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Board Member Features

(Originally published as separate features in monthly GLOS newsletters)

Heather Stirratt

June 2024 Newsletter Feature
Heather Stirratt
GLOS Board of Directors Spotlight Series: Volume 7
Heather Stirratt had the unconventional childhood dream of working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In addition to the ambitious plans she made, Heather began training earlier than most, when she became scuba certified at the age of 12. This passion for, and literal immersion in, the beautiful waters of the world, helped guide her career. Not only did she achieve her goal, but she accomplished more than she might have conceived at that imaginative age. Then again, young Heather may have ultimately projected her exact career trajectory to a T. 


Heather Stirratt, Inernational Joint Commission, GLOS Board of Directors 


Heather Stirratt lived in several different states throughout her childhood, including, but not limited to, North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, Florida, Rhode Island, and Virginia. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Marine Science/Biology (Marine Affairs/Oceanography) from the University of Miami (Florida). She made her way to Rhode Island to attend the Marine Science Masters program, with a specialty in Fisheries Science and focus on Marine Affairs and Coastal Law and Policy, at the University of Rhode Island (URI).

After graduate school, Heather jumped right into the field, working in different At-Sea Observer positions on research and commercial fishing vessels throughout New England. In this time, she worked closely with NOAA, looking at bycatch rates with groundfish fisheries, scallop fisheries, and squid fisheries, while working for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. Heather shifted from doing at-sea observing to working for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on several state managed fisheries including American Eel, Atlantic Sturgeon, American Shad, and American Lobster.

From working alongside the agency throughout her early career, Heather began working for NOAA Fisheries focusing on Highly Migratory Species, including Atlantic Sharks, Billfish, and Tuna management in 2002. From there she transitioned into working for the Assistant Administrator at the National Ocean Service, where she witnessed the creation of the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the subsequent Regional Associations, such as GLOS.

As a longtime Great Lakes observer and current GLOS board member (since 2023), Heather sees that GLOS is playing a very central and critical role in the sharing of data to help address both small and large issues and providing the vital information to meet the needs of users. Opportunities for growth of the Great Lakes Observing System are limitless through partnerships and initiatives, both nationally and internationally, especially through exciting initiatives like the Great Lakes mapping activities, via Lakebed 2030, She sees the ‘shared waters’ as a benefit to the observing system, as “we can look at the entirety of the watershed.”


“There’s always common ground when it comes to freshwater resources in the Great Lakes region. So many people are willing to roll up their sleeves and collaborate together to find the path to yes.
-Heather Stirratt
Heather spent the first fifteen years of her career working on salty coast issues, but the better part of the last twenty have been focused on the Great Lakes. From 2008-2022, she served as the Great Lakes Regional Lead for NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management in Minnesota. And in 2022 Heather was appointed as the Director of the Great Lakes Regional Office of the International Joint Commission (IJC). In this role, she is thrilled by the unique opportunity to work on ‘shared water interests’, guided by the goals and objectives identified in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. One project she is especially excited about is the Great Lakes Science Plan and Strategy. The Great Lakes Science Plan aims to address the gaps and science needs outlined in the Science Strategy and develop a governance framework for coordinating essential science and surveillance activities to address rapid changes and emerging threats to the Great Lakes. Projects aimed at developing early warning forecasts and systems, microplastic observation and monitoring frameworks, tracking emerging chemicals of concern, and long-term surveillance of climate driven watershed changes to the physical chemical and biological system dynamics, among others, are already rising on the horizon as priority investment opportunities. Heather loves the challenge and reward of gathering all the perspectives around ‘the table’, and in the Great Lakes the success of these programs is vital, because it is not only where we work, live, and play, it is also drinking water for 40 million people.
Heather maintains a loving connection with the places she once called home. She travels regularly and often makes time to get back to some of the old haunts. She is an avid through-hiker, scuba diver, and all-around outdoors person.

Heather has lived in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota since 2008. And she loves it. The close proximity to forests, lakes, and local parks, is an easy sell for an outdoors person. When pressed to identify her ‘favorite’ great lakes city, Heather reluctantly narrowed down her long list to describe her affinity for Grand Marrais, Minnesota. Heather also named Sea Gull Lake in the Boundary Waters, as a transboundary watershed favorite. Heather and her family dive in Sea Gull Lake, exploring the border-crossing waters’ depths for debris (e.g., lost fishing lures) and to build awareness for the best fishing spots. This is perhaps the perfect metaphor for her career and her work in binational cooperation for freshwater protection. It’s as if young Heather wrote it up herself.

