Meet the Staff

a man in a canoe wearing sunglasses

Rick Damstra

Aquatic Ecologist

Rick holds a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from Lake Superior State University and completed his M.S. in Conservation Biology at Central Michigan University, studying habitat use and population dynamics of lake sturgeon. After working for state and tribal agencies, Rick was hired by the network in 2009 to work at Isle Royale as a lake specialist. After five years, he transitioned into the river specialist position, working primarily at the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. Rick’s research interests are continuous data and the relationships between water quality and the physical environment of the water body, as determined by flow in rivers and thermal stratification in lakes. In his spare time, Rick enjoys spending time with his family and is a dilettante in many sports, including fishing, distance running, and both alpine and Nordic skiing.
a man holds a steel rod down into the current of a river

Alex Egan

Aquatic Ecologist

Alex joined the network’s water quality team in 2017 after 15 years of studying songbirds, loons, amphibians, and invertebrates at Isle Royale National Park. Now he studies the lakes of Isle Royale and helps manage water chemistry, contaminants, and aquatic invertebrate data for parks in the western Great Lakes region. He is also working on an inventory and ecological study of chironomid midges of Isle Royale’s inland lakes, streams, and Lake Superior shores, which follows graduate work on coastal rock pools. He has a B.S. degree in Fisheries and Wildlife and a Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. He partners with the University of Minnesota as a fellow in the Chironomidae Research Group (
a man standing at the helm of a boat is looking at instruments

Ted Gostomski

Science Writer/Biologist

Ted began his NPS life as a graduate student studying loons nesting on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. He then worked three seasons as a biological technician, first at Isle Royale, then at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. