Kurt Kowalski, Ph.D.

My work differs from that of many other scientists because, although I am a Research Wetland Ecologist with a research focus on Great Lakes coastal wetland habitats and invasive plant species (e.g., Phragmites australis), I have extensive involvement in the application of research results into practice and policy (e.g., development of novel adaptive management approaches).


What is the role of hydrologic connectivity in the rehabilitation and adaptive management of diked and coastal wetland ecosystems in the Laurentian Great Lakes and throughout the nation?

Can we find innovative control approaches for Phragmites australis (Common Reed) and other invasive plant species of concern to resource managers? 

What is the landscape-scale potential for coastal wetland habitat rehabilitation throughout the Great Lakes basin?

These are a few of the research questions that I have been working on during my 26+ years at the Great Lakes Science Center. My master’s work in GIS and remote sensing at Eastern Michigan University and doctoral studies at the University of Michigan provided a solid foundation for extensive work with USFWS refuges (Detroit River, Ottawa, Seney, Shiawassee), Michigan DNR, Ohio DNR, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, and many other partners. I’ve studied the marshes of western Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay (Lake Huron) for many years and continue to work with managers to apply site specific results at national scales. Leadership experiences at the National Conservation Leadership Institute and within USGS have helped me conduct some innovative science and push our research teams in new directions.



Ph.D. (Aquatic Ecology), University of Michigan

M.S. (Geography with concentration on Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing), Eastern Michigan University

B.S. (Natural Resources Policy and Behavior), University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and Environment


Professional Work Experience:

Research Ecologist, Coastal Ecosystems Branch, 11/06 – present, U.S.G.S. – Great Lakes Science Center, Ann Arbor, MI

Geographer, Coastal and Wetland Ecology Branch, 3/97 – 11/06, U.S.G.S. – Great Lakes Science Center, Ann Arbor, MI

Biological Science Laboratory Technician (Plants), Coastal and Wetland Ecology Branch, 1/95 – 1/97, U.S.G.S. – Great Lakes Science Center, Ann Arbor, MI


Select Professional Activities:

National Conservation Leadership Institute Cohort 7 (2012) and NCLI 2.0 (2018)

Professional Wetland Scientist (P.W.S.) Certification, Society of Wetland Scientists, 2001 – Present

Regional Contact, North Central Chapter, Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS), 2012 – Present

President, North Central Chapter, SWS, 2004 – 2007

Member, Society of Wetland Scientists, 1994 – Present


Select Research Projects:

Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Restoration Assessment: overviewgeonarrative, and mappers (Western Lake ErieConnecting River SystemsSaginaw Bay)

Collaborative coastal wetland restoration planning and monitoring for over 1,000 ac at the USFWS Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Implementation of the binational Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program

Summary of Invasive Phragmites Research Projects

Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative

Phragmites Adaptive Management Framework

Detection and Monitoring of Invasive Phragmites in the Coastal Great Lakes

GLRI Phragmites Decision Support Tool Mappe