Joel Hoffman

Research Biologist
Home state: Minnesota
Research Institution: US Environmental Protection Agency National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Mid-Continent Ecology Division
Briefly describe your research related to the Great Lakes
Broadly, I am interested in how human-caused changes to the environment influence aquatic ecosystem processes, aquatic habitat, and fish population success. My research is focused on coastal and estuarine fishes because they are of economic and social importance and because their habitat is highly vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts. I believe my research should support development of a workable practice of sustainable, ecosystem-based management. My areas of expertise including using ecogeochemical markers, particularly stable isotopes, to study aquatic food web dynamics and fish movements, using hydroacoustics to study fisheries and fish habitat, and developing tools and designs for coastal ecosystem assessment.
Describe a time when you worked with educators and/or community I've just returned from two cruises with a total of 20 formal and informal educators on the R/V Blue Heron, a research vessel operated by the Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The first cruise was in the western arm of Lake Superior and the second in the St. Louis River Estuary, the largest freshwater estuary in the world. The educators worked side-by-side with me and my doctoral student, Michelle Gutsch, on our research investigating the impacts of Ruffe, an invasive fish originating in Eurasia, on the fisheries ecology of Lake Superior. We are collecting a variety of environmental and fisheries data to characterize the life cycle, seasonal movements, and feeding preferences of Ruffe with the intent of developing an ecological niche model to help guide future management of this invasive fish. After a day "at sea" collecting data, educators will spend a day in the lab, analyzing data, and developing classroom applications of what they have learned. Michelle and I will work with them throughout the school year to help them infuse what they have learned into their teaching. Why was this important to you? What did you learn from the educators? I truly enjoy working with educators and am constantly impressed with their scientific curiosity and enthusiasm. As a scientist I am committed to sharing what I learn with educators to help them instill the same curiosity and interest in the natural world in their students. I think I probably gain just as much from the teachers I work with as they gain from me. I've learned a great deal about how to tell the story of my research in a way that is clear and relevant to my listeners' knowledge and interests, yet scientifically rigorous.