views of the estuary area

Reserve Manager

Erika L. Washburn, PhD
(715) 919-2154
(715) 817-2048 (Cell)

Photo of Dr. Erika Washburn Erika comes to the University of Wisconsin-Extension from Michigan where she worked as a Coastal Conservation Planner with The Nature Conservancy. Prior to that, she worked as the Lakewide Management Plan Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She also has experience working for th e Environmental Protection Agency and Great Lakes Historical Society. Erika conducted her doctoral research at the University of New Hampshire and has expertise in multi-disciplinary work and integrated, collaborative natural resource management. Her dissertation focused on land use decision making and participatory action research in coastal watersheds, for which she was awarded NOAA's Walter B. Jones Award for Excellence. Her experience with NOAA and the NERR system also includes time as a NERR Social Science Research Fellow, in addition to time as a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow. She has an impressive record of accomplishments and has worked across the nation and internationally, including time in the Netherlands and Denmark.

Education Coordinator

Deanna Erickson
(715) 919-2154
(715) 919-2943 (Cell)

Photo of Deanna EricksonDeanna Erickson serves as the LSNERR Education Coordinator.  As the Education Coordinator, Deanna plans, implements and evaluates the LSNERR education program through on-site and educational outreach activities and through the development of educational facilities including the LSNERR Science & Interpretive Center, and reserve trails and exhibits.  Deanna works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other Research Reserves to collaborate on national estuary and coastal ecosystem science curriculum.  Deanna will also be working closely with the community through advisory committees, education institutions and individuals to fulfill the Reserve's education objectives.  Deanna holds a Bachelors of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Natural Resource Management and is completing a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in Environmental Education.  She has worked as an educator and administrator in outdoor and environmental education for the past thirteen years, for organizations that include the Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Student Conservation Association, The Four Corners School of Outdoor Education, The Whale Camp in New Brunswick, Canada and as the Director of Outdoor Education at Pathfinder Ranch, a residential outdoor education program near Idyllwild, CA.  Additionally, she is an American Canoe Association certified sea kayak instructor and a kayak guide in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Public Information Coordinator

Robin J. Kemkes, PhD
(218) 576-2935

Robin J. Kemkes, PhDRobin is supporting the LSNERR in completing the 2017 – 2021 Reserve System Management Plan. She coordinates with staff, partners, and advisory boards to collect information and input on Reserve programs and planned activities.

Robin conducted her doctoral work at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in economics, with a focus on international rural development and the political economy of the environment. She also holds a master’s degree in ecological economics from the University of Vermont. Her research explores the connections between rural community resilience and ecosystem services, particularly in relation to local food systems and water quality. Robin is originally from a small town in northern Minnesota where she grew up hunting, fishing, canoeing and cross-country skiing. She has lived and worked around the country and conducted fieldwork internationally in the Republic of Georgia and Romania. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her partner, Sean and her springer spaniel, Arlo.

Education Mentor

Ryan Feldbrugge
(715) 919-2154

Ryan Feldbrugge

My name is Ryan Feldbrugge and I am so stoked to continue working for the Reserve and the Rivers2Lake teachers! To start off on the right foot, I will tell you a bit about myself.

I grew up a military kid, so I had the opportunity to explore the outdoors in many different places from Alaska to Great Britain and I loved all of them. As long as I was able to get outside in nature, I was a happy camper.

All of the moving aside, Mankato, Minnesota is my hometown, though Duluth is quickly taking its place. While in Mankato, I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy with a minor in Psychology. After my undergraduate studies, I found my passion in education, particularly the non-formal side. This past May I completed my Masters of Environmental Education program which allowed me to bring my two passions, education and the outdoors, together.

Following graduation, I was fortunate enough to land an internship with the Reserve. I absolutely fell in love with the work being done there and I am so happy to be a part of it. This place we all call home is so special and being able help others connect to it is an amazing opportunity.

Whenever I’m away from the Reserve, I love exploring the north and south shores by land or by water with my wife, Sara, our son, Everett and our dog, Ninahmoose. I am looking forward to working with all of you over the next year! It’s going to be a great year!

Administrative Specialist

Kelly Pugh
(715) 919-2154

Kelly PughKelly Pugh is a new transplant to Duluth but a native Minnesotan, having grown up in Rochester, MN. Kelly earned her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with a minor in Chemistry from Taylor University in Upland, IN. During her undergraduate studies, Kelly focused on prairie restoration and water resource issues, and a highlight for her was participating in a service learning trip in Guatemala to drill wells, build latrines, and provide hygiene training for remote villages. After graduating, Kelly moved to Belize for 18 months to work as an administrative assistant for an Environmental Science study abroad program. Most recently, Kelly spent eight months volunteering on organic farms in Washington, Oregon, and California through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) network before moving to the Duluth area in April of 2015.

Kelly is an avid hiker and gardener, and appreciates the opportunities and challenges her new home in Duluth is providing for her in these areas. She enjoys traveling, cooking and preserving home-grown food, brewing kombucha, and learning about the world around her. She is honored and excited to be joining the team at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve!

Interim SWMP Coordinator

Joseph Ripley

Joseph Ripley
(715) 919-2154

Joseph Ripley spent his early childhood in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, but moved with his family to Northome, MN, where he graduated from, high school. It was in remote Koochiching County that he developed a love of forests and wetlands.

