Category: Features

Jared Wolfe: “Molti-Colored” Migratory Birds

Jared Wolfe shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, April 19 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites

Dr. Jared Wolfe

What are you doing for supper this Monday 4/19 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Jared Wolfe, Wildlife Biologist and Assistant Professor in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech. Joining in will be Wolfe’s longtime colleague and friend, Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Louisiana. 

Dr. Erik Johnson

During Husky Bites, get ready for a wide-ranging, free-wheeling conversation about wild bird research, education and conservation. Be sure to bring your questions for these two world experts. 

“Here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there is an incredible diversity of birds that show up to breed in the summer, but many of these birds are decreasing in abundance—they are diminishing,” says Wolfe. “We’ve lost 2.5 billion birds in North America over the past 30 years,” he adds. “Why?” 

For Wolfe and Johnson, much of their life and work has become dedicated to finding both why, and how. The two began collaborating at Louisiana State University, where they both earned their PhDs. Among their many joint projects is a book, Molt in Neotropical Birds; Life History and Aging Criteria. The volume, published in collaboration with the American Ornithological Society, describes molt strategies for nearly 190 species based on information gathered from a 30-year study of Central Amazonian birds.

Wolfe has spent 15-plus years working with tropical birds in Africa, Central and South America where he studies effects of climate and habitat change on sensitive bird species and wildlife communities. In North America, he works with managers to integrate wildlife management and conservation into sustainable forest stewardship.

Molt in Neotropical Birds, by Erik Johnson and Jared Wolfe, CRC Press, 2017, 412 pp.

Wolfe joined Michigan Tech in 2018, Determining how birds adapt lifecycle events to climate change and subsequent shifts in food resources is a central facet of his research. He uses monitoring data from California, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Brazil to measure changes in breeding and molting phenology, and survival relative to climate. He also studies bird communities within human dominated landscapes and adjacent habitat patches. 

Bird migration is an important focus in the Wolfe Lab at Michigan Tech. “Seasonal movements of birds have captured the imagination of naturalists for millennia,” he says. “The advent of diminutive tracking devices ushered in an era of discovery, where connectivity between breeding and wintering grounds are continually being revealed.” 

Wolfe and Johnson both employ geolocators and other technologies to study migration to better understand the movements of temperate birds. Photo credit: Erik Johnson

​Johnson has over 15 years of applied ornithological research experience in five countries. He completed his dissertation work studying the effects of forest fragmentation on avian communities at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP) in coordination with the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA). His primary focus now at Audubon Louisiana involves avian conservation challenges along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Prof. Wolfe, how did you first get into Wildlife Biology? What sparked your interest?

Jared Wolfe and his crew from Central Africa. Wolfe co-founded the Biodiversity Initiative in 2013. It seeks protect all wildlife–including forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, and hundreds of bird species – and conserve the rainforest across central Africa.

Growing up in downtown Sacramento, there wasn’t much opportunity to recreate in nature or see wildlife outside the city. There was a strip of riparian forest bordering the American River which served as a refuge from the city. Just a short bike ride from my house I would see coyotes, migratory birds, waterfowl, and beavers all seeking refuge, like me, from the city. These formative experiences helped develop a passion for wild places and wild things which led to a lifelong fascination with plants and animals. Luckily, I learned about the profession of wildlife ecology when I was 18, and never turned back!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to go fishing, birding, hiking, camping, hunting, anything that gets me away from social media and my computer!

Wolfe founded a banding station at Michigan Tech’s Ford Center and Forest in Alberta, Michigan. “High capture rates and diversity make this a wonderful location to study bird populations,” says Wolfe.

Could you tell us a little about your family?

Sure, I am from Sacramento, California. My wife, Dr. Kristin Brzeski is a conservation geneticist who is also a professor at CFRES. We have one son, a covid baby, 7 month old Lawrence. We went into the pandemic barely pregnant, and to the surprise of our colleagues, are emerging with an infant! 

Prof. Johnson, how did you first get into Wildlife Biology? What sparked your interest?

Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

I suppose I’ve always been into birds. My parents tell stories of me when I was little, being more interested in the pigeons than the lions, elephants, and zebras when we visited zoos. I started really picking up binoculars when I was about 10 and starting keeping bird lists when I was 11. My mom and aunt are casual bird watchers, and my whole family was an outdoorsy sort of family, so they embraced my interest from the beginning. From there I became focused on wildlife biology, ecology, and conservation more broadly.

What do you like to do for fun?

I really love to do anything outdoors—travel, hike, bike, garden. And of course, bird watching. Lately, I’ve been interested in photographing insects, with a particular interest in leafhoppers, planthoppers, and treehoppers. I dabble in guitar and violin, and used to really be into snowboarding, which is much harder to do in Louisiana!

Family and growing up?

On this Downy Woodpecker, can you spot it? Differences in coloration provide valuable information about a bird’s age. Find out how on Husky Bites this Monday 4/12 at 6 pm ET. Photo credit: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana.

I live in Sunset, Louisiana, but grew up in Pittsburgh and was born in Boston. I have family all over the eastern US—my parents are still in Pittsburgh, my younger brother is in New Hampshire, and I have aunts, uncles and cousins in Ohio, North Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts, and more distant connections to Germany, where my mom was born. My wife, Ceci, is from Metairie, Louisiana (just outside of New Orleans), and we’ve been married 15 crazy years.

Read more

Fine Feathers: Migration and Molt Affect How Birds Change Their Colors

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Where Research Goes Outdoors


Kit Cischke: Students Boldly DOING Where No One Has Done Before

Kit Cischke and three graduating seniors from Michigan Tech’s Wireless Communications Enterprise team share their knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, April 12 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday 4/12 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Kit Cischke, senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at  Michigan Technological University. He’s also longtime advisor to Wireless Communications Enterprise (WCE), part of the University’s award-winning Enterprise Program.

“I can’t lie,” says Kit Cischke. “Part of the reason I got excited about Enterprise way back in 1999 (as a student) was because the name of the program was the same as my favorite fictional ship.”

Joining in will be Abby Nelson, Ken Shiver, and Michael Patrick:  all three are ECE students and senior members of WCE. During Husky Bites, they’ll walk us through their projects and share what it’s like for college students to serve industry clients—and think, work and operate like a company.

Part of the university’s award-winning Enterprise Program, WCE is focused on technology—wireless, optical, renewable energy and biomedical. The student-run enterprise works as a think-tank for companies looking to push their product lines to a higher level. And WCE members also work as entrepreneurs, taking their own ideas to a level where they can be useful for industry and consumers alike. 

A student sits in the lab, soldering another LED onto the printed circuit board she designed herself and fabricated on equipment sitting not two feet away. A group puts the finishing touches on a setup for an experiment to detect water leaks in washing machines. Two students are at a computer, debugging code. A 3D printer hums away as yet another prototype is fabricated. Amid all this are students just sitting on the couch, discussing events of the day. It’s 10:00 PM on a Tuesday in the middle of the semester. Nobody has made these students come; they are here by their own volition. This is the Wireless Communications Enterprise.

“There’s no shortage of interesting and meaningful projects,” says Cischke. “Just a sampling: Android tablet programming with machine learning algorithms; machine vision algorithms; estimating the power contribution of anaerobic digester systems; and establishing a Bluetooth connection to a smart power tool. Some are explicitly wireless, others are not. Regardless, student leadership abounds.”

As an ECE instructor and WCE advisor, Cischke has the fantastic ability to make complex topics easy to understand. He does this through analogies, humor, and being open and approachable to students. He strives to be a “complete human being” with his students, sharing stories about his family and life.

During Husky Bites, Nelson, Shiver and Patrick, along with Cischke (WCE faculty advisor) will walk us through their projects and share what it’s like for college students to serve industry clients—and think, work and operate like a company. 


“This is a Differential Amplifier Circuit used to sense the voltages of 4 cells in a battery pack,” says WCE team member Abby Nelson. “Version 5. It will be connected to an arduino so that we can remotely find out the charge of those cells in the battery.”

Cischke first came to Michigan Tech as a student in 1997. During his studies, he worked as an intern for IBM, verifying hard drive controllers in VHDL, and helped found one of the original Enterprise teams—the Wireless Communications Enterprise. He graduated in 2001 with a BS in Electrical Engineering, went to work for Unisys for about four and a half years and completed a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities.

“When I gathered in a classroom in 1999 with 40 fellow students to found a new Enterprise team, WCE, we couldn’t have imagined how it is today,” he recalls. “We had no space to call our own. We had no equipment. We had no clear projects. Over time, we found our footing and established our course,” says Cishke.

“I graduated into the ‘real world’ and found that the structure we were striving toward in WCE was the very structure found in industry,” he adds. “It was a considerable shock when I returned to Michigan Tech in order to teach—and found WCE had become an engineering company, composed entirely of students, only five years later.”

I watch the final presentation of a student who has been in WCE for four semesters and heading off to the “real world” now. There is no comparison to the student he was before WCE. He is older, wiser and more experienced. He has worked in a team and led a team himself. He is ready to make his mark on the world. This is the Wireless Communications Enterprise.

“When I was first asked to advise WCE students, I was intimidated,” Cishke admits.”The previous advisor had nursed the group through the formative years and had them operating at a state I couldn’t imagine sustaining. My fears were unjustified.

“It takes active effort on the part of an advisor to upset the momentum the students have. Student leadership abounds. Turns out it’s not intimidating to be their advisor—it’s a pleasure.”

Kit Cischke

How did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Actually, it was Star Trek. Some friends got me watching it in high school and my hero was Geordi LaForge (the chief engineer on the Enterprise). I don’t know that I expected “real” engineering to be like a day in deep space, but I loved the technology and problem solving. I first came to Michigan Tech as a budding chemical engineer, but realized that I liked playing with computers more than chemistry and switched into electrical and computer engineering. It’s a field that I enjoy and is constantly changing. 

The Star Trek character Geordi LaForge, portrayed by LeVar Burton.

What was the best part of taking part in WCE?

The best part is working with the students and watching them do cool things. When I started as a student, there was a sense that we didn’t know exactly what we were doing. What was our purpose? What was our value-add to the department and university? Now, the program and the students practically sell themselves. They accomplish so much and are so driven to do it. I have the “grade stick” to hold over them, but most of the students are internally motivated. 

Any hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?

Yes! I love bikes and the riding of bikes! I ride on mountain bike trails, paved roads, and gravel roads. I commute to the campus year-round on my bike—it’s far more possible than most people think. I’m a USA Cycling official too. When I’m not on a bike, I referee hockey, run, and I’m also learning how to do cross-country skate skiing and play guitar at my church.

Meet These Three Wireless Communications Enterprise Members at Husky Bites

Abby Nelson had two internships at John Deere, and accepted a job upon graduation. She’ll be taking part in the company’s development program for new engineers, with three 8-month rotations, all in different jobs and locations.

Abby Nelson ’21, Computer Engineering

Growing up I was always interested in how things worked. I caught onto computers pretty quickly. When I had to choose a college major, I chose computer engineering off the cuff. It turned out to be the right choice.

As soon as I walked on campus at Michigan Tech and saw the buildings and the people, I immediately knew that this was where I was going to go. In WCE, I’ve worked hands-on so much more than I would have in the classes I’ve taken in my major alone. I’ve met business connections and learned from other people, as well. WCE projects are student led (faculty advised), so there is a lot of problem solving involved in completing projects.

In my spare time, I enjoy biking, kayaking, and hiking around the UP. There are so many outdoor adventure opportunities, I wouldn’t trade this place for anywhere else. I will be graduating April 30th, 2021, and I am literally counting the days! Then I’ll move to Moline, Illinois to work at John Deere starting in May.

Kenny Shivers takes a break during a hike near Hungarian Falls.

Kenny Shivers ’21, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (Double Major)

During high school I took part in FIRST robotics. For those who aren’t familiar, every year a new game and game rules are released on the first Saturday of the year. Teams have six weeks during the “build season” to prototype, design, and build 120-pound competition robots to play against each other in 3v3 teams. After that come district, regional, state, and world championship competitions. All that fast-paced environment and creative problem solving got me interested in engineering. I ended up here at Michigan Tech as a result.

The best part about WCE are the people. This may sound a bit odd, since senior design or Enterprise are required to graduate. In WCE, those of us working on similar projects group together, which forms a sense of camaraderie. We’re all at Michigan Tech together and mostly dealing with similar problems. When it gets closer to the end of the semester, it’s crunch time, with more and more things to do on deadline. It’s a lot like a real job out in industry.

Like most Tech students I enjoy spending time outdoors and working with my hands. Last summer I stayed here in the Keweenaw because of the pandemic. I got an old, broken bike and fixed it up. It’s not a bike I would necessarily let someone else ride, but I know it well enough to trust it for myself. I also play piano and read a bit. Lately I’ve been focused on trying to make sure I have everything together to graduate and find a job. I’m actively looking for employment in embedded systems in Southeast Michigan.

Michael Patrick and his son, Charlie. “He’s an adorable little man.”

Michael Patrick ’21, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (Double Major)

I first became aware of engineering from my mother, a Michigan Tech chemical engineering graduate. She homeschooled me during my early education years. Then, in my FIRST Robotics team in high school, I was on the controls and electrical team (FRC Team 1718, The Fighting Pi). From that experience I knew I wanted to pursue electrical and computer engineering.

The best part of WCE, for me, have been the lab space and the community. I have made good friends in WCE, and the lab space has allowed me to tinker with electronics using tools I normally wouldn’t have access to. Right now I’m using it to repair a bluetooth speaker for a friend of mine.

Outside of school and becoming a new parent, I have a passion for cooking and healthy eating. I began a plant-based pescatarian diet 3 weeks ago, and never felt better. I also enjoy teaching and tutoring. I’m looking forward to having a side job as an online tutor once I graduate. Right now I’m still on the job hunt, looking ideally for an embedded software engineering position. Once I establish employment, I intend to start my loan payoffs and take a few years off from education, before pursuing a graduate degree.


Adam Meckler: Making it in the New Music Economy

The Adam Meckler Orchestra (AMO)

Adam Meckler shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, April 5 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing this Monday, April 5 at 6 pm ET? Join Dean Janet Callahan and special guest Adam Meckler, assistant professor of Visual and Performing Arts and director of Jazz Studies at Michigan Technological University. He’s also a trumpeter, composer, bandleader, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist—and owner/co-founder/CEO of Gig Boss, a handy app for organizing a freelance gig/business. 

Assistant Professor Adam Mecker, Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan Tech

During Husky Bites, Prof. Meckler will be talking about the shift of the music economy from selling albums to streaming, tools for young musicians looking to build a career in music, and ways for musicians to carve out passive income so they can focus on the music.

Joining in for Husky Bites on Monday will be Jared Anderson, chair of Michigan Tech Visual and Performing Arts. Prof. Anderson conducts conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Singers, and the internationally-touring Michigan Tech Concert Choir. 

During Husky Bites we get learn from Prof. Meckler how the app he co-created, Gig Boss, came to be.

