Charles Kerfoot

Charles Kerfoot


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  • Professor, Biological Sciences
  • Director, Lake Superior Ecosystem Research Center
  • Adjunct Professor, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences
  • PhD, University of Michigan

Research Description

Dr. Kerfoot's laboratory specializes on the food web structure, ecology and paleoecology of lake communities.

Recent projects in the laboratory include: 1) studies of the exotic spiny waterflea (Bythotrephes longimanus), a 3-year project ($300K) funded by the National Park Service; 2) developing a large ($7M) stamp sand restoration project in Grand (Big) Traverse Bay, Lake Superior; in collaboration with US Army Corps of Engineers; 3) continuing work on late winter blooms associated with ice loss in the Great Lakes and quagga mussel effects in Lake Michigan. The latter studies partly supported a PhD graduate student and include a chapter of his thesis. Publications included a recent paper in Limnology & Oceanography (on the "doughnut" winter bloom) and an award-winning (Chandler-Meisner Award) publication in Journal of Great Lakes Research on how quagga mussels are making the "doughnut" disappear.

Another long-term project, done in collaboration with Michigan Tech Research Institute and NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab is GLOS (the 5-year, $1M Great Lakes Observing System), which involves deploying a series of coastal buoys in Lake Superior to gather information on water temperatures, the frequency and intensity of storms associated with global climate change.

The proposed stamp sand restoration project includes corrective measures to mitigate stamp sands migrating along the coastal zone from a 22.7 M metric tonne tailings pile at Gay in Grand Traverse Bay. Our lab, in collaboration with MTRI and USACE Vicksburg colleagues, has received funding for 4 LiDAR over-flights of the bay, allowing unparalleled mapping of bottom topography and migrating sediments. In addition, we have discovered previously unnoticed buried river channel and canyon dating back to the Lake Superior low stand (Houghton Low; ca. 6,800 yrs ago). Publications include a recent one in Limnology and Oceanography and a forthcoming one ("in press") in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. A recently received NOAA Coastal Zone award (with Noel Urban, CEE) augments environmental research at the site.

The 3-year project on the spiny waterflea centered on determining the spread and foodweb effects on this exotic microcrustacean. We have worked to track the spread of Bythotrephes across the northern Great Lakes, as it is transferred from harbors and embayments into inland lakes. The Parks we covered included Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (MI), Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (MI), Isle Royale National Park (MI), Apostle Islands (WI), Grand Portage (MN) and Voyageurs (MN). We have identified how the species is spread by recreational fishing activities and have worked with the park service in implementing control measures. The research has supported 2 PhD students and 1 Ms student. The Ms student has just accepted a full-time ranger position at Voyageurs National Park. A paper on the subject was just published in the journal Biological Invasions and several more are in progress.

Links of Interest

Research Interests

  • Aquatic Ecology
  • Paleoecology

Recent Publications