After high school, Joe moved from a town of 300 to New York City; a drastic change to say the least! He spent six years in that great melting pot, where he learned about working with diverse populations and experienced first- hand the efforts that forward-looking NYC is making with regard to sustainability.

Joe earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in December 2015. For the majority of his undergraduate career he worked as a water quality technician with the monitoring coordinator in charge of the LSNERR’s SWMP program. Simultaneously, he worked as a student lab assistant for Dr. Lorena Rios. Joe made presentations at Stevens Point and Milwaukee, and he and a team of researchers working on Dr. Rios’ project traveled to Texas where they presented at the 247th National American Chemical Society meeting in Dallas. While at UWS, he also won a SURF award, which afforded him the opportunity to conduct a research project based on the Lake Superior Watershed in the summer of 2014.

Joe’s research work with Dr. Rios led to his future wife who had recently joined the research team. Many hours spent in the lab searching for microbeads of plastic in fish, sorting & weighing, cataloguing and taking meticulous notes led to one definite result: there was chemistry between Joe and Sapanna. The couple married shortly after Joe graduated from UWS. They are expecting their first child in March. Joe is currently working on his Master’s degree in Sustainable Management. He continues his work at the NERR, operating the new sondes, doing water quality testing, and data management. He is eager to combine his experience and education in the important work of the NERR and other organizations and institutions dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our life-giving rivers and lakes and wetlands.

Research Coordinator

Dr. Shon Schooler
(715) 919-2154

Portrait image of Dr Shon Schooler.Dr. Shon Schooler serves as the LSNERR Research Coordinator. As the Research Coordinator, Shon is responsible for the research program at the LSNERR.  He interacts with advisory committees, research institutions and individuals to fulfill the research objectives of the Reserve.  In addition he serves as a liaison with the scientific community, promoting data utilization and acts as the primary contact for scientists performing research in the Reserve.  Shon collaborates with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other Reserves on research initiatives across the NERR System.

Shon grew up in central Wisconsin on a small farm where he spent the long summer days in the grass watching insects (when not baling hay). He followed up on this interest, receiving a Bachelors in Environmental Science from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1994. He then moved to Oregon where he received a Masters of Science in 1998 and a Doctorate of Philosophy in 2003 from Oregon State University. He was then awarded a Post-doctoral Fellowship in Brisbane Australia with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), where he was granted tenure in 2007.  His research has focused on the ecology of aquatic ecosystems and the impact and management of invasive aquatic organisms. Over the past 15 years he has published over 30 peer-reviewed papers in journals and books and has given over 50 public presentations. He enjoys many outdoor activities including; hiking, camping, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and canoeing.

Past Student Interns

Undergraduate Research Intern

Joe Ripley

Joseph Ripley is a sophomore chemistry majorr at UWS. He was born in Missoula, MT, raised in a small town in northern MN, lived in New York City for six years, and now calls the Iron River, WI area home. His hobbies include backpacking, biking, horseback riding, running, and playing with his dog. He is interested in learning about the environment,, issues with environmental impacts, and ways that he can make a difference.


Undergraduate GIS Intern

Christopher Anderson

Christopher Anderson is The NERR's GIS/mapping specialist as well as assistant web developer and undergraduate researcher. He attends the University of Minnesota Duluth majoring in Computer Science with minors in Geographic Information Science, and Art. He has participated in extra circular clubs on campus such as the Student Sustainability Coalition, the ACM club, the Art Club, the Student Design Coalition, as well as the North Shore Climbers; and has held leadership positions within a number of them. Christopher is interested in how technology, particularly computers, can be used to advance our understanding of natural systems. He is also interested in robotics, computer vision, geospatial computing, and artificial intelligence. In his free time he enjoys rock climb climbing, camping, canoeing, kayaking, cooking, and reading.

Undergraduate Research Intern

Jessy Carlson

Jessy is a student of biology at the University of Wisconsin in Superior.  After she graduates this spring, she plans to continue to study wetland habitat preservation science in order to provide policy makers with quality data that will inform their decision-making process.  As NERR’s research intern, she is currently investigating the effects of sedimentation on Loosestrife biocontrol mechanisms.  When she is not working with Loosestrife and Loosestrife beetles, Jessy enjoys exploring the Lake Superior shorelines and nearby forests of the Twin Ports area by foot, canoe, bike, dogsled, and ski.

Undergraduate Research Intern

Seth Bliss

Seth Bliss is a student at UW-Superior. He worked to help set up our SWMP program and out invastive species manaual.

Undergraduate Education Intern

Rita Skolasinski

Rita is a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and will be graduating this spring in Elementary Education with an Endorsement to teach Middle School Earth and Life Science. After graduation Rita hopes to find a teaching position along the North Shore in a formal school setting or in an outdoor classroom somewhere along Lake Superior. As the education intern at LSNERR, Rita is helping with research to develop the Reserve's educational programs as well as implementing future programs. While educating future generation is a huge passion for Rita, everything she does is driven by her love of the outdoors. "Every season there is something fascinating going on! Whether that means grabbing a friend to explore some new neck of the woods by snow shoe, or heading off to the BWCA for a week of paddling. The amazing thing about life is that it is everywhere!"

Updated: 12/17/2015