Lake Superior Research Institute



Mary Balcer, Director, Associate Research Scientist, Aquatic Ecology

Dianne Brooke, Administrative Specialist

Steve Hagedorn, Associate Database Administrator

Heidi Schaefer, Associate Research Specialist

Travis Mangan, Research Specialist

Thomas Markee, Associate Scientist Chemistry

Susan O'Halloran, Researcher, Fisheries/Environmental Education

Christine Polkinghorne, Senior Research Specialist, Chemistry

Dan Rau, Vessel Captain

Heidi Saillard, Research Specialist

Kurt Schmude, Research Scientist, Invertebrate Biology

Matt TenEyck, Assistant Researcher


Past and Current Research Activities

Founded in 1967 and approved by the Board of Regents in 1969, the Lake Superior Research Institute (LSRI) is the applied environmental research and related public information unit of UW-Superior. Supported almost entirely by extramural funding, the Institute's mission is concentrated on continuing evaluation and analysis of the physical, biological and socio-economic environments of the greater Lake Superior Basin. Faculty and academic staff associated with the Institute possess training in chemistry, biology, toxicology, microbiology, geology, statistics and modeling.


Over the years the Institute has received more than 300 grants and contracts with a combined extramural budget of more than $25 million. More than 45 federal and state agencies plus some private firms have supported LSRI, including the Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, Wisconsin Sea Grant, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Education, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Chemical Manufacturers Association.


The Institute has cooperated on a number of research projects with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. These projects have included studies of chemical contaminants in Lake Superior fish and the possible health effects of consuming contaminated fish.


LSRI is well equipped and staffed to conduct environmental research. Facilities include analytical chemistry laboratories, culture rooms for fish and invertebrates, toxicity testing systems, a microbiology laboratory, a taxonomy laboratory, and a fisheries research laboratory. A 63-foot research vessel, the L.L. Smith Jr., and numerous small craft are available for field sampling on Lake Superior and inland lakes. Present research activities include studies on the occurrence and control of exotic species in the Great Lakes, effects of chemicals on aquatic organisms and ecosystems, biological evaluations of contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes, monitoring water and air quality of the Lake Superior region, analysis of trace levels of organic and inorganic pollutants, and health effects from consuming contaminated Great Lakes fish.


In addition to research, the Institute is active in the publication of results. Papers are regularly presented at scientific meetings and published in professional journals. LSRI scientists have written and published six toxicity research data books which have a worldwide distribution.


Public Education

LSRI has been involved with several public environmental education programs, including the National Science Foundationís Young Scholars, American Indian Science and Engineering Society Workshop for teachers, and a collaborative effort with the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign called Envirovet. All programs combine classroom presentations with daily field and laboratory activities. Many of the field trips include sampling cruises aboard LSRI's L.L. Smith Jr. research vessel. Participants in the programs range from elementary school students to senior citizens, and include high school honors students, Native Americans and professionals in veterinary medicine.


Student Research Opportunities

Many students majoring in the sciences at UW-Superior participate in environmentally oriented research projects under direction of faculty and staff from the departments of Biology and Chemistry and from LSRI. Student participation occurs during the school year through part-time jobs as student research assistants and during the summer through full-time jobs as student research assistants or student research interns. In this way, students gain valuable research experience and earn money to help finance their education.


Student research opportunities exist primarily in conjunction with research projects funded by state and federal agencies. The types of opportunities vary according to expertise of staff and availability of funds within those areas. Future research opportunities for student assistants cannot be guaranteed, but based upon the current outlook are expected to be available for the next several years.