Stephanie Gandulla

May 2024 Newsletter Feature
Stephanie Gandulla 
GLOS Board of Directors Spotlight Series: Volume 6
Stephanie is thrilled by the unknown. She is always excited to try something new. Her career path illustrates that perfectly. She has a diverse background that is made up of many different jobs in unique locations. Her path eventually led her to the Great Lakes, which she feels continue to offer her limitless possible adventures. 


Stephanie Gandulla, GLOS Board of Directors 


Stephanie Gandulla is from Bozeman, Montana. Camping and hiking and skiing around the region were regular pastimes, in addition to regular visits to nearby national parks. Stephanie stuck around Bozeman for her undergraduate education, earning her degree in English Literature from Montana State University.

In the time after graduation, she began exploring the world’s endless opportunities for travel and work. She worked in construction. She worked as a freelance writer and a freelance photographer. She worked for a newspaper in Ireland. She also worked at the Museum of the Rockies, known for its collection of dinosaur fossils, in Bozeman. During her time of travel and adventure, Stephanie lived in Alaska for a while. Because of Alaska’s perfect combination of water and mountains, Stephanie grew in her love for natural spaces and learned how to [scuba] dive. It was her love for history combined with love of working outdoors and her experience with diving that led her to pursue a Master’s of Maritime Archaeology. She received that education at East Carolina University, in Greenville, North Carolina.

Stephanie was not taught much about the vast, but far away, Great Lakes while growing up in Montana. The rich maritime history and the shipwrecks were relatively unknown to her nearly up until a time in graduate school at East Carolina, when she was offered a fellowship through the University of Michigan’s Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER, now CIGLR). After moving to Michigan, she quickly became enchanted by Lake Huron, and the other Lakes, and settled in on the Northeast coast of Michigan.

Alpena, Michigan is now home for Stephanie, where she works at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. She has been there since 2010, beginning as a Maritime Archaeologist and Media Coordinator. In her current role as the Resource Protection Coordinator, she helps protect the collection of nearly 100 shipwrecks off the Michigan coast in Lake Huron. Her work includes deploying and managing the mooring buoys in the Sanctuary in addition to interpretative enforcement through education and outreach.

Stephanie had become familiar with GLOS through mapping collaborations, and was happy to become a member of the Board of Directors, to represent National Marine Sanctuaries. She sees GLOS’ invaluable role as a central connector of private and public sectors and individuals. Stephanie has a keen interest in Great Lakes mapping activities and supports the efforts to fully map the lakes by 2030. She is excited about the cutting edge activities at GLERL and at different universities to help advance technology and information intake, to better understand the Great Lakes.

The adventures are still in full swing for Stephanie. She appreciates the great amount of recreational opportunities presented by the lakes, and she does her best to take advantage; she has sailed, she dives, and she likes to paddleboard and get out on her pontoon boat. As of late, she has been on a mission to visit different islands around the Great Lakes: Drummond, Beaver, Mackinac, and Boblo Island are a few that have already been checked off. The Manitou Islands are next on the list.
Thank you, Stephanie, for your personal stewardship of this region and for your work focused on protecting and preserving the Great Lakes.

Leon Carl

April 2024 Newsletter Feature
Leon Carl
GLOS Board of Directors Spotlight Series: Volume 5
Throughout his life and career, Leon has worked in Canada and the US. He has primarily focused on the Great Lakes, on both sides of the border, and continues to give advice on research and advocacy for their protection.  


Leon Carl, GLOS Board of Directors 


Leon Carl was born in Detroit, MI at Henry Ford Hospital. He spent his youth in Northwest Detroit and transitioned from his Detroit childhood to university studies in Ann Arbor. He attended the University of Michigan for both his undergraduate and graduate education at Rackham School of Graduate Studies. He earned his BSc in Fisheries Biology and his MSc in Fisheries Management. His Master’s research focused on the perspective of anglers during the fish reclamation on the Huron River in 1974. He quickly shifted to doctoral studies at the University of Michigan, conducting research on the natural reproduction of Chinook Salmon in the Great Lakes, and earned his PhD in Natural Resources Management.

