Changing Faces of the NE CSC’s PIs from the University of Wisconsin

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kenneth Potter, who was a NE CSC founding PI of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), has just retired. NE CSC’s early days were shaped with the help of Ken and his excellent team of graduate Fellows who pioneered NE CSC seminal projects such as TranStorm: Assessing vulnerability through storm transposition, determining the future of stream temperatures in the Driftless Area, and advancing our understanding of climate change, frost, and groundwater recharge in the Midwestern U.S. Thanks to Ken for all of his good work and guidance.

Pete McIntyre of the UW Center of Limnology has joined the Northeast Climate Science Center team of principal investigators representing our seven consortium institutions. Pete provides a strong connection to the resource managers and conservation practitioners in the Great Lakes region. He draws on a background in limnology and fish research to determine how climate change and other factors have and will affect lakes. For instance, he has been studying Lake Tanganyika in Africa for almost 20 years, with results suggesting that shifts in physical mixing of the lake is undercutting the productivity of critical subsistence fisheries there. He’s also contributed to a recent global study that found that warming in lakes worldwide often exceeds warming rates in the air, yet certain lakes are also cooling. Indeed, it appears that the North American Great Lakes region is a hotspot of consistent lake warming.

Within the North American Great Lakes, much of Pete’s work now focuses on a different stressor: loss of migratory pathways for lake fish that need to spawn in tributary rivers. His fieldwork shows that loss of these connections reduces the productivity of stream ecosystems. A landscape analysis shows that more than 104,000 barriers inhibit migrations of Great Lakes fishes, and Pete’s group has developed optimization models to advise decision makers about which barrier removal projects can maximize restoration of access to historic spawning grounds. An online decision support tool makes these data easily accessible, and provides ready access to the optimization models. Ongoing work on that project is now addressing how road crossings can be seen as a ‘sweet spot’ of intersecting interests in infrastructure maintenance, fish passage, and resilience to shifting hydrology under climate change. On April 20, Pete will present the NE CSC webinar “Climate Change and Loss of Tributary Connections in the World’s Great Lakes”.

Pete is a lifelong fisherman and nature lover. He received his bachelor’s in science from Harvard University, a Ph.D. from Cornell and completed postdocs at Wright State University and University of Michigan as a Smith Fellow with the Society for Conservation Biology. He began as an Assistant Professor the University of Wisconsin in 2010, and has just been promoted to Associate Professor. He has active field projects addressing climate change and fish conservation in the North American Great Lakes, Hawaii, Tanzania, and Thailand.

Pete will continue Ken’s important connection with WICCI, the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. We are excited to further develop our connection to the expertise in this group, including Dan Vimont of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UW-Madison and the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research. The WICCI grassroots partnerships offers a key avenue for the NE CSC to interact with stakeholders. We are excited to welcome Pete to our family of researchers in the NE CSC, and look forward to contributing to more great science in the Great Lakes region!

Thank you Ken!  Welcome Pete!


See Pete’s profile page here >>

See Ken’s profile page here >>

Ken’s students who served as NE CSC Fellows:
Pearl May
Nick Hayden
Alexandra Norpel

“We engaged many researchers and practitioners in selecting a new PI from Wisconsin. After identifying several outstanding candidates, the consortium selected Pete to follow Ken based on his exceptional research contributions, his engagement with the LCC’s, and other conservation organizations, and ability to work with a wide range of stakeholders. We look forward to a long and productive partnership with Pete and the University of Wisconsin.” -Richard Palmer, University Director of the NE CSC 


“Ken has a tremendous amount of technical knowledge and experience, and I feel so lucky to have been able to learn from him. Ken has always stressed to me the importance of developing relationships with policy makers and community members in order to align our work with current public issues. Climate change will continue to present the urgency for the cooperation among different groups. An ability to communicate across disciplines will be essential in protecting our natural resources under a changing climate, and I feel well equipped to do so because of Ken's work through the NECSC.” - Alex Norpel, NE CSC Graduate Fellow