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People of PRI
Illinois Natural History Survey

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 Schmidt

    Amber Schmidt: Grad Student and Illinois Indiana Sea Grant Scholar

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!” 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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! 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Brian Charles

    Brian Charles, botanist

    Meet Brian Charles, a botanist originally from the West Coast, but now rooted in the Midwest. Brian joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) this year and primarily works to update the Endangered and Threatened plant species records and rankings for Illinois.

  • Nicholas Iacaruso holding a fish

    Nicholas Iacaruso, graduate researcher

    Nicholas Iacaruso is a graduate student at the Illinois Natural History Survey in the Collaborative Ecological Genetics Laboratory (CEGL) working under Mark Davis, focusing on monitoring freshwater fish populations using environmental DNA (eDNA). Iacaruso grew up near Chesapeake Bay, which inspired his interests in aquatic ecosystems before he learned about ecological genetics, and later, about environmental DNA, or eDNA.

  • Jordyn Chace in the Mark Davis Lab in NRES and the Illinois Bat Conservation Program

    Jordyn Chace, graduate student

    Jordyn Chace says she has always wanted to be a conservation biologist, even before she knew that it was a real career. Now she's a bat genomicist with the Illinois Natural History Survey.

  • Megan Cowan-Cranmer

    Megan Cowan-Cranmer, field biologist

    Megan Cowan-Cranmer has been a field biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey's Great Rivers Field Station for over 14 years, and is also this year's 2021 Confluence Conservation Leader awardee. Confluence Conservation Leader recipients work tirelessly to advocate, educate and inspire action in areas of environmental education, sustainability, and land conservation.

  • Robbie Emmet. standing by a tree.

    Robbie Emmet, postdoctoral research associate

    Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) postdoctoral research associate Robbie Emmet is looking forward to working with INHS researchers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) staff to answer management-relevant research questions and combine the multiple amazing data sets that IDNR has collected for decades.

  • Natalia Maass smiling

    Natalia Maass, endangered species specialist

    Meet Natalia Maass, an endangered species specialist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. While Maass continues to tackle challenging programming languages, she stresses that having an advanced degree isn't a qualifier for being a “real” scientist. People can do meaningful work in science as citizen scientists, too.

  • Claire Johnson holding a bird

    Claire Johnson, avian ecologist

  • Hillary Glandon on boat

    Hillary Glandon, postdoctoral researcher

  • Jason Karakehian

    Jason Karakehian, PhD student

  • Allison Bryant smiling

    Allison Bryant, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) specialist

  • Diane and Ed Wilhite

    Diane and Ed Wilhite, insect collection volunteers

  • Headshot of Jake Lux

    Jake Lux, conservation resource specialist

  • Emmarie Alexander

    Emmarie Alexander, undergraduate researcher

  • Christ Miller smiling

    Chris Miller, Conservation Resource Specialist

  • Michael Spear scuba diving

    Michael Spear, postdoctoral researcher

  • Kristen Ragusa standing next to a tree

    Kristen Ragusa, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) field scientist

  • Curtis Twellmann with an island fox

    Curtis Twellmann, Illinois Learn to Hunt regional R3 planner

  • Rachel Lupas processes a tissue sample for analysis

    Adjusting to these 'ever-changing times'

  • Carly Fenstermacher

    Carly Fenstermacher, INHS graduate student researcher

  • Alexa Ashbrook

    Alexa Ashbrook, INHS graduate student

  • Emily Struckhoff

    Emily Struckhoff, INHS graduate student researcher

  • Sara Wilson outdoors near trees.

    Sara Wilson, INHS graduate student