Meckler joined the faculty at Michigan Tech Fall of 2019 as Director of Jazz Studies, after a decade-long career as a freelance trumpeter, composer, and educator in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Adam Meckler Orchestra (AMO), is the 18-piece big band that plays his original compositions. AMO’s debut album, ‘When the Clouds Look Like This’ was listed among the Best 2014 Jazz Releases by iTunes. 

In 2019 AMO released ‘Magnificent Madness’ just before Prof. Meckler packed up his family to move to Houghton. Though the band is founded in the traditions of jazz, it blends soul, R&B, hip-hop, and pop music to achieve a unique and grooving sound. (Listen to a song from Magnificent Madness here.)

Another thing Meckler offers online are instructional videos for the trumpet. This light, fun, easy to follow video, “How to Play the Trumpet – First Five Notes,” will get you off to a great start, at any age.

Adam Meckler plays along during the Michigan Tech Jazz Lab Band’s performance at the Fulton Street Collective in Chicago

Prof. Meckler, how did you first get involved in music? What sparked your interest?

“My dad sang in choirs when I was growing up. My mom was a violinist before I was born. She broke her pinky, so never got to hear her perform. I grew up hearing a lot of orchestral music, plus Motown, R&B, Soul, and 50s doo-wop. At around age 7 or 8 I took guitar lessons with my church pastor. Once I turned 10, I picked up a trumpet. I’ve always loved music. In fact I used to hum myself to sleep at night. My younger brother even moved out of our bedroom to sleep on the basement couch, just to get away from the sound!”

Family and hobbies?

Adam Mecker peforms with the Michigan Tech Jazz Band.

“I collaborate and write music with my wife, Jana Nyberg. She’s a vocalist, flautist, and band director. Jana appeared on Season 10 of American Idol and has released four full-length albums to date. She was a longtime music teacher in the Twin Cities, too. 

“Together we have two sons, Auggie is almost 6 and Hobbes is 3. Both our kids love to play the trumpet. They both have great rhythm. They both can sing. Music is fun for just about everything in life. We make up songs. We have one for taking our vitamin gummies, a song for taking a bath, and one for wiggling off our snow clothes. We are constantly singing. It’s a fun house to grow up in. 

“Auggie and Hobbes listen to me practice the trumpet, all the fundamental boring parts, every day. They see my microphone setup here at home, and see me collaborating with other artists. My philosophy is: don’t force your dreams on your children. Still, I’m living my dream, and Jana, too, so they experience a lot of music with us.

Be sure to check out Prof. Adam Meckler’s full bio and all his links here: https://linktr.ee/AdamMeckler

“There was a time I was practicing for West Side Story at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. I played both the main role and a sub, so I had to learn two parts, with some real screaming on my horn. That was no problem for them. Oggie and Hobbs are used to hearing me playing full volume, even at bedtime. But just the other night, Jana texted me at about 11 pm while I was practicing in the basement, to say: ‘Adam could you please keep it down? I need to get some sleep!'”

Dr. Jared Anderson is chair of Michigan Tech’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts

Prof. Jared Anderson is a strong advocate for the transformative power of ensemble singing in building caring communities. As Director of Choral Activities at Michigan Tech, he conducts Michigan Tech choirs and teaches courses in music theory, group voice, and basic musicianship. He also coaches singers in Tech theater productions.

Anderson has conducted ensembles in Utah, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, ensembles of all sizes and voicing, with singers of many different ages and backgrounds. An active choral himself singer himself, Anderson has performed in venues and festivals worldwide.

Prof. Anderson, how did you first get involved in music? What sparked your interest?

“I grew up in Orem, Utah, and come from a big family. My mom played in dance bands, and so each of us, me and my brothers and sisters, had to play an instrument and do things. I played piano and she insisted that I not quit until graduating from high school, but that was never a question—I always loved it. One of my fondest memories is when my dad played William Tell overture and we’d all run around like The Lone Ranger in the house.”


Life is a song: “Jane and I are the proud parents of three children,” says Prof. Anderson.

I always thought I’d be a doctor like my dad. In college I studied piano. I thought, no problem—I’ll major in piano and then go to med school. But I never ended up taking any pre-med courses, not even one!” From there, I moved into singing and choirs. There’s just something about being in a community and conducting that got me hooked.  

Michigan Tech Concert Choir Director Jared Anderson poses with a new friend during a visit to a South African school. The choir spent two weeks in South Africa in May 2017.

What is your most meaningful and memorable choral experience thus far?

While earning my master’s degree, I conducted the Utah State Prison choir on Tuesday nights. Sometimes there’d be 20 guys and other times just a few, depending on lockdown. I’d enter the prison by going through all the checkpoints, and then I’d be alone, walking over to the prison chapel where we rehearsed. We sang a lot together, and they loved to sing. It was a medium security prison, so I’d joke – ‘Hey, I know you’re all here because you forgot to pay your taxes in 1984!’ But it was a hardened environment. I could see how singing made a difference in their lives, by how they interacted with each other after a few songs.

Be sure to check out Prof. Anderson’s full bio here.


Tim Schulz: Anatomy of a Fishing Season

A digital self portrait sketch by Tim Schulz. “I was fishing down at the Pilgrim River near town. I ended up using this for the cover of my book.”

Tim Schulz shares his knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, March 29 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Tim Schulz, University Professor, Michigan Tech

What are you doing for supper this Monday 3/29 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Tim Schulz, University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Prof. Schulz teaches electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, fishes for trout throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and plays guitar and writes songs in his spare time. He is the author of The Habits of Trout: And Other Unsolved Mysteries, a collection of essays about fishing. 

Will Cantrell, Dean of the Graduate School at Michigan Tech

Joining in will be Will Cantrell, associate provost and dean of Michigan Tech’s graduate school. Dean Cantrell is also a professor of Physics. His research focuses on atmospheric science, particularly on clouds. In the summer, he goes fly fishing, occasionally tying some of his own flies.

During Husky Bites, Schulz will share the story of how he came to write his book, The Habits of Trout. It all began with a quest to explore the rugged backwoods environs where another author, John Voelker, found an abundance of wild trout and a dearth of crowds.

Schulz first came to Michigan Tech in 1992 as an assistant professor. He earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and then served as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Schulz was appointed Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2007, then returned to the ECE department five years later as a professor. In 2019 Schulz was named a University Professor, a title recognizing faculty members who have made outstanding scholarly contributions to the University and their discipline over a substantial period of time.

“When my eye doctor asks if I ever see spots,” says Schulz, “I say ‘all the time.'” 

As a teacher, Schulz is widely acknowledged as one of the ECE department’s best, with his friendly, humorous style and his devotion to his students’ learning. He’s also a leader in using technology to deliver technical material in electrical and computer engineering. 

“There was a time when I believed I could solve the mysteries of trout in particular and of life in general. But now I think we sometimes need to get skunked. We need to break our line on a good fish every now and again, and sometimes we need to cast all day without a take. We need to be grounded by the humility of failure so we can be lifted by the hope of success.”

Excerpt with permission from The Habits of Trout and Other Unsolved Mysteries, by Timothy Schulz (Uptrout Press, 2018). All rights reserved.

Starting in 2012, Schulz created a series of videos collectively titled “Electric Circuits” and posted them on YouTube. Though he created them with his EE2111 (Electric Circuits 1) class in mind, they are reaching a much wider audience.  All combined, his educational videos have had over one million views on YouTube. One, “Thevenin Equivalent Circuits” has gotten more than 162,763 views. Since that time, Schulz developed a phone app of randomized electric circuit problems to use in this course, too. 

