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Biology Professor Todd Wellnitz

What are you doing in this picture?

The photo was taken from the top of Bellevue Mountain near the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and looks down the East River Valley (where the lab is located). 

What kind of research do you do?

I do research on streams and the interactions between algae and invertebrates.  Basically, I study slime on rocks and the things that eat it.  I am interested in this interaction because algae, and the invertebrates that eat it, are key for understanding how energy and matter move through stream ecosystems.  Through my research I hope to find how human actions and development affect how streams function.Learn more..

Can you share some memorable experiences you’ve had with students?

It is fun to watch students develop in their years here. They start out a bit rough around the edges, trying to figure out where they want to go.  As they move through college they grow into themselves, learn who they are, what they want to do. 

How are students involved in your research or lab work?

Students are always involved in my research.  If students have an interested in doing research, the research will happen!  Much of the research I do started with some student who had an interesting question or wanted to study something interesting.  My research wouldn't happen without the help and drive from students.

What facilities or equipment do you get to use in your work?

Waders, canoes and nets!

What do you hope your students are getting from your courses?

A sense of what they would like to do and are capable of doing, as well as what they do not like.  Learning what you don’t want or are not good at is an important part of learning.

Do you advise any student organizations, research, field trips etc.?

I am the advisor of the Reef Team, a group of students that care for our two saltwater aquariums in the Biology Department, and Tri Beta the National Biological Honor Society.

What is your favorite course to teach?

It changes from time to time, however right now I would say it is my Invertebrate Zoology and the Ecology of the Boundary Waters classes.

"It is cool to develop an in-depth understanding of how an ecosystem works.  You have a very intimate knowledge of that system, and you realize you have built a relationship and connection with it that others do not have."

Do you get to do anything fun or special in your work? 

I get to travel for my research that involves fieldwork, and for field classes.  I have gone to the Bahamas, Costa Rica, and the Boundary Waters to teach, and Switzerland, Italy, and Colorado to do research. 

Best advice for students?

Take full advantage of your college years, you will never have an experience like this again.  Once you leave, many these special opportunities will disappear.

Unique hobbies/interests?

I like to hike, camp and backpack, which I often get to do while working, but I also enjoy photography, road-biking and reading history.  

Favorite UW -Eau Claire spot?

The Chippewa River that runs right through the campus.

Favorite Eau Claire restaurant?

The town’s local coffee shops

Favorite place to travel for fun? 

The Great American West!

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