Department of Environmental Science and Policy

Theo Willis Ph.D.

Associate Adjunct Research Faculty
Theo Willis

Office Location

309 Bailey Hall



Academic Degrees

  • Ph.D. in Limnology & Oceanography from the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison


Theodore “Theo” Willis is an adjunct faculty member and researcher with the Department of Environmental Science. He teaches ESP 341 Limnology and ESP 102 Introductory Environmental Science Lab.

Theo has a Ph.D. in Limnology & Oceanography from the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he studied long-term dynamics in fish community structure of Northern Wisconsin Lakes. While at Madison he developed skills in large data set manipulation and analysis. In 2003 he spent 6 months in the Jackson Lab at University of Toronto refining his skills in multivariate analysis. In 2004 he started a position with Maine Rivers and, in 2005, moved to Robbinston, Maine to study the interactions between smallmouth bass and alewife, an anadromous river herring native to East Coast rivers. In 2006 Theo developed an adjunct association with the Dept. of Environmental Science at the University of Southern Maine and the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine. Through these associations Dr. Willis developed a restoration ecology program focused on anadromous fish in Maine. His projects included restoration evaluation, molecular genetics, fish mark-recapture, food web ecology in the Gulf of Maine and Maine rivers, elver migration timing, alewife population dynamics and demographics and river herring passage/ swimming abilities. His current projects include interaction between alewife restoration, management, the alewife fishery and citizen science. He also works with Maine indigenous peoples on diadromous fish restoration.

One of the most rewarding things for Theo is bringing undergraduates into the world of fish ecology. This model works out well at USM because of the maturity and focus of returning students that make up much of ESP. He supervises one to two undergraduates a year on existing projects and new research. Undergrads are encouraged to present progress on their work at regional meetings. Theo focuses on developing quantitative skills with his mentored students and encourages them to consider graduate school when appropriate, particularly when those undergraduates follow through on a project and produce publications for peer review.