Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Sport Fish Ecology Lab Members

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jeff stein

Dr. Jeffrey A. Stein
Senior Research Scientist

My research interests focus on the study of basic and applied ecology of freshwater and marine fisheries to understand linkages between ecological function and exploitation of populations by human activities. Fundamentally, I seek to explore how human activities can impact the reproductive ecology and behavior of fishes, ultimately translating findings into meaningful and effective conservation actions.

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Sarah Huck
Associate Fisheries Biologist 

I enjoy all aspects of fisheries research, but am particularly drawn to studies involving top predators in large river systems.  I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Science from Eastern Illinois University in 2011 and my Master of Science in Biological Science (focus in fisheries biology) from Eastern Illinois University in 2014. The focus of my thesis research involved assessment of broad and fine scale movement and habitat use of flathead catfish in the lower Wabash River. At the Illinois Natural History Survey, I am studying population demographics of ancient sport fish in Illinois, specifically gars and bowfin. I am very excited to be a part of the INHS and look forward to contributing to the amazing research conducted in this lab.




Zachary Zuckerman
Associate Fisheries Biologist

As an angler and research scientist, my interests lie largely in better understanding the impacts of humans on sport fish and their habitat. Since receiving my MSc from the University of Illinois in 2012, I have implemented a multifaceted approach combining physiology, field- and lab-based behavioral observations, and mark-recapture methods to elucidate the responses of fish to a range of anthropogenic influences, including climate change, land-use change, and angling. My interest in sport fish ecology has afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most highly sought-after sport fish, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, bonefish, and highly migratory species (e.g., tunas and wahoo). As a member of the SFEL, I will be assessing the reproductive success and ecology of lake trout in southern Lake Michigan.




Dr. James Lukey
Post Doctoral Researcher

My research interests focus on three areas: fish ecology, conservation biology and conservation decision-making. I received my Master of Science in Marine Biology from Rhodes University in South Africa in 2006. My work focused on fish communities in a small intermittently open estuary and examined the movement and habitat use of different species in these important nursery habitats. In 2006, I worked on a project identifying important marine priority habitats and species for the National Biodiversity Action Plan for the Marine Biological Association of the UK. I earned my Doctor of Philosophy in Zoology from the University of Guelph in 2010, examining decision-making of species at risk. I was a Post Doc at the University of Notre Dame focusing on the impacts of climate change on species ranges and the integration of effects of climate change on species at risk. At the Illinois Natural History Survey, I am examining the sport fish community in the recently restored West Branch of the DuPage River, looking at communities of fish in the urban stream environment and doing telemetry work on adult smallmouth bass to review their movements and habitat use. 



Michael Louison
PhD Student

My research interests focus primarily on the connections and correlations between certain behavioral and physiological traits in Midwestern sport fish species. Specifically, I am researching the differential vulnerability of fish to recreational angling techniques and the underlying causes of this vulnerability. In short, what behavioral, physiological, and genetic mechanisms may be at work to cause one individual of a species to be more eager to strike a lure than another individual? This research has big-picture applications within the field of evolutionary ecology, as humans may be capable of altering the suite of traits that may have particular metabolic and behavioral characteristics by selectively removing fish through angling. Much of my research will make use of the unique population of high vulnerability/low vulnerability largemouth bass housed at the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois, however my work will examine correlations in other popular Midwestern game fish as well. Prior to arriving in Illinois, I lived in Wisconsin, receiving my B.A. in biology from Ripon College in 2007 and my M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 2013.



Austin Rundus
Graduate Research Assistant

My research interests are fairly broad and include a wide range of ecological and conservation biology related topics, however my main research with the SFEL is with stream ecology and urban stream restoration. I am working on the restoration of an impaired urban stream (the West Branch of the DuPage River in suburban Chicago) and the impact that physical restoration has on the water quality, macroinvertebrate community, and in particular the fish community, with a focus on sport fish (mainly smallmouth bass). I hope that our studies into urban stream restoration can help managers and biologists understand more about what makes a restoration successful for the biota of a stream and the unique challenges faced in the urban environment. Prior to beginning my Master’s degree at the University of Illinois, I received by Bachelor’s in Integrative Biology from U of I and was a summer SFEL field tech for two seasons.



Scott Cleary

I obtained a Bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. I have worked as an aquatic technician with the Sport Fish Ecology Lab since 2010. I love working with fish every day and helping with the research that ultimately leads us to effective conservation methods. I also assist the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Fisheries Division with their river and stream surveys, primarily focusing on small rivers and their tributaries.



Justin Rondon
Pond Site Coordinator

I began my affiliation with Illinois Natural History Survey’s SFEL in 2011, where I worked during the summer at the INHS Pond Site helping with pond draining, animal care, pond site maintenance, and data collection. Over the years, my involvement has increased steadily, and I have had the pleasure of assisting in much of our lab’s current research, specifically our largemouth bass behavioral and physiological research. I now serve as our Pond Site Coordinator, managing site operations and keeping our fish habitats healthy. I also serve as the primary caregiver for our on-site dog, Bandit — his job is to keep away predators to our fish and he’s a riot. Throughout my time here I have developed an interest in telemetric application to mapping species movement patterns and spatial distribution, as well as aquatic science, particularly the limnology of small pond ecosystems. I also like running around with our action cameras, trying to capture our work in progress and anything else of captive interest. (A GoPro on a stick in a pond can yield interesting, nay, amazing footage!) I spend my spare time composing original music, producing audio/visual media, and musing philosophically.


david phillipp

Dr. David P. Philipp
Principal Scientist, Emeritus

Dr. David Philipp's research interests focus on three major areas: conservation genetics, reproductive ecology, and the effects of fishing on natural populations. His findings have helped to document the negative impacts of outbreeding depression that can result from hatchery stocking programs, as well as to illustrate the evolutionary effects that fishing can have on natural populations. Much of his research has targeted centrarchid species, particularly focusing on the factors that impact their parental care activities, reproductive success, and annual recruitment. In recent years, Dr. Philipp has broadened his interest in these research topics to include the marine flats ecosystem, studying bonefish reproductive behaviors and the effects of recreational angling on post-release behavior and survival of flats fishes.

Dr. Philipp teamed with Orvis on a short video clip about how bass move with the seasons. View that clip here.



Julie E. Claussen
Research Scientist

I began working at the Natural History Survey in 1984, and after a short stint working on stream ecology projects, I joined the fish genetics laboratory working on the conservation of native fish populations. Over the years, my interests in fish and fisheries research have evolved to include the reproductive life history of centrachids, sustainable fisheries practices and management, and the impact humans have on sport fish populations. Many of the studies I am involved with focus on the effects of recreational fishing, including its impact on reproductive activities, reproductive success, recruitment, post-release behavior and survival. Another large area of focus is the long-term effect of fisheries management stocking practices and outbreeding depression in fish populations. In more recent years, I have worked on new methods for fisheries outreach and education, recognizing the need for scientists to engage with the natural resource constituents.



Kimberly Stanhope
Outreach Coordinator

As the outreach coordinator at the Illinois Natural History Survey for the Sport Fish Ecology Lab, my work focuses on providing outreach communication  to anglers via the SFEL and IFishIllinois websites and through social media outlets, as well as at fisheries-related conferences. I take scientifically written information and transform it into easily understood rhetoric for public consumption. As the content manager for the IFishIllinois website, our goal is to provide Illinois anglers with timely and relevant information regarding fishery-related information in Illinois — IDNR press releases, season start dates, new regulations, tournament information, etc.

Visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, too!



Thomasine McNamara

I began working at the Illinois Natural History Survey in 2000 as an hourly assistant. In 2002, I became a database manager and webmaster. I have been working on the IFishIllinois website since 2003 as the webmaster and am an integral part of Sport Fish Ecology Lab team.


Lynnette Miller-Ishmael, Data Coordinator
Bob Illyes, Research Programmer
Sarah Molinaro, Undergraduate Student
Ryan Solomon, Undergraduate Student


Each field season, our lab provides internships to undergraduate students to gain valuable experience in fisheries field ecology. Through our collaboration with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Fisheries, we place students side by side with professional fisheries managers to assist with extensive field sampling of fish populations throughout Illinois. Our interns gain valuable, real-world experience in fisheries ecology and are an important part of many of the fisheries research and management activities throughout the state of Illinois.

If you're interested in learning more about becoming an intern for our Lab, please contact Sarah Huck at

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