Leon transitioned from his Michigan-based education, into a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Postdoc position at the Pacific Biological Center, looking at the genomics of Chinook Salmon in their historical range around the Nanaimo River (British Columbia). From his Postdoc, he went to work as the Salmonid Management Coordinator for the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division, Fisheries Branch in Edmonton, Alberta for four years. He moved from Alberta to Maple, Ontario, when he began working for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR). He would be with the OMNR in two different roles over sixteen years. In that time, Leon also served as the Director of the Watershed Science Center for four years at Trent University, looking at urban watershed management.

In 2003, Leon was made the Director at the Great Lakes Science Center of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). After five years as Center Director, Leon was made a Regional Director for the USGS in 2008, overseeing major research initiatives for nineteen research centers throughout twelve states in the Midwest. With responsibility for determining the needed scientific perspectives, Leon also had to coordinate with Congress on appropriations and gave legislative testimony on numerous occasions.

In this time, Leon was a part of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, which seeks to address the Asian Carp threat to the Great Lakes through sustainable control strategies. Through his work, Leon coordinated with groups attempting to install barriers by helping track the fish’ range, up to or beyond the barriers. He was involved with the experimentation with different deterrent concepts, and he was a strong voice drawing attention to the severity of the issues, attempting to obtain funds to tackle the threat.

Leon retired in 2018, yet his efforts continue beyond that year, as he has continued to be actively involved with many organizations and governing bodies related to the Great Lakes. In 2020 he took on a US Congressional request to the USGS to write a report on science needs in the Great Lakes and delivered the report in 2021. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Guelph through the Center for Ecosystem Management where he is offering advice on ecosystem science in the Great Lakes. He continues to stay informed and up to date on his professional field, to the point the use of ‘retirement’ is a bit iffy. And, this is all in addition to his role as a member of the GLOS Board of Directors, which he took on in 2018. With a wealth of experience in many different roles and many variations of expertise in research and management, he is an incredible source of Great Lakes knowledge in history, biology, and governance, with 30 journal papers to his credit.

Leon has swum in all five of the Great Lakes. He has precious childhood memories of cleaning Alewife off of the shore of his family cottage near Tawas Point, Michigan. There, they would fry perch bought from commercial fishers in Tawas Bay. He still gets up to that area about once every year. Now, Leon lives in Guelph, Ontario. He relocated to Canada for both his (post-retirement) work and family, with his grandchildren having an especially strong pull. His years of experience and subsequent successes are indescribably impressive. GLOS is glad that he continues to share his invaluable insights with us as a member of the board.

Mary-Claire Buell

March 2024 Newsletter Feature
Mary-Claire Buell
GLOS Board of Directors Spotlight Series: Volume 4
Mary-Claire Buell has been a firefighter; she has done research on carbon cycling in the Arctic; she is a professor and an environmental consultant; she always seems to have at least a couple of new projects in the works at all times. Despite the variance, her work is anything but unfocused, and it is always backed by passion.


Mary-Claire Buell, GLOS Board of Directors 


Mary-Claire was raised in Peterborough, Ontario, 140 kilometers northwest of Toronto. Although an active city, it is a place Mary-Claire considers to have a small town feel. The Peterborough area is considered the ‘doorstep’ to nature and is a popular place for outdoor recreation, including an integral relationship with water and water transportation.

While working on her BSc in Environmental Biology from the University of Guelph (Guelph, Ontario), Mary-Claire spent her summers working as a forest firefighter with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) in Wawa, Ontario. After finishing her degree, she would go on to become a Management Biologist for the OMNRF, advising on water management and resource extraction activities for a year.

Seeking new climatological perspectives to incorporate into her work, Mary-Claire decided to continue her education. This brought her back home to Peterborough, where she went on to complete both her Master’s (MS in Environmental and Life Sciences) and doctoral research at Trent University. Her graduate work included research of aquatic systems in the Arctic with Dr. Peter LaFleur. After which, Mary-Claire wanted to focus more on pollution impacting aquatic systems. This led to her studying the risks of contaminated sediment in the Anishinaabe territory for her doctoral work. In partnership with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, her research created a new risk assessment process for addressing contaminants issues impacting Great Lakes sediments. She earned her PhD in Environmental Toxicology in 2021.

Mary-Claire is now an Assistant Professor at Trent University. However, it is not her only job. Her extensive experience working with Indigenous groups started during her PhD studies and led to the opportunity to consult with First Nations on different environmental projects. She had been consulting independently until she formed and founded Collective Environmental in 2018, of which she is the CEO. Collective Environmental is a consulting and research firm that emphasizes collaboration to help solve issues impacting Indigenous communities.

