USGS - science for a changing world

U.S. Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center

Kurt P. Kowalski


Research Ecologist Great Lakes Science Center Email: Phone: (734) 214-9308 Fax: (734) 214-7230 Professional Page:


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.

Current Studies

New Strategies for Restoring Coastal Wetland Function, Maumee River Area of Concern

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.

Principal Investigator: Kurt Kowalski
Western Lake Erie Coastal Wetland Restoration Assessment and Strategic Planning

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.

Principal Investigator: Kurt Kowalski
Methylmercury Contamination in Coastal Wetlands

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.

Principal Investigator: Kurt Kowalski
Facilitating Regional Phragmites Management (Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative)

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.

Principal Investigator: Kurt Kowalski
Forecasting Potential Phragmites Coastal Invasion Corridors

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.

Principal Investigator: Kurt Kowalski

Recent Publications

James F. White, Kathryn I. Kingsley, Kurt P. Kowalski, Ivelisse Irizarry, April Micci, Marcos A. Soares, and Marshall S. Bergen 2017. Disease protection and allelopathic interactions of seed-transmitted endophytic pseudomonads of invasive reed grass (Phragmites australis). Springer . Plant and Soil .
Contribution #2098
Heather A. Braun, Kurt P. Kowalski, and Katherine Hollins 2016. Applying the collective impact approach to address non-native species: a case study of the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative. Springer . Biological Invasions .
Contribution #2030
Keith Clay, Zackery R.C. Shearin, Kimberly A. Bourke, Wesley A. Bickford, and Kurt P. Kowalski 2016. Diversity of fungal endophytes in non-native Phragmites australis in the Great Lakes. Springer . Biological Invasions .
Contribution #2026
Marcos Antonio Soares, Hai-Yan Li, Kurt P. Kowalski, Marshall Bergen, Monica S. Torres, and James Francis White 2016. Evaluation of the functional roles of fungal endophytes of Phragmites australis from high saline and low saline habitats. Springer . Springer . Biological Invasions . 18 (9). 2689-2702.
Contribution #2074
Marcos A. Soares, Hai-Yan Li, Kurt P. Kowalski, Marshall Bergen, Monica S. Torres, and James F. White 2016. Functional Role of Bacteria from Invasive Phragmites australis in Promotion of Host Growth. Springer . Microbial Ecology . 72 (2). 407-417.
Contribution #2048

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