The Habits of Trout and Other Unsolved Mysteries is Schulz’s first book.

As a researcher, Schulz applies statistical signal-processing techniques to computational imaging and signal analysis. His methods have been used to clarify images from the Hubble Space Telescope and to miniaturize high-quality cameras for military surveillance and commercial applications. Shortly after the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, Schulz applied image processing methods to de-blur and improve images taken with the flawed telescope.

When and how did you discover a love of fly fishing? Did anyone teach you how?

Tim: One of my mom’s friends gave me a cheap fly rod when I was a kid, and I used that for bluegill. But I didn’t get serious about fly fishing in general, and fly fishing for trout in particular, until about 25 years ago when my wife Roxanne bid on fly fishing lessons that Ray Weglars donated to benefit a local art gallery. She has second guessed that ever since. 

Will: I helped my neighbor down the street, Lou Owen, with something. I think maybe it was his garage door opener. He insisted that I “take something” for my trouble. He ended up taking me fly fishing. That was my first experience with it. He showed me the basics. After that, I was self taught, and have no doubt taught myself some bad habits, especially with casting.

Rainbow Trout. Credit: Tim Schulz

Do you ever find yourself thinking about your research while you are out fishing? 

Tim: Sometimes, but not a lot. Mostly, I think about the flora, the fauna, and the fish. 

Will: Usually, when I’m fishing, I am thinking about the fish that’s rising, or where it might be if there’s not a fish rising, or how to get a fly to drift without dragging despite the three crosswise currents between me and where I want the fly…I am more likely to think about research problems when I’m walking the river to get where I will be fishing.

For those who have never ever tried it, what’s a good way to get started?

Tim: Go to a good fly shop and have them set you up. A good guide is invaluable for helping you get started. And read all you can on the subject. If you have a friend who fly fishes, take them to dinner, buy them beer, whiskey, or anything else they like. Fly anglers are secretive, but they have weaknesses, and they can be bought.

Will: Most fisherpeople will show you one or two spots that everyone knows about. What Tim suggests is probably the most reliable way.

“Here’s a brown I caught a couple of summers ago on
the Uncompahgre in Colorado,” says Cantrell.

How do you deal with the mosquitos and the biting insects?

Tim: From my chest down, I’m protected by waders. I always wear long sleeve shirts, and my wide-brim hat has been sprayed with bug-dope so much that the EPA has classified it as a minor environmental hazard. Also, if you do this long enough, you’ll learn to extend your lower lip in front of your upper lip and blow the bugs off your face. It really works.

Will: Badger Balm. Long sleeve shirt. If the bugs are biting you, there are also bugs on the water. Trout feed on bugs. I am much less bothered by biting insects when I’m casting to a rise that I think might be grandfather trout!

Brown Trout. Credit: Tim Schulz

In terms of fly fishing, what is your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness?

Tim: My greatest strength? Patience. I’m really good at sitting on a log or a rock and waiting for a fish to start feeding. I can do it for hours. Most of the big fish I’ve caught have been because of that. My greatest weakness? Patience. I’m really good at sitting on a log or a rock and waiting for a fish to start feeding. I can do it for hours. Most of my fishless days have been because of that. 

Will: My greatest weakness? Patience, lack thereof. I almost never do what Tim describes!

Word to the wise: Be careful if you decide to check out Madness and Magic, Prof. Schulz captivating blog. You may easily become hooked!


Andrew Barnard + Travis White: Lake Superior, Marine Autonomy—and Fishing

Photo credit: Travis White

Andrew Barnard and Travis White share their knowledge on Husky Bites tonight, Monday, March 22 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper tonight, Monday 3/22 at 6 ET? Hey, it’s World Water Day 2021! Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Andrew Barnard, Director of Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC). Barnard is a Michigan Tech alum, and an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech, specializing in the field of acoustics, vibration, and noise control engineering.

Andrew Barnard, Director, Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Tech

Joining in will be Travis White, aka Captain White. He’s a research engineer at the GLRC, owner of Keweenaw Charters, and also a Michigan Tech alum. Travis earned his BS in mechanical engineering in 2011. He’s also an entrepreneur, as cofounder of ProNav Marine, a company that offers up high-tech tools designed to enhance the boating and fishing experience.

Travis White, Research Engineer, Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Tech

Together they will present some of their exciting work around the Great Lakes and beyond, including engineering an autonomous jetski that will help map the bottom of Lake Superior–and advance research in the area of marine autonomy.

“Autonomous marine vehicles can aid in data collection to identify invasive species, monitor the effects of climate change, evaluate fish populations, assess water quality, and much more,” says White. “Not only does their widespread adoption and use help to protect our limited water resources for economic, environmental, and social benefits but also related technologies promise to make global shipping smarter, cleaner, and more efficient.”

The mission of Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center: To become a leader in interdisciplinary aquatic science and engineering focused on the Laurentian Great Lakes Basin in its entirety through excellence in research education and outreach.

According to White and Barnard, GLRC’s 11′ Yamaha WaveRunner, a personal watercraft, is being made autonomous through the addition of remotely controlled actuators for steering and throttle and sensors including GPS, compass, and inertial motion sensing.

“The Michigan Tech engineers behind this are collaborating with a supplier in Madrid, Spain to adapt their commercially available off the shelf control hardware for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to what will become an autonomous / unmanned surface vehicle (ASV / USV) once the integration is complete,” says White. “Currently the WaveRunner is fully remotely controllable, but the ultimate goal is making it fully autonomous, meaning it can be given a program via a computer software interface and deployed to complete missions without requiring an operator at the controls.”

Michigan Tech GLRC’s Yamaha WaveRunner, a personal watercraft (aka “jetski)

That research is one of many projects underway at the recently established Marine Autonomy Research Site (MARS), which serves as a proving ground for new maritime technologies that will enable smart, autonomous, and unmanned shipping.  

“I grew up in the Blue Economy,” adds Barnard. “Twenty-one percent of the world’s surface freshwater is in the Great Lakes. If the Great Lakes states were their own country, they would have the world’s 3rd largest GDP. From tourism to shipping, water is vital to our economic engine.”

This week Michigan Tech’s celebrates World Water Day 2021 with a week full of special events from March 18-24. “It’s an exciting and varied schedule for all ages,” say White. Registration is needed for events on March 23 & 24. Visit the Great Lakes Research Center World Water Day website for more details. All events all relate to the United Nations theme, “Valuing Water.”

Water is vital to life. On World Water Day, discover how our community values water from social, economic, cultural, and environmental perspectives.

During Husky Bites, Andrew Barnard and Travis White of the Great Lakes Research Center will talk about the USGS Saildrone (pictured here)—how it works, and how it’s used for fish population assessment.

“Fishing is a vital resource for Great Lakes communities and tribes,” adds Barnard. “The USGS conducts yearly Great Lakes fish surveys. One problem: Noise from large vessels can affect accurate fish counting.”

White will discuss some interesting interdisciplinary research in his job at the Great Lakes Research Center, as well:

DARPA BioProtein—turning plastic into food (economic sustainability through environmental sustainability)

Lake Superior Geology—the Midcontinent Rift System (MRS) sample collection at Stannard Rock.

And the Great Lakes Buoy Program—real-time measurements of wind, waves, and weather (And, “Great for fishing,” adds White).

“My goal was to form a career around my passions,” says Travis. “Two of those passions: being on the water, and big fish!”

During Husky Bites, Barnard and White plan to hare a few (fish) tales from their time spent working on and around the water, experiences that inspire their work and fuel their passion for protecting water resources.

