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  • 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.  

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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. 

  • 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. 



  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Nico Galardy

    Nico Galardy, IT technical associate

    Meet the Illinois State Geological Survey's new IT technical associate, Nico Galardy! Nico brings eight years of desktop computer support experience, with five of those being in the educational field.

  • 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.

  • Jessica Homan

    Jessica Homan, social media intern

    Social media intern Jessica Homan’s passion for her work revolves around communications. She was drawn to intern at the Prairie Research Institute after learning about the impact its services and research has on citizens and scientists in Illinois and beyond—plenty of good stories to tell!

  • 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.

  • Ron Sjoken in a lab

    Ron Sjoken, environmental monitoring specialist

  • Margaret Golden setting up equipment in a river.

    Margaret Golden, hourly research assistant

  • Sohan Singh

    Sohan Singh, postdoctoral researcher

  • Angie Wisehart

    Angie Coy, coordinator of stakeholder engagement