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  • A woman kneeling with a dog.

    Lauren Dean, assistant research scientist

    Lauren Dean joined the INHS as an assistant research scientist focused on Hunter Research for the Learn to Hunt program. She previously conducted research focused on exploring waterfowl hunting regulation complexity as a constraint to adult novice waterfowl hunter recruitment and retention in Illinois in conjunction with the Illinois Learn to Hunt program. We sat down with Lauren to learn a bit more about her.

  • A woman wearing a hat and holding a toad.

    Hope Dermott, visiting scientific specialist

    Hope Dermott joined INHS in the Wetland Science Program on May 20th as a Visiting Scientific Specialist in Wetland Science. She is currently working on her Master's degree in soil science at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Walt Kelly poses for a photo at the awards ceremony.

    Walton R. Kelly, 2024 Research Scientist Career Achievement Award recipient

    Walton R. Kelly is the recipient of the Prairie Research Institute’s 2024 Research Scientist Career Achievement Award, which recognizes the achievements of a PRI scientist whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact over the course of their career.

  • Atticus Zavelle, 2024 Distinguished Research Specialist/Technician Award recipient

    Atticus Zavelle, senior scientific specialist at the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) has been selected as the recipient of PRI’s 2024 Distinguished Research Specialist/Technician Award.

  • Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, 2024 Distinguished Research Scientist Award recipient

    Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla has been selected as the recipient of the 2024 Distinguished Research Scientist Award by the Prairie Research Institute. This prestigious recognition is bestowed upon individuals whose exceptional contributions to their field of research, environment, and society stand out as exemplary. Dr. Mateus-Pinilla, the director of the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory at the Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • Scott Elrick accepting the Friend of PRI Award from Executive Director Praveen Kumar on behalf of Laurence Nuelle.

    Laurence Nuelle, 2024 Friend of PRI Award recipient

    Laurence Nuelle is the recipient of the Prairie Research Institute’s 2024 Friend of PRI Award, which recognizes service and commitment in helping PRI meet its mission of being the trusted science authority to the state of Illinois.

  • Mike DeYoung poses for a photo at the awards ceremony.

    Mike DeYoung, 2024 Outstanding New Support Staff Award recipient

    Project Manager Mike DeYoung is the recipient of the Prairie Research Institute’s 2024 Outstanding New Support Staff Award, which recognizes non-scientific support staff who have shown exceptional performance and outstanding service in their work and are making an impact on PRI.

  • Lori Walston-Vonderharr, 2024 Distinguished Support Staff Award recipient

    Human Resources Business Partner Lori Walston-Vonderharr is the recipient of the Prairie Research Institute’s 2024 Distinguished Support Staff Award, which recognizes non-scientific support staff who have shown exceptional performance and outstanding service in their work and are making an impact on PRI.

  • Mera Hertel, 2024 Distinguished Support Staff Award recipient

    Recognized for her exceptional contributions, Mera Hertel, a cornerstone of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS), has been honored with the 2024 Distinguished Support Staff Award by the Prairie Research Institute.

  • Jameson Mori, 2024 PRI Early Career Investigator Award recipient

    Jameson Mori, assistant research scientist at the Illinois Natural History Survey’s Wildlife Epidemiological Lab, has been named the recipient of the 2024 Early Career Investigator Award by the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) for their outstanding contributions to environmental science and interdisciplinary research.

  • A woman with a hat standing on a mountain top.

    Ellie Callahan, visiting scientific specialist

    Introducing Ellie Callahan, a geochemistry researcher at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), a division of Prairie Research Institute. With a B.S. in Geology and Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin Madison and a M.S. in Geology from the University of Oklahoma, Ellie's journey is fueled by a passion for understanding the Earth’s complex systems and for interdisciplinary problem-solving. Currently, as a visiting scientific specialist in geochemistry, she delves into groundwater vulnerability assessments at Illinois nature preserves and leads an exciting project revisiting outstanding geological features across the state. We sat down with Ellie to hear how she navigates the fascinating intersection of research, industry, and the great outdoors.

  • A man riding a horse with one hand over his head holding a cowboy hat.

    Justin Remmers, postdoctoral researcher

    Justin Remmers recently joined INHS as a Postdoctoral Researcher.

  • Woman with a hat on holding a large black and yellow turtle.

    Claire Dietrich, field ecologist

    Claire Dietrich recently joined the PACE Lab as a field ecologist.

  • Reilly Durham, visiting scientific specialist

    Introducing Reilly Durham, who recently joined the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) at the Prairie Research Institute. Their role focuses on algal-bacterial bioaugmentation, aiming to revolutionize wastewater treatment and biofuel production.

  • Shaley Valentine, assistant research scientist

    Shaley Valentine recently joined Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) as an Assistant Research Scientist at the Illinois River Biological Station! Prior to joining INHS, Shaley completed a PhD at Southern Illinois University. We sat down with Shaley to learn more about them, what they’re passionate about, and hear any advice they have for future scientists.

  • Sara P. Villazan Perez-Girones

    Sara Villazan Perez-Girones, visiting scientific specialist

  • Jordan Hartman, postdoctoral researcher

    Jordan Hartman joined INHS and the Collaborative Conservation Genomics Laboratory on January 1, 2024, as a Postdoctoral Researcher with Dr. Mark Davis. She recently completed her Ph. D. at the University of Illinois under Dr. Eric Larson where she studied the process of the invasion of Eastern Banded Killifish in Illinois using different and genomic techniques. Today, she can found in the genomics laboratory where she will be researching little brown bats across the United States.

  • Amber Zilinger

    Amber Zilinger, visiting scientific specialist

    Amber Zilinger recently joined INHS as a visiting scientific specialist in soils and disease research in the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory. 

  • Parikshit Gogoi, visiting research scholar

    Meet Dr. Parikshit Gogoi, a distinguished visiting research scholar currently immersed in a journey at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) under the Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence fellowship. Since September 25, 2023, Dr. Gogoi has been steering his research towards the catalytic conversion of lignin bio-oils components to aromatics and fuel range hydrocarbons.

  • Amber Schmidt

    Amber Schmidt: Grad Student and Illinois Indiana Sea Grant Scholar

  • Wei Dang

    Wei Dang, water resource engineer

    Wei Dang earned her Master of Geographic Information Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2022. Following graduation, she joined PRI as a Water Resource Engineer. Her primary responsibilities revolve around using GIS methodologies to present water resource data and information on surface water in a visually intuitive and accessible manner. She also works on the geospatial analyses of water resources systems, aiming to streamline water resources planning and management.  

  • 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 part-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!