Department of Environmental Science and Policy

Karen Wilson

Associate Research Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy
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Office Location

309 Bailey (Office & Lab)




Ph.D., Limnology/Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison 

Dr. Karen Wilson is an associate research faculty with the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. She teaches ESP 341 Limnology and ESP 412 Field Ecosystems Ecology in alternate fall semesters, and ESP 303 Wetlands Ecology and ESP 360 Water Quality in alternate spring semesters, as well as other ESP courses. Please check out Visiting Maine Wetlands, an on-going project of the Wetlands Ecology course, and Constraints on River Restoration, a project from the 2011 Senior Seminar students.

Karen has a Ph.D. in Limnology/Zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied the long-term impacts of an invasive crayfish on lake communities. Since receiving her degree, Karen has taught at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest and worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Undergraduate students and graduate students (in USM's Masters of Biology program) conduct resarch in Karen's lab (and Maine's lakes, streams and ocean).

Karen is currently the lead Principle Investigator on a project investigating variation in habitat use by juvenile river herring in the Penobscot River, Maine, funded by Maine Sea Grant and USM. This project is in collaboration with scientists from NOAA Fisheries, the University of Maine, USM and SUNY-ESF, and is part of a larger effort to assess the effects of dam removal on the Penobscot River Estuary food web. 

She is one of 20 faculty from three states working on an NSF-funded project called The Future of Dams (Strengthening the Scientific Decision-making about Dams: Multi-scale Coupled-systems Research on Ecological, Social and Economic Tradeoffs). She serves as the project "river herring expert." 

Karen is also a collaborator on the Maine EPSCOR project SEANET in which she studies trophic interactions in estuaries and bays.

Past projects include the Diadromous Species Restoration Research Network (DSRRN), a research coordination network funded by NSF, and the interdiscipinary Sustainability Solutions Initiatives project investigating economic and ecological connections between Maine rivers, estuaries and coasts in the Kennebec-Androscoggin River System using anadromous river herring as a common currency between these habitats and systems.

Research Interests

Systems thinking

Freshwater-marine linkages and diadromous fish species

River herring (alewife and blueback herring)

Saltmarsh restoration and impacts on marsh-marine linkages

Freshwater crayfish in Maine

Diadromous Species Research Restoration Network (DSRRN)

Recent Publications

John Waldman, Karen A. Wilson, Martha Mather & Noah P. Snyder. 2016. A Resilience Approach Can Improve Anadromous Fish Restoration. Fisheries 41:3, 116-126.

Payne, M., K.A. Wilson and K. Limburg. 2015. Using Natural Tags to Determine Marine and Freshwater Habitat Usage by Juvenile Blueback Herring (Alosa aestivalis). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science. 72(7):1073-1086, 10.1139/cjfas-2014-0206.

Larsen, P., K.A. Wilson and D. Morse. 2013. Observations on the Expansion of a Relict Population of Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) in a Maine Estuary: Implications for Climate Change and Restoration. Northeast Naturalist, 20(4):N28-N32.

Willis, T.V., K.A. Wilson, K.E. Alexander, and W.B. Leavenworth. 2013. Tracking cod diet preference over a century in the northern Gulf of Maine: historic data and modern analysis. Marine Ecology Progress Series 474:263-276.

Cronin-Fine, L., J. D. Stockwell, Z. T. Whitener, E. M. Labbe, T. V. Willis, and K.A. Wilson. 2013. Application of Morphometric Analysis to Identify Alewife Stock Structure in the Gulf of Maine. Marine and Coastal Fisheries 5:11-20.

Nilsson, E., Solomon, C.T., Wilson, K.A., Willis, T.V., Larget, B. and Vander Zanden, M.J. 2012. Effects of an invasive crayfish on benthic invertebrate abundance and on benthivory and trophic position of fish. Freshwater Biology. 57(1): 10-23.

C.H. Orr, E.H. Stanley, K.A. Wilson, and J.C. Finlay. 2007. Effects of restoration and reflooding on soil denitrification in a leveed midwestern floodplain. Ecological Applications. 17(8): 2365-2376.

Wilson, K.A., E. Todd Howell and Donald A. Jackson. 2006. Replacement of zebra mussels by quagga mussels in the Canadian nearshore of Lake Ontario: distribution and correlations with substrate, round goby abundance and upwelling frequency. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 32(1):11-28.

Wilson, K.A., Hrabik, T.R., and J.J. Magnuson. 2006. Ecological change and exotic invaders: long-term external drivers of lake ecology in Magnuson, J.J., Kratz, T.M. and B. Benson, eds. Long-Term Dynamics of Lakes in the Landscape. Oxford University Press.

Hrabik, T.R., Greenfield, B.K., Lewis, D.B., Pollard, A.I., Wilson, K.A. and T.K. Kratz. 2005. Species diversity in four groups of aquatic organisms in north temperate lakes: physical, chemical and biological properties as sources of variability.Ecosystems. 8 (3): 301-317.

Wilson, K.A., Magnuson, J.J., Lodge, D.M., Hill, A.M., Kratz., Perry, W.L. and T.V. Willis. 2004. Long-term effects of a rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) invasion: dispersal patterns and community changes in a North Temperate lake. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 61(11): 2255-2266.

Vander Zanden, M.J., Wilson, K.A., Casselman, J.M., and Yan, N.D. 2004. Chapter 13: Species introductions and their impacts in North American Shield lakes. Pages 239-264 in Gunn, J.M., Steedman, R.J., and Ryder, R.A., editors. Boreal shield watersheds: lake trout ecosystems in a changing environment. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 

Byron, C.J. and K.A. Wilson. 2001. Rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) movement within and between habitats in Trout Lake, Vilas County, Wisconsin. Journal of the North American Benthological Society. 20(4):606-614. 

Puth, L. and K.A. Wilson. 2001. Boundaries and corridors: a review of streams and their role in the landscape. Conservation Biology. 15(1):21-30.

Carpenter, S.R., Oldson, M., Cunningham, P., Gafny, Herwig, B., S., Nibbelink, N., Pellett, T., Storlie, C., Trebitz, A., Wilson K. 1998. Managing macrophytes to increase fish growth: a multi-lake experiment. Fisheries. 23(2):6-12.