Mary-Claire is a core advocate and organizer for the Indigenous Great Lakes Network (IGLN) and is enthusiastic about where it will go. The IGLN came from a concept designed within the Indigenous Environmental Institute (IEI) at Trent University, identifying the apparent need and desire for diversity in Great Lakes research and policy. With collaboration between the GLOS staff, SGLi members, and IEI faculty (Mary-Claire, Chris Furgal and Barbara Wall), phases for network establishment were designed and put into action. Phase 3, the In-Person Gathering, took place in October in 2023. It was well-represented and successfully launched the network. With a central hub currently housed in IEI, the goal of the network as a Hub is to be facilitators and a referral system for collaboration between Indigenous Nations, researchers, and Great Lakes Organizations.

Mary-Claire joined the GLOS Board of Directors in October of 2023. It’s the special mixture of people and partners that motivated Mary-Claire to get involved with GLOS. Through her experiences with GLOS, Mary-Claire has appreciated GLOS’ willingness to take initiative and run with good ideas. She is excited about the flexibility and unlimited possibilities of a platform like Seagull to be utilized through community-based science, as she said, “that is going to empower others that are systemically not empowered.” She sees it as a valuable model to be reflected on.


Much like her professional life, Mary-Claire’s personal life is entwined with her connection to water. Some of her favorite spots on the Great Lakes include the shores of the Saugeen Peninsula, which has been immeasurably impactful on the way that she approaches research. Sandy Beach on the north shore of Lake Superior is also meaningful to her. It was a relaxing escape during the stint she served as a forest firefighter in Wawa. She and her family still travel all around the region, spending a few weeks of the year in canoes in the backcountry, taking time every year to visit Killarney Provincial Park.


GLOS is excited to continue learning and growing through collaborative approaches encouraged by Mary-Claire’s presence on the Board.

Pete Giencke

February 2024 Newsletter Feature
Pete Giencke
GLOS Board of Directors Spotlight Series: Volume 3
Pete Giencke, Vice Chair of GLOS’ Board of Directors 


Pete Giencke was born and raised in Minnesota, earning degrees in Geography and GIS from the University of Minnesota. Having spent years on the water, fishing and boating, he sees the Great Lakes as being “near and dear” to his heart because they are “so fundamental to the identity of the midwest”.

Starting at the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) in 2005, Pete took on the role of DMAC Coordinator for the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) during its inception at the GLC. In his role, Pete helped develop the first Great Lakes Observing System website, and bootstrapped efforts to integrate and visualize great lakes data which would eventually become Seagull. GLOS, and its suite of data products, has come a long way since then, but only thanks to the strong foundations early contributors like Pete established.

After his time at the Great Lakes Commission and GLOS, Pete moved out to California and started working at Google in 2008, where he is currently a Senior Product Manager with Google. During his time there he brought Great Lakes bathymetric data to Google Maps and Earth through the “Oceans” project, along with integrating real-time natural disaster data into Search and Maps (e.g. ML-based flood forecastingwildfires, etc).



Pete has been with GLOS since the beginning. His career has taken him out of the Great Lakes, but he has maintained his 19-year connection with the Great Lakes observing communities through his work and his time on the Board of Directors. 

Throughout all of his endeavors, Pete has maintained contact with the Great Lakes and GLOS. He has been a part of the Board of Directors since 2016, and has enjoyed bringing his expertise to lend GLOS perspective and insight, with a special focus on making Great Lakes data accessible to all stakeholders in the region, and making GLOS and Seagull “a destination for users year round.”

Going forward, Pete remains excited about the education opportunities and responsibility that GLOS holds. He is eager for GLOS to become more accessible to schools and communities, enhancing awareness and increasing access to critical Great Lakes health and wellness information. Additionally, GLOS’ role with bathymetric work is crucial to helping provide updated lakebed maps in high definition, as Pete notes, “the [current] data is woefully obsolete”. He sees GLOS as being in the perfect position to help correct that and disseminate that information for stakeholders’ benefit.

Pete is jazzed about the future and wants to continue to be a part of all the progress that is being made in the Great Lakes.

Tom Rayburn

January 2024 Newsletter Feature
Tom Rayburn
GLOS Board of Directors Spotlight Series: Volume 2
Tom Rayburn, Chair of GLOS’ Board of Directors 


Tom Rayburn has the perspective(s).