Andrew Barnard was born and raised outside of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, an area cradled between Lake Michigan and the bay of Green Bay. He comes from a long line of teachers.


Tim Eisele: Backyard Metals

It takes a village. (Leaching manganese in Tim Eisele’s lab at Michigan Tech requires help from a sizeable community of bacteria.)

Tim Eisele shares his knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, March 15 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 3/15 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Tim Eisele, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech. His focus: sustainable metallurgy.

Tim Eisele, Chemical Engineering, Michigan Tech

“There is more than one way to extract metals from ore,” says Eisele. “Massive mines that disrupt many square miles are not the only way to go. I have been working on a method for using bacteria to recover iron and manganese in such a way that, if it is done carefully, it may not even be obvious that mining is going on at all.”

Joining in will be Neha Sharma, one of Dr. Eisele’s PhD students. She came to Michigan Tech from the India Institute of Technology after internships at Tata Steel, the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre in Australia, and India’s National Metallurgical Lab.

Eisele holds a BS, MS and PhD in Metallurgical Engineering, all from Michigan Tech. In his research, he develops bacterial processes for upgrading and extracting iron ores and low-cost reprocessing of industrial wastes such as slags and sludges to recover valuable metals.

The inspiration for this began right in Eisele’s own yard, and in his own household well. “We have 9 acres of surprisingly varied property that includes rock outcroppings, grassland, woods, and a small fen–a type of wetland–that bleeds iron,” he explains.

Iron bogs are located all over the world. This one is located in the Black Hills of Western South Dakota. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

“It all started when we bought the house. All the plumbing fixtures were stained red. Really red. I took a glass of untreated drinking water to my lab at Michigan Tech, and found that iron precipitated out. We struck iron! So I thought, ‘Why is this happening? Is there something constructive we can do with this?’”

The high iron content of his home well water, Eisele figured out, was caused by naturally occurring anaerobic iron-dissolving organisms.

“The UP is well known for having these elements in the soil, both iron and manganese,” says Eisele. Jacobsville sandstone is a visible example. The white lines in Jacobsville sandstone are where bacteria ate out the iron.”

Jacobsville Sandstone from Jacobsville, Michigan. Held in the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Tech. Sample is approximately 12 cm across.

Eisele cultivated anaerobic and aerobic organisms in the laboratory to fully adapt them to the ore. “We use mixed cultures of organisms that we have found to be more effective than pure cultures of a single species of organism,” he explains. “The use of microorganism communities will also be more practical to implement on an industrial scale, where protecting the process from contamination by outside organisms may be impossible.”

“There was not much initial interest in the technology from industry,” recalls Eisele. “‘If you can demonstrate that you can do it at a profit, come talk to us,” they said.

Since that time, Eisele and his team have been branching out to also extract manganese, which is dissolved by the same organisms as the ones that dissolve iron. This has attracted more interest, including a recent funded project from the U.S. Department of Energy.

A diagram of Eisele’s reductive bioleaching concept. He’ll explain at Husky Bites!

“Manganese is one of the ‘battery metals,’” Eisele explains. “It’s also used heavily in most steel alloys.”

“Manganese is also currently considered a ‘critical element”. Currently there is no manganese mining or production in the US,” adds Eisele. “While there are manganese ores in this country, new extraction technology is needed in order to be competitive with ores elsewhere in the world.”

In Eisele’s lab at Michigan Tech, Neha Sharma and other students, both graduate and undergraduate, work on developing and refining the technology. This includes a small “model wetland” consisting of a 5-gallon container with a circulation of water and appropriate nutrients, –in effect, simulating the type of wetland that leaches metal.

“I work on a manganese leaching setup,” Sharma explains. “It involves analyzing the samples we get from the leaching flasks for the presence of manganese. The best part of the work? “New findings are always the best part,” says Sharma. The most challenging? “Writing about them!”

In the beaker on the right, anaerobic bacteria dissolve iron in the ferrous state. On the left, in Dr. Eisele’s hand, recovered electrolytic iron.

Professor Eisele, how did you first get involved in engineering. What sparked your interest?

I have been interested in science and engineering for as long as I can remember. I originally decided to work with metals after taking a welding class in high school, and came to Michigan Tech to study metallurgy in 1980.

“This is a Cecropia Moth caterpillar (Hyalophora cecropia) that we found on a wild cherry last August.”

Family and hobbies?

I grew up on a small dairy farm in the Thumb area of lower Michigan, near Kinde (population 400). I then decided to move here, to the Big City. I currently live just outside of town with my wife, two children, a dog, a cat, six chickens, and a variable number of beehives. My daughters are still in school, and my wife is a locksmith.

“In my spare time, I like to take photos of insects, and started a website about it back in 2007, The Backyard Arthropod Project. Both of my daughters have participated in this from the beginning, and neither of them has the slightest fear of insects or spiders. My older daughter’s first contribution at the age of 2 was an assassin bug nymph, that she brought while crowing, ‘Take picture, Dada!’ My younger daughter, also at the age of 2, brought me a nice longhorn beetle that she held up while calling out ‘See! Bug!’ Lately I’ve also been including postings about the local plants, and have a couple of posts about the metal-leaching properties of our wetland.”

Neha Sharma, PhD student. Michigan Tech

Neha, how did you first get involved in engineering? What sparked your interest?

“I was always interested in science during my school days, so when I graduated from high school I thought that engineering would be the perfect fit for me. My major during my undergraduate studies in India was mineral processing. Working through those subjects and various internships –all focused on mineral processing and metallurgy–sparked my interest towards the sustainable aspect of these industries.”

One of Neha’s charcoal drawings: “I call it a tranquil life.”

Family and hobbies?

Neha with her brother, father and mother, on a visit ft the US from India.

“I grew up in a small town in India called Bokaro Steel City. I earned my bachelor’s degree from the Indian School of Mines (now Indian Institute of Technology) in Dhanbad, India. My parents still live in India. My father is a teacher in high school, teaching math and physics. My older brother works for Borealis AI, in Canada. My mother is a homemaker and loves gardening. I love going to new places. In my spare time, I’ll read a book or sketch. I love badminton, and cross country skiing, too. I am also a big Lord of the Rings fan, and a Potterhead too!”


Paleomagnetism: Deciphering the Early History of the Earth

Rock samples in Smirnov’s lab are 2-3 billion years old.

Although it makes up about seven-eighths of the Earth’s history, the Precambrian time period is far from figured out. Key questions remain unanswered.

The Precambrian—the first four billion years of Earth history—was a time of many critical transitions in Earth systems, including oxygenation of the atmosphere and emergence of life. But many of these processes, and the links between them, are poorly understood.

Data can be obtained from fossil magnetism—some rocks record the Earth’s magnetic field that existed at the time of their formation. However, for very old rocks (billions of years old) the conventional methods of obtaining fossil magnetism do not work well.

Professor Aleksey Smirnov, Chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Michigan Tech Professor of Geophysics, Aleksey Smirnov, seeks to substantially increase the amount of reliable data on the Precambrian field. Smirnov investigates the fossil magnetism of well-dated igneous rocks from around the globe using new and experimental processes to help fill in the blanks. His work on the early magnetic field history is supported by several National Science Foundation grants including a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

“Deciphering the early history of our planet, the early history of its geomagnetic field, represents one of the great challenges in Earth science,” says Smirnov. “Available data are scarce, and key questions remain unanswered. For instance we still don’t know how and when the Earth’s geomagnetic field began.”

Smirnov and former student Danford Moore
drill rock samples in the Zebra Hill region, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia.

