Fall 2019 eNewsletter

CIGLR Spotlight

Celebrating a Career in Great Lakes Research

Dr. Thomas Johengen has been a Research Scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR, formerly the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER)) at the University of Michigan since 1991. He has served as the CILER Director (2000-2005), CIGLR Associate Director (2009-2019), on numerous Great Lakes’ advisory boards and panels, and this fall will lead Michigan Sea Grant as their new Director.

Dr. Thomas Johengen. Photo Credit: David Brenner.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help lead such an impactful and well respected Great Lakes organization such as Michigan Sea Grant,” says Tom. “I look forward to working with our university researchers, our extension educators, and the broad range of public stakeholders connected with Sea Grant to promote the sustainable use of our Great Lakes resources, and to guide management actions in a way that benefits the quality of life for the citizens within the basin. The strength of Michigan Sea Grant is that it can focus research, education, and outreach efforts directly into the coastal communities to help address on-the-ground challenges related to ecosystem health, restoration, resiliency, and economic stability. I hope that I can build upon my years of Great Lakes research experience and use the tremendous partnerships afforded by not only Michigan Sea Grant, but all of the Great Lakes Sea Grant network and NOAA, to develop a common vision and commitment for enhancing our efforts to protect and promote the health and sustainability of our treasured Great Lakes.”

Tom holds three prestigious degrees from Michigan State University (B.S.), Florida State University (M.S.), and the University of Michigan (Ph.D.). His research has focused on a range of critical Great Lakes issues including harmful algal blooms, the impact of invasive species on lower food webs, ballast water management and the transfer of invasive species, and observing technologies.

“I have always appreciated the fact that much of my research is directed at protecting the resources of the Great Lakes and serving public interests,” says Tom. “I have had the opportunity to be part of research projects that led to improved ballast water legislation to mitigate invasive species introductions, advanced our capacity to monitor Great Lakes water quality using emerging in situ technologies, and developed ecological forecasting models to protect public health from the adverse effects of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. While these beneficial societal outcomes are the underlying motivation of the research, it is of course the quality of the interactions and colleagues with whom I have worked that made the job a true privilege and delight. It has been an honor to work with so many dedicated and passionate professionals across the basin, all directed towards making a positive impact within the Great Lakes community.” 

Throughout his career, Tom has led many exciting research projects and has mentored countless numbers of students, technicians, administrators, and scientists. His role as an advisor and Great Lakes science mentor has motivated, challenged, and afforded incredible experiences and opportunities to those lucky enough to work alongside him. Here is what just a few of these people had to say about him:

“As my former advisor, Tom helped me navigate the Master’s program at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. Now, as my current supervisor, Tom helps me navigate the massive field of Great Lakes Research. I cannot count the number of times I have knocked on Tom’s door or flooded his inbox seeking advice about everything from data analysis to politics. During my time with Tom, I have evolved from a clumsy and confused student to a confident laboratory technician. I’m forever grateful for his patience as he has helped me grow and evolve as a researcher,” says Christine Kitchens (CIGLR Aquatic Ecology Research Technician). “I look forward to many more years of working with you!”

“Tom is a true champion,” says Mary Ogdahl (CIGLR Program Manager). “He has dedicated his career to researching the most pressing issues in the Great Lakes, building the careers of countless individuals, and serving as an exemplar of true leadership. His approach is one that is balanced in deep knowledge, keen vision, and genuine compassion, which is a rare and highly effective combination. It has been an honor and privilege to work closely with Tom, and I will be forever grateful for his guidance, patience, and friendship that have made a tremendous impact on me. Michigan Sea Grant is in the most capable hands and I look forward to collaborating with Tom in his new role.”

“The most enjoyable thing about working with Tom is observing him immersed in his element, whether that’s the lab, the work deck of a research vessel, or the volleyball court,” says Dr. Casey Godwin (CIGLR Assistant Research Scientist). “His passion and enthusiasm make him a great teammate, especially when it’s 3 am and the cruise stations just keep coming.”

“It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with Tom for over 15 years. We’ve worked together on wide ranging projects including a significant number of field deployments primarily in coastal areas around the country. Tom has been truly great to work with and has become not only a co-worker, mentor, and supervisor, but more importantly a true friend. I am looking forward to our continued collaborations and upcoming project work,” says Heidi Purcell (CIGLR Research Area Specialist Intermediate).

“Tom has always encouraged my desire to learn and to take the lead on new projects. He has been an excellent mentor and I look forward to many future collaborations with him,” says Danna Palladino (NOAA-GLERL Nutrient Ecologist).

“Tom has had an amazing research career, with productivity and impact that most of us only dream of. He has been a valued colleague, and an inspiration to an entire generation of students. We look forward to many years of continued collaboration with Tom and congratulate him on his esteemed career and this well-deserved honor of directing Michigan Sea Grant,” says Dr. Bradley Cardinale (CIGLR Director and UM SEAS Professor).

In addition to his new role as Michigan Sea Grant Director, Tom will maintain a half time research appointment with CIGLR working on selected projects. “CIGLR has brought on three new outstanding research scientists to help oversee our collaborations, manage research projects and promote even better research programs. CIGLR’s future is bright,” says Tom.