Joel Hoffman ~ Great Lakes Connector

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New Generation

Sampling at sea
Dr. Joel Hoffman is a coastal marine fish ecologist. He is a research biologist with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Research Development at the Mid-Continent Ecology Division in Duluth, Minnesota, on the shores of Lake Superior. He grew up in Michigan and worked for a natural resource agency - giving him an idea of the science that was missing – before going for his doctorate in Marine Science.

"We fund science because it benefits society. I feel I owe it to the public to take on public challenges."
He first came to the EPA as a post-doc and found himself working on national level research issues, developing new environmental protections. "It's different from academia," says Joel. "There is an applied element. You can do new fundamental basic research and work on pressing national issues at same time." Another difference is at the EPA scientists are hard-funded, and thus don't spend time writing grants. It is also highly collaborative, focused on developing complimentary research plans. And Joel does work with grad students, but it's not the same relationship as is found in an academic setting.

The Great Lakes have 11,000 miles of coastline, and many of the same problems that are found on the ocean coastline. And Joel uses some of the same tools and measurements methods. "The lens I look through is not traditional fish-catching but through the lens of chemistry," says Joel. He also uses statistical design to infer the ecological process in fish and fish behavior. Joel is interdisciplinary, combining biogeochemistry with ecology to get a better understanding of how systems function. "I’m odd," he says. "I came out of both physical science and fisheries science departments. To do what I want to do I had to become a biogeochemist and a classic fisheries scientist."

Click this image to explore Dr. Hoffman's research and collaborative efforts
Joel's Research
Tour Joel's Lab Facilities
Joel describes his "classic" taxonomy lab, which also includes cutting edge equipment, and the process of using stable isotopes to understand food webs and aquatic ecosystems