“How did the geomagnetic field evolve at early stages? How did it interact with the biosphere, and other Earth system components—these are all largely unanswered questions. There is also disagreement on the age of the solid inner core, ranging between 0.5 and 2.5 billion years,” note Smirnov.

Scientists largely believe the Earth’s intrinsic magnetic field is generated and maintained by convective flow in the Earth’s fluid outer core, called the geodynamo.

Smirnov’s research has broad implications for Earth science including a better understanding of the workings and age of the geodynamo.

Earth cutaway. Credit: Lawrence Livermore Lab

“Crystallization of the inner core may have resulted in a dramatic increase of the geomagnetic field strength preceded by a period of an unusually weak and unstable field,” he explains. “If we observe this behavior in the paleomagnetic record, we will have a much better estimate of the inner core age and hence a better constrained thermal history of our planet.”

Knowing the strength and stability of the early geomagnetic field is also crucial to understanding the causative links between the magnetic field and modulating the evolution of atmosphere and biosphere,” notes Smirnov.

An illustration of the Earth’s magnetic field. Credit NASA.

Today, the Earth’s magnetic field protects the atmosphere and life from solar and cosmic radiation. “Before the inner core formation, the geodynamo could have produced a much weaker and less stable magnetic field. An attendant weaker magnetic shielding would allow a much stronger effect of solar radiation on life evolution and atmospheric chemistry.”

Both graduate and undergraduate students work with Smirnov to conduct research, logging hours in his Earth and Environmental Magnetism Lab, traveling the world to collect specimens.

The Earth and Environmental Magnetism Lab at Michigan Tech: If you drop a metal object on the floor there, the shielding properties of the room can be lost.

“The primary (useful) magnetizations recorded by ancient rocks are usually very weak and are often superimposed by later (parasitic, secondary) magnetizations,” Smirnov explains. “In order to get to the primary magnetization, we have to remove the secondary magnetizations by incremental heatings of the samples in our specialized paleomagnetic furnaces. The heatings must be done in a zero magnetic field environment. This is one reason why we have the shielded room, which was specially built for our paleomagnetic lab. There are other shielded rooms around the country, but ours is the only one at Michigan Tech,” he notes.

“The second reason for having our instruments in the shielded room is that the magnetizations we measure are weak and our instruments are so sensitive that the Earth’s magnetic field can interfere with our measurements. In fact, in addition to the shielded room, each instrument inside has an additional magnetic shielding.”

Note that the shielded room was built before I came, by my predecessors Profs Jimmy Diehl and Sue Beske-Diehl.

Students in this photo (some now graduates) are performing liquid helium transfer into one of our cryogenic magnetometers. “We need to constantly keep the sensors at a very cold temperature (only a very few degrees above the absolute zero temperature) to provide their ultra-sensitivity,” says GMES professor and chair, Aleksey Smirnov. “It is based on the principle of superconductivity.”

On one month-long trip to the Pilbara Craton in northwest Western Australia, Smirnov and a student gathered 900 samples of well preserved, 2.7 to 3.5 billion year old Precambrian rocks. 

Smirnov stepped into the role of chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences last fall, but that won’t keep him too far from his research. “Any interested student should feel free to get in touch to learn more about research positions,” he says.

Investigations in Smirnov’s lab are not limited to the ancient field. Other interests include the application of magnetic methods for hydrocarbon exploration, magnetic mineralogy, magnetism of meteorites, biomagnetism, and plate tectonics.

Learn more

Aleksey Smirnov is the new Chair of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Clues To Earth’s Ancient Core


Chee-Wooi Ten: Ahead of the Cybersecurity Curve

The Night Lights of the United States (as seen from space). Credit: NASA/GSFC.

Chee-Wooi Ten shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, February 22 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 2/22 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Chee-Wooi Ten, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. His focus: power engineering cybersecurity.

Associate Professor Chee-Wooi Ten at Michigan Tech

“For many years as a power system engineer, we referred to ‘security’ as the power outage contingency subject to weather-related threats,” says Ten. “The redefined security we need today, cybersecurity, is an emerging field on its own, one that works synergistically with security systems engineers.”

Joining in will be Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Junho Hong from the University of Michigan Dearborn. He is a power engineer, and a cybersecurity colleague and a longtime friend of Dr. Ten’s.

In an era of cyberwarfare, the power grid is a high-voltage target. Ten and Hong both want to better protect it. 

At issue are electrical substations, which serve as intersections in the nation’s power system. Because they play such a key role in our infrastructure, substations could be attractive targets. 

Assistant Professor Junho Hong, University of Michigan Dearborn. His research areas include Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Power Electronics, and Energy Systems.

A physical attack could damage parts of the grid, but a cyberattack to interconnection substations could cripple the entire system simultaneously. 

Some power companies remain reluctant to fully implement electronic control systems because they could compromise security. “This is a controversial issue for most utilities,” said Ten. “If the substation network is compromised, the grid will be vulnerable. If hackers know what they are doing, that could result in a major blackout.“

With better security from cyberattacks, companies could use Internet Protocol (IP) communications to manage electronic control systems. “It would be faster, more efficient, and more economical, too,” says Ten. 

However, IP has a disadvantage: hackers are notoriously resourceful at breaking into IP networks, even when they are protected by firewalls.

Still, solutions to IP problems can be found, says Ten.

“Let’s say you check your front door once a day to make sure it is locked. Does that mean your house is secure? Probably not. Just because your door is locked doesn’t mean someone can’t get in. But if you put a camera in front of your house with incoming motion data to determine if there is movement around your house, you have more data so security can be better assessed.” 

““The key word, says Ten: “Interconnected.”

The power grid is too big, so we need to simulate cyberattacks to see what happens, adds Ten. “When it comes to power system research, data is really sensitive, and cybersecurity clearance requirements make it hard to get data. That is why simulations are important. We try to make simulations as close as possible to real systems. That we can ‘try out cyber attacks’ and see the impacts.

Running simulations saves utility companies time and money, and helps them prepare for the cascading effects of such an event, adds Ten. “We can emulate the real world without constructing the real thing, something called the ‘digital twin’.”

“We can solve the problems of cybersecurity by understanding them first. Then, we can apply analytical methods to deal with those problems.”

– Chee-Wooi Ten

Ten works with government agencies, power companies, and the vendors that provide products used to strengthen substations’ cybersecurity framework. By collaborating with all the stakeholders, he aims to transform the energy industry by improving efficiency, reliability and security, both in the power grid and cyberspace. No single vendor can do everything; it has to be synergistic,” says Ten.

It’s true: hypothetical impact analysis scenarios are a lot like one scene in the movie, Avengers. Dr. Ten will explain at Husky Bites!

Professor Ten, how did you first get involved in engineering. What sparked your interest?

I actually did not do well academically in high school. I was obsessed with computers. My dad had some money to sponsor my studies in the US. And since computers were invented in the US, I wanted to be part of that, so I went to Iowa State University. In Fall 1997, the Asian economic crisis hit and affected my studies, so I changed my major to power engineering, in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. When I look back, I have billionaire George Soros to thank. (Many people feel his aggressive Asian currency trades were to blame.) The power engineering program at Iowa State was one of the most historically established programs in the US. I was able to get involved in undergraduate research, with mentoring from a professor who taught me a great deal.

Family and hobbies?

I was born in Malaysia and was recently naturalized as a US citizen. My ethnicity is actually Chinese. My grandparents came to Malaysia from China early in the 20th century due to war and hunger, to pursue happiness. My brother is an engineer, too. My dad didn’t finish his university studies. I am the only one in our family with a doctorate degree.  My parents sent me to a foreign country to get a taste of life. (Imagine, I did not know how to speak English and had to relearn everything in the US!) I would not be who I am today had I stayed in Malaysia.

