Kurt P. Kowalski
B. S. (Natural Resources Policy and Behavior), University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and Environment, 1994
M. S. (Geography with concentration on Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing), Eastern Michigan University, 2000
Ph.D. (Aquatic Ecology), University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and Environment, 2010
What is the role of hydrologic connectivity in the rehabilitation and adaptive management of diked and coastal wetland ecosystems in the Great Lakes? Can we find sustainable control options for Phragmites australis and other invasive plant species? What is the landscape-scale potential for coastal wetland habitat rehabilitation in western Lake Erie? These are a few of the research questions that I have been working on during my 18+ years at the Great Lakes Science Center. My master’s work in GIS and remote sensing at Eastern Michigan University and doctoral studies at the University of Michigan provided a solid foundation for extensive work with USFWS refuges (Detroit River, Ottawa, Seney, Shiawassee), Ohio DNR, Michigan DNR, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, and many other partners. I’ve studied the diked and coastal marshes of western Lake Erie for many years and continue to work with managers to apply site-specific results at regional scales. Leadership experiences at the National Conservation Leadership Institute and within USGS have helped me produce some innovative science and push our research teams in new directions.
The hydrologic isolation of most remaining coastal wetlands, especially in and around the Maumee River Area of Concern, limits ecosystem functions and services. As a result, intensive wetland management strategies can limit both access to fish habitat and the retention of phosphorus and other nutrients.
There is no comprehensive assessment of current and potential wetland habitats that provides sufficient specificity to guide restoration action or evaluate the regional effects of action in the coastal zone of western Lake Erie. Similarly, a structured and collaborative approach to regional coastal wetland research, management, and restoration is not available to guide the decision-making process.
Methylmercury contamination is a high risk health threat to wildlife and people in many environments. Wetlands form a unique aquatic environment where the biochemical process that transforms elemental mercury to methylmercury is greatly intensified. Wetlands often either accumulate methylmercury or transport it into nearby areas. Therefore, determining whether a wetland is a source or a sink for methylmercury is vital in controlling methylmercury contamination.
Lack of regional communication among people working with Phragmites australis (common reed) has resulted in missed opportunities to reduce redundancy in effort, link science and management, and facilitate adaptive management.
Lack of a current basin-wide distribution map of established Phragmites stands limited the ability of managers to make decisions on a landscape scale. Similarly, coastal areas most vulnerable to invasion were not identified.