Raised in Baltimore, Tom later moved to Washington, D.C. and then found his way to the Great Lakes region via Chicago, in 1993. From there, he moved to Ann Arbor and finally settled in Cleveland. He has worked within and adjacent to the Great Lakes industry in countless different capacities. From Environmental Consulting, serving with the Coast Guard as a civilian in Marine Safety, and working in the maritime freight industry, he has a multitude of expertise. He hasn’t always lived in the region, but his admiration for the area is evident.


Passion for large water and its environments is something Tom proudly proclaims. He has swum in all of the Great Lakes, been on numerous vessels on multi-day trips around the lakes, and hiked many of its shores. As a self-described rockhound, Tom has enjoyed sifting through the geologic deposits surrounding the lakes, discovering fossils and skipping stones. His recreational pastimes are hard earned through his passionate environmental advocacy, having been a responder to local environmental emergencies such as oil spills. He serves as a volunteer emergency responder in his community still today.


Tom began his time with the Great Lakes Observing System all the way back when it was still a part of the Great Lakes Commission (GLC), in 2002-03. He was a part of the initial business plan and formations of what would later become GLOS. He became a member of the GLOS board in 2016 and was appointed as the board chair in 2023. Tom has been a steadfast proponent of GLOS and its mission for many years, appreciating GLOS’ holistic approach to the Great Lakes, and he sees the organization’s responsibility and activity to be crucial. Tom is enthusiastic about equitably “putting data in the hands of the user”, and thus he is extremely excited about the “infinite possibilities” of Seagull: having broad appeal and application for anybody in nearly any capacity.


Tom is amazed by the history of the Great Lakes, and his vast knowledge of the history and region reflects this. His own experience and accomplishments within the basin are also extremely impressive, and we are privileged to have him as a member of the board, an advocate, and representative.

Aaron Fisk

December 2023 Newsletter Feature
Aaron Fisk
GLOS Board of Directors Spotlight Series: Volume 1
Aaron Fisk certainly stirreth. He is a Professor and Canada Research Chair at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) and the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Windsor, Science Director of Real-Time Aquatic Ecosystem Observation Network (RAEON), and a member of the GLOS Board of Directors (to name but a few of his roles). He is a man involved in many diverse groups, organizations, and boards, but his life and work hold intense specificity on the Great Lakes.

Aaron has nearly always been amongst the Great Lakes. Born in Chatham, attending the University of Windsor for both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and now living in Windsor and teaching at the University, it’s easy to say that this is his spot. Outside of educational stints in Winnipeg and Athens, GA, Aaron has been near to and researching the Great Lakes. His current roles have him promoting increased research and widespread education on these vital bodies of water.

RAEON crew recovers a buoy from Lake Erie.
Photo Credit: RAEON
Aaron has had the opportunity to segue his Great Lakes expertise and position in research into advantages for many others within academia. His research lab, Fisk Lab, provides a great opportunity for many burgeoning ecologists, and as Science Director of RAEON, Aaron is in a position to support and broaden access to cutting edge research technology. RAEON specializes in freshwater monitoring. Through the implementation of real-time observation technology, such as buoys and gliders, RAEON is able to provide accurate data to make short and long term forecasts for aquatic ecosystem health. One RAEON project in particular focuses on Lake Erie and collecting data with the purpose of safeguarding it as a source of drinking water. The Lake Erie Water Security Project was initiated in 2021 through funding from a NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Alliance grant. The project is slated to end in 2025, yet the impact it has had on the understanding of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) is invaluable. Aaron sees that the program has already “improved buoy deployment and real time data expertise” (in collaboration with GLOS). In addition to the vast number of datapoints it has generated, the project has also supported multiple MSc and PhD researchers and led to further educational reach via conferences and publication, the first journal articles to be submitted this month.


It is Aaron’s role at RAEON that led to his involvement with GLOS and subsequent position on the Board of Directors since 2018. In his involvement with GLOS, Aaron has been witness to much change, yet the vision is the same. Easy open access to data and weather information is a value on which Aaron and GLOS can easily relate. And the way Aaron sees it, he would like GLOS to be the central repository for environmental data of the Great Lakes. Through his collaboration on the board and RAEON’s collaboration with Seagull (Nested Seagull), we are increasing access to robust datasets. Aaron says he is honored to be a part of the GLOS Board of Directors, and GLOS would like to reciprocate and thank Aaron for his time and devotion to not only GLOS but also to his work and his field of research. The positive impact it has on the entirety of the Great Lakes region is outstanding.