I’ve been living in Houghton now for about 11 years. My newest hobby is downhill skiing with my daughter. She’ll be turning 9 soon. Our ski hill, Michigan Tech’s Mont Ripley, is just 10 minutes from down the road.

Professor Hong, how did you first get involved in engineering? What sparked your interest? 

“In South Korea, two years of military service is a requirement after graduating from high school,” says Dr. Junho Hong. “Before going to college I served two years in the Navy, and learned a lot about technology on Navy ships.”

When I got to college, computer science was a hot topic but I wanted to better understand electricity. Without electricity how can we have technology? So, I chose electrical engineering. After graduation, I started looking at the much bigger work going on outside my country. I decided to earn my PhD. That’s how I met Chee-Wooi. We both studied at the University College Dublin in Ireland. We had the same doctorate advisor, Professor Chen-Ching Liu.

Dr. Hong (r) with his graduate advisor at Washington State University, Dr. Chen-Ching-Liu (l). Dr. Liu was also Dr. Ten’s PhD advisor at Washington State University. A world traveler, Dr. Liu is now at Virginia Tech. He was recently named a member of the US National Academy of Engineering in 2020 for his contributions to computational methods for power system restoration and cybersecurity.

Family and hobbies?

Before the pandemic, I used to go swimming at least once a day. Right now I’m doing a lot of training, instead. I’ve got equipment in my home—for cycling, weight training and working out. My wife and two kids are in South Korea for the time being. Early in the pandemic, my wife had some medical issues, and with hospitals here in Southeast Michigan overwhelmed with Covid patients, she had to go back home for medical treatment. It’s been hard to endure. I miss them greatly! My son and daughter are 9 and 6. 


Simon Carn: Sniffing Volcanoes from Space

Lava Lake on Mount Nyiragongo, an active stratovolcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo credit: Simon Carn

Simon Carn shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, February 15 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 2/15 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Volcanologist Simon Carn, Professor, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES).

Also joining in will be GMES Research Professor Bill Rose, one of the first in volcanology to embrace satellite data to study volcanic emissions and is a well-recognized leader in the field. 

Professor Simon Carn in the field at Kilauea volcano (Hawaii) in 2018 (with lava in the background).

Prof. Carn studies carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from volcanoes, using remote sensing via satellite.

His goal: improved monitoring of volcanic eruptions, human health risks and climate processes—one volcanic breath at a time.

“Volcanology—the study of volcanoes—is a truly multidisciplinary endeavor that encompasses numerous fields including geology, physics, chemistry, material science and social science,” says Carn.  

Carn applies remote sensing data to understand the environmental impacts of volcanic eruption clouds, volcanic degassing, and human created pollution, too.

“Sulfur dioxide, SO2, plays an important role in the atmosphere,” he says. “SO2 can cause negative climate forcing. It also impacts cloud microphysics.” 

Professor Bill Rose

Many individual particles make up a cloud, so small they exist on the microscale. A cloud’s individual microstructure determines its behavior, whether it can produce rain or snow, for instance, or affect the Earth’s radiation balance.

“During Husky Bites I’ll discuss volcanic eruptions and their climate impacts, he says. “I’ll describe the satellite imagery techniques, and talk about the unique things we can measure from space.”

Carn was a leading scientist in an effort to apply sensors on NASA satellites, forming what is called the Afternoon Constellation or ‘A-Train’ to Earth observations. “The A-Train is a coordinated group of satellites in a polar orbit, crossing the equator within seconds to minutes of each other,” he explains. “This allows for near-simultaneous observations.”

Volcanic glow in Ambrym, volcanic island in Malampa Province in the archipelago of Vanuatu. Photo credit: Simon Carn

The amount of geophysical data collected from space—and the ground—has increased exponentially over the past few years,” he says. “Our computational capacity to process the data and construct numerical models of volcanic processes has also increased. As a result, our understanding of the potential impacts of volcanoes has significantly advanced.”

That said, “Accurate prediction of volcanic eruptions is a significant challenge, and will remain so until we can increase the number of global volcanoes that are intensively monitored.”

Carn is the principal investigator on a project funded by NASA, “Tracking Volcanic Gases from Magma Reservoir to the Atmosphere: Identifying Precursors, and Optimizing Models and Satellite Observations for Future Major Eruptions.”

He is a member of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, and the American Geophysical Union. He served on a National Academy of Sciences Committee on Improving Understanding of Volcanic Eruptions.

Here’s another look at Ambrym. Photo credit: Simon Carn

Carn has taught, lectured and supervised students at Michigan Tech since 2008 and around the world since 1994 at the International Volcanological Field School in Russia, Cambridge University, the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and at international workshops in France, Italy, Iceland, Indonesia, Singapore and Costa Rica.

“After finishing my PhD in the UK, I worked on the island of Montserrat (West Indies) for several months monitoring the active Soufriere Hills volcano. This got me interested in the use of remote sensing techniques for monitoring volcanic gas emissions. I then moved to the US for a postdoc at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, using satellite data to measure volcanic emissions.

Dr. Carn during a research trip to Vanuatu in 2014. The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, home to several active volcanoes.

While there, I started collaborating with the Michigan Tech volcanology group, including Dr. Bill Rose.”

Rose, a research professor in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech, was once the department chair, from 1991-98.

 “Houghton, where Michigan Tech is located, is really an important place for copper in the world,” he says. There is a strong relationship between the copper mines here and volcanoes. We live on black rocks that go through the city and campus, some jutting up over the ground. Those rocks, basalt, are big lava flows, the result of a massive volcanic eruption, a giant Iceland-style event.”

“Arguably, Michigan Tech owes its beginning to volcanic activity, which is ultimately responsible for the area’s rich copper deposits and the development of mining in the Keweenaw,” he says.

“I was very much aware of the volcanic context when I arrived in Houghton as a young professor,” adds Rose. “I had a dual major in geography and geology, but the chance to work in an engineering department sounded good to me. It gave me a chance to go outside, working hands-on in the field.”

Rose did everything he could to get his students to places where they could be immersed in science. For many geology graduates, those trips were the highlight of their Michigan Tech education.

“This is a view of our helicopter landing in the crater at El Chichon, Mexico,” says Prof. Bill Rose. “Simon asked me to share this image and talk about it during Husky Bites.”

“I always took students with me on trips,” says Rose. “That was my priority. After all, the best geoscientists have seen the most rocks. We went all over the world, looking at volcanoes, doing research, and going to meetings,” he says. “I usually took more students with me than I had money for.”

“Back in the late 1980s, this photo was taken in the field in Guatemala (note the chicken!). I was talking to a witness from and eruption in 1929, and showing him photos I had of that event,” says Rose.

Not all students could afford to travel, however. So when Bill (partially) retired in 2011, he decided to do something about that. “My dream was to create a quarter-million- dollar fund for student travel,” he says. He launched the Geoscience Student Travel Endowment Fund with a personal donation of $100,000.

Students take part in one of the hundreds of field studies led by Dr. Bill Rose.

In 2004 Rose started the Peace Corps Master’s International Program at Michigan Tech, now  a graduate degree in Mitigation of Geological Natural Hazards, a program with strong connections with Central American countries and Indonesia. He also developed Keweenaw Geoheritage, in hopes of broadening geological knowledge of the region and of Earth science in general.

His work during his 50 years at Michigan Tech includes volcanic gas and ash emission studies, including potential aircraft hazards from volcanic clouds.

Prof. Rose and then graduate student Taryn Lopez, now Assistant Research Professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

Prof. Rose, what accomplishment are you most proud of?

“My students. I treasure the time I have spent with them. I am laid back. I have been able to work with wonderful students every day of my 45 years at Michigan Tech, thousands of students. My style with these fine people is to give them hardly any orders. I encouraged them to follow their nose and network with each other.”

Last winter Dr. Carn and his kids built a ‘snowcano’ in their yard!

Professor Carn, when was the moment you knew volcanology was for you?

“The first active volcano I encountered was Arenal in Costa Rica during my travels after finishing high school. However, I think the point that I first seriously considered volcanology as a career was during my MS degree in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The first field trip was to Italy to see the spectacular active volcanoes Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius.”

Simon Carn on Yasur volcano, Vanuatu in August 2014. “We were measuring the volcanic gas emissions from Yasur, one of the biggest sources of volcanic gas on Earth.We were specifically interested in measuring the emissions of carbon dioxide from the volcano, to improve estimates of global volcanic CO2 emissions”

What do you like most about volcanology?

“Studying volcanoes is undeniably exciting and exotic. We are lucky to visit some spectacular locations for fieldwork and conferences. New eruptions can occur at any time, so there’s always something new and exciting to study. We are also fortunate in that it is relatively easy to justify studying volcanoes (e.g., to funding agencies), given their potentially significant impacts on climate, the environment and society.”

Q: Tell us about this photo of your grandfather. Was he a volcanologist, too?

“My grandfather (John Gale) at Vesuvius in 1943.”

“My grandfather is standing at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius. He wasn’t a volcanologist, though he was a high school science teacher and a conservationist. The photo of Vesuvius was always one of his favorites, from a time when photographs were quite rare, and he often showed it to me in my youth.”


Russ Alger: Snow 101

Russ Alger shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, February 8 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Snowy crop circle of some sort? No, it’s part of the test course at Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 2/8 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Russ Alger, Director of the Institute of Snow Research at Michigan Tech.

Alger knows about snow. He’s one of the world’s top go-to guys on cold climate roads and driving, with 45 years of experience and counting. During Husky Bites, he’ll talk about the natural properties of snow as well as some of the ways that snow can be used for engineering purposes.

Russ Alger: “Growing up in the Copper Country helped to make me like snow for sure.”

Also joining in will be Toby Kunnari, Test Course Manager at the Keweenaw Research Center. The KRC’s test course is spread out over 1,000 acres just a few miles away from campus at Michigan Tech.

Ever since earning his BS and MS in civil engineering Michigan Tech, Alger has been working with vehicles and terrains. If there’s a way to alter strength and friction parameters on the surface of a terrain to enhance mobility, Alger can make it happen.

Whether it involves mobility in snow, or the development of pavements made entirely from snow, Alger and other Michigan Tech engineers and scientists at the Institute of Snow Research are ready to tackle the problem. They are also experts in winter maintenance of roads and runways—both anti-icing and deicing.

A tank makes its way through a custom test course at Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center.

“The unique weather conditions on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, coupled with our large array of equipment and facilities, makes the Institute the right place to bring your research questions,” he says.

Alger studies the deformation of soil and snow particles under vehicle loads. He has characterized these terrains using standard physical property measurement techniques as well as through the use of bevameters, automated penetrometers, calorimeters, high speed imaging, and a number of other methods to extract data in harsh environments. (He’ll explain his toolbox during Husky Bites).

Alger holds a patent on a method he invented to “manufacture” snow pavements by mechanically altering the internal snow properties and developing high strengths in the snow pack.

Between 1994 and 2016 Alger took six trips to Antarctica, as part of a team that successfully scouted and created the first trail to the South Pole, needed as an alternative to flying in supplies. Every crevasse they discovered in the route had to be exposed and filled so tracked vehicles could safely pass over.

Alger took this image during one of his research trips to the South Pole. Pictured above: project leader John Wright works on the snow bridge above a crevasse nicknamed “Mongo”. The South Pole traverse team discovered the crevasse, and later filled it with snow. Mongo measured 32 feet wide, 82 feet deep with a snow bridge 25 foot deep.

During his last trip to Antarctica in 2016 Alger went to make one snow road better—a fifteen-mile stretch from Scott Base (New Zealand’s research center) to the Pegasus runway, where supplies and people arrive in cargo jets.

He used a special groomer he and his colleagues developed at the KRC. Called a snow paver, it has the near-magical ability to turn snow into solid roadway.

“The paver works by first chewing up the snow with a miller drum, which smashes the ice crystals so they will stick together,” Alger explains. “Then comes a vibrating compactor, to get all the air out of the snow. That action compresses it enough to make a pavement.”

At Michigan Tech Alger also invented a product called SafeLane, an epoxy-aggregate mixture that is applied to roads, bridge decks, walkways and parking lots to improve traction and safety during hazardous winter conditions. Now marketed by Cargill, the product is widely used.

It’s busy season at the Institute of Snow Research, but Alger took time from his hectic schedule to answer a few questions for us in advance of Husky Bites.

Have any snow questions of your own? Alger will answer questions live via Zoom on Monday Feb. 8 during his session. Join early at 5:45 for some extra conversation, or stay after for the Q&A.

Q: Are there any best practices for preparing roadways in winter?

A: Road supervisors and crews rely heavily on the weather forecast. Air temp, pavement temp, temperature trends, precipitation rates and total amounts, wind, time of day, and more all play into the decision making process. For example, if it is going to be below 15 degrees F, it is likely that crews would consider adding something like calcium chloride to the mix since it is better at colder temps. They might just use sodium chloride above that temp since it works well and is much cheaper. The amount of deicer needed also increases as temperature decreases and there is a point where it doesn’t pay to use deicer at all except for maybe as a “kicker” for sand applications.

Imagine doing your job on a snowmobile! That’s a pretty typical day for Russ Alger, director of Michigan Tech’s Institute for Snow Research.

Here in the UP, combining salt and stamp sands seems to work pretty well to help us get around amid all the snowfall. In most of Houghton County, stamp sand is used. It’s abundant, and the County owns some stamp sand property. On top of that, stamp sand is actually a pretty good ‘grit’ for this purpose. The grain size is right to result in traction, which is the purpose of sand. It isn’t too dusty, and most importantly, it is crushed rock, so it is angular. That means it has sharp edges that help it dig into icy pavements and grip tires.

The addition of a small amount of deicer helps the stamp sand piles from freezing up. It also helps the sand particles melt into the surface of the road and stick, making a layer that acts like a piece of sandpaper. This is a pretty effective way to increase grip of tires on the surface, which is the end goal of this operation.

Russ Alger knows snow. Join us at Husky Bites to learn from one of the world’s top experts.

Q: When did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

A: I became interested in engineering at a very young age and have always loved my job and profession. My father, George Alger, was a civil engineering professor at Michigan Tech for many years. His expertise was in ice-covered rivers and cold regions engineering in general. Growing up in Dollar Bay and working with him on outdoor projects, as well as being an outdoorsman myself, pointed me down that path at a young age. In 1976, my Dad, along with Michigan Tech civil engineering professors Ralph Hodek and Henry Sanford established a new curriculum at Michigan Tech, Cold Regions Engineering. I started with them that very first year. Growing up in the Copper Country helped to make me like snow for sure.

Q: Hometown, hobbies, family?

A: I have lived outside of Dollar Bay, Michigan for most of my life. I love being outdoors and especially love hunting, fishing and cooking outside. I live with my wife and one of my sons—and enjoy doing things with all of my sons, daughters and grandchildren.

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