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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 King
Associate Fisheries Biologist 

My research interest involves and focuses on top predators in large river ecosystems. I became interested in fisheries research during my undergraduate at EIU, where I assisted graduate students with fish community sampling in Kickapoo Creek and the Wabash River. After receiving my Bachelor’s degree in 2011, I continued my education at EIU and received my MSc 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. During my time at EIU, I was also involved in gear comparison and age/growth studies in the Wabash River, as well as lead water quality and fish community assessments on the Sangamon River. After completing my MSc I joined the SFEL and kick started the state-wide ancient sport fish demographics studies. With these projects, we aim to describe the status of gar and bowfin populations in Illinois and evaluate the need for management and conservation of the species. Read more about these studies on our Research page.




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.




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.



Sarah Molinaro
MS Student

I graduated from the University of Illinois in 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Integrative Biology. Following undergrad, I was hired as a technician in SFEL. During my time as a technician, I helped with the Illinois Department of Natural Resource’s stream and lake surveys and became involved in the Ancient Sport Fish project here at SFEL. Specifically, I was the second-ager on a hard-part comparison study assessing the utility of hard parts for aging Longnose, Shortnose and Spotted Gar. In the fall of 2016, I was accepted as a graduate student with Dr. Jeffrey Stein. My thesis research is focused on the population demographics of gars in the Lower Illinois River watershed. I will be assessing the growth and mortality rates; size and age structures; and condition of gars in the LaGrange Reach of the Illinois River. With this information, I hope to provide fishery managers the necessary information to better preserve this emerging fishery. 



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


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 King at

Our Interns this field season:

Hannah Winter

Lab Alumni

Bob Illyes, Research Programmer
Sean Landsman, Fisheries Researcher
Dr. James Lukey, Post Doctoral Researcher
Kristen Patterson, Fisheries Researcher
Josh Sherwood, Fisheries Researcher

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