National Science Foundation Spotlight: Michael Verhoeven

Conservation Sciences graduate student Mike Verhoeven was awarded a three-year Graduate Research Fellowship by the National Science Foundation. He is researching impacts of the invasive macroalgae, starry stonewort, on native plant diversity in Minnesota lakes and response of the invader to management actions. He took a few moments for a CFANS Q&A:

With whom are you studying?

I am a Ph.D. student in the Conservation Sciences, Fisheries and Aquatic Biology track. I am also a graduate research assistant in the Minnesota Center for Aquatic Invasive Species (MAISRC), studying in Dr. Dan Larkin's lab.

Where do you call “home?”

I live in St. Paul, about 10 minutes from campus. I grew up in New Prague, on a small lake called Cedar Lake. I think that's where I picked up my affection for aquatic plants...also known by Minnesotans as "weeds.”

What does the NSF award make possible?

The NSF Award will allow me to run multi-year experiments that will examine plant community changes over longer time scales than possible on shorter timeline grad student grants. In addition, this allows me to spend my first two years working on synthesizing of existing data about aquatic plant communities--rather than seeking out funding sources. The NSF grant ultimately gives me the flexibility to fit my research into the places where we identify the biggest gaps. In aquatic plant systems, that gap is understanding the dynamics of the plant community after an invader is removed from it.

What else should we know about you?

I did my undergraduate degree on in biology here at the University of Minnesota (2015 graduate) with a minor in fisheries and wildlife. I began working with aquatic plants through an internship with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. I think that work on invasive species is important because it gives us the opportunity to develop solutions to the ecological problem of invasive species and to further our understanding of ecological theory (ex: limiting resources, community assembly, disturbance, regime shifts).

And the big one: Why CFANS?

CFANS is a natural home for work like mine. With organizations like the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, researchers have the resources and equipment to develop projects that serve the citizens of Minnesota (and others) and contribute meaningfully to the greater body of scientific knowledge.