also spent her early career with the Allen Institute for Brain Science managing research on mouse genetics and neuroscience. Her research is currently focused on improvement of algal systems for wastewater treatment. Projects topics include hydrothermal liquifaction, nanofiltration, algal toxin destruction, bioaugmentation, and endoreduplication.

  • Kenton Geier holding a clipboard working in the field

    Kenton Geier, research archaeologist

    Kenton Geier, a research archaeologist, is a familiar face with the ISAS crew. He's worked at the survey for nearly a decade and is heavily involved in outreach and educational opportunities raising public awareness of past and current destruction of archaeological sites.  Geier's work centers around time – finding opportunities every day to preserve items from the past for future generations!

  • Josh Nickelson smiling

    Josh Nickelson, field scientist

    Since second grade Josh Nickelson knew he wanted to work in a park or a forest setting when he grew up. Last month, he joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) as a field scientist and is looking forward to assisting land owners and organizations with various forest management projects. 

  • Caleb Bohus holding a microsaur fossil

    Caleb Bohus, 2022 Potter intern

    Caleb Bohus is a member of the first cohort of five Potter interns at the Prairie Research Institute (PRI). The Paul Edwin Potter Internships. Bohus, a junior at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, has been working with Joe Devera, a senior paleontologist at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) and the Smithsonian on a paleontologcial project.

  • Robert Rohe

    Robert Rohe, historic resource analyst

    Robert Rohe returns to the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) behind the lens and a with a different view. Rohe spent nearly a decade working on the East St. Louis Mound project, and will be working in production and graphic design in the American Bottom Field Station documenting excavations at some of their sites for outreach and training purposes.

  • David Weyers holding a sturgeon.

    David Weyers, large river ecologist

    David Weyers joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) as a large river ecologist on June 1st. Prior to joining INHS, He earned his B.S. environmental biology from Greenville College and his Master's degree in biology from Saint Louis University where he focused on invasion and community ecology, studying the effects of the invasive plant, Erodium cicutarium on a native plant community near Portal, AZ.

  • Sarah Molinaro holding a fish

    Sarah Molinaro, stream ecologist

    Sarah Molinaro is a stream ecologist at the Stream Ecology Lab with the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS). She's a former graduate student researcher with the Sport Fish Ecology Lab (SFEL) in 2019, focusing on tournament bowfishing harvest and the population dynamics of Shortnose Gar.

  • Cora Wessman

    Cora Wessman, Illinois Water Inventory Program coordinator

    Rockford native, Cora Wessman began working as a graduate student hourly researcher with the Illinois Water Inventory Program (IWIP) nearly three years ago. Today, she oversees the program as the IWIP coordinator. "IWIP has become something I am very passionate about, and I hope to see the program grow for years to come," said Wessman.

  • Shruti Deekshitula

    Shruti Deekshitula, graduate student researcher

    Shruti Deekshitula is a graduate student researcher at the Illinois State Water Survey and an information science student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Dr. Lorin I. Nevling sitting at a desk

    Remembering Lorin Nevling, INHS chief (1987–1996)

    Dr. Nevling served as chief of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) from 1987–1996. He was known as a scientist, an administrator, a counselor, and a public servant. Dr. Nevling made contributions to the systematics of higher plants, especially the family Thymelaeaceae, and served in many capacities to the national botanical community. 

  • Natalie Kerr leans against a low wall wearing biking gear

    Natalie Kerr, visiting senior scientific specialist, environmental public health

    Natalie Kerr started a full-time position at the Water Survey in January 2022. In her role as a environmental public health specialist, she is part of an expanded focus on the intersection between water resources and public health. She is working on two projects related to private wells—one looking at lead levels and the other investigating Legionella (the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease).  

  • Friends of PRI honorees Dave Thomas and Bill Shilts stand with their plaque

    William W. Shilts and David L. Thomas, 2022 Friends of PRI Award

    Each year PRI honors individuals and organizations whose support contributes to the institute's success. This year we're commemorating the contributions of William W. Shilts and David L. Thomas, who played pivotal roles in the formation of the institute.   

  • Toby Holda

    Toby Holda, large river fisheries ecologist

    Toby Holda joined INHS on April 25th as a large river fisheries ecologist. Holda worked at INHS during his undergraduate career and looks forward to sampling fish in the field, especially the long toothy fishes (gars, bowfin, etc.). He's also looking forward to continuing working with the folks at the Illinois River Biological Station and to the opportunity to continue developing his research skills.

  • Undergraduate Research Symposium

    Congratulations to all of the undergraduate students presenting at the Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 28 and the PRI scientists who mentored them! 

  • Shari Effert-Fanta

    Shari Effert-Fanta, assistant director for facilities and safety

    Shari Effert-Fanta, PRI’s assistant director for facilities & safety, is the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Support Staff Award! Effert-Fanta oversees PRI’s many facilities, both on campus and across the state, as well as the safety of PRI staff and students as they work in the field and in the lab; her work impacts everyone at PRI.

  • Steve Wilson

    Steve Wilson, groundwater hydrologist

    The 2022 Research Scientist’s Career Achievement Award goes to Steve Wilson. Steve began his career at the Water Survey more than 30 years ago, as an undergraduate student hourly. Now as a groundwater hydrologist, Steve leads two programs that have significant nationwide impact on the safety of drinking water: The Private Well Class, which provides self-paced online training for private well owners and professionals who support them, and, a user-friendly online resource hub for water and wastewater operators that is geared towards supporting small systems.

  • highway bridge over water and through a forested area.

    Stephanie Wagner, environmental site assessor

    The 2022 Distinguished Research Specialist or Technician Award goes to Stephanie Wagner! Stephanie has worked as an environmental site assessor with the environmental assessment team at the Illinois State Geological Survey. Wagner and her environmental assessment colleagues help determine project costs, prioritize projects, and ensure the safety of workers, the public, and the environment.

  • Trent Ford

    Trent Ford, Illinois State Climatologist

    Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford is a recipient of the Prairie Research Institute’s 2022 Early Career Investigator Award. Ford joined the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) in 2019 as the State Climatologist following recently retired Jim Angel. In that short period of time, he has developed an active research program funded through external programs, while taking on the daunting task of re-visualizing and expanding the State Climatologist program.

  • Auriel Fournier standing in front of wetlands

    Auriel Fournier, director of Forbes Biological Station

    Auriel Fournier, a waterfowl ecologist and director of the Forbes Biological Station, has been awarded a 2022 PRI Early Career Researcher Award. Fournier also leads the major National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded Firebird project focused on waterbirds in the Gulf of Mexico, which involves collaborators from multiple agencies and organizations.

  • Kendall Taft

    Kendall Taft, reservoir geologist

    Geology was always a natural fit for Kendall Taft, a reservoir geologist at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS). Born and raised in Jacksonville, Illinois, Kendall grew up fascinated by fossils and never grew tired of looking for them in limestone driveways. Working at ISGS, he now sets sights on interpreting 2D seismic data about reservoirs for potential carbon dioxide (CO2) storage.

  • Patrick Green

    Patrick Green, Central Illinois Field Station (CIFS) coordinator

    If there's construction planned in your area, one of the first people you may see on the scene is Patrick Green, the Central Illinois Field Station coordinator at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS). As an Illinois native, Patrick knows the Illinois landscape quite well and is a wealth of knowledge about the history and archaeological sites all around Illinois and the United States! He recently answered some questions about his work, career advice, and why you don't have to travel to Egypt or the Yucatan (unless you want to!) to learn about fascinating ancient history – it's all around you!

  • Corrado Cara working doing fieldwork

    Corrado Cara, vector biologist

    Meet Corrado Cara, a vector biologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey's (INHS) medical entomology lab focusing mainly on the surveillance of vectors and vector-borne diseases and related research projects. Corrado has been interested in learning everything about insects since he was about 10 years old.

  • Sebastiano smiling

    Sebastiano Giardinella, project engineer

    Meet Sebastiano Giardinella, a project engineer with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Survey (ISTC). Sebastiano joined ISTC in 2021 and is responsible for coordinating and assisting researchers with ongoing projects and proposals, primarily related to Department of Energy (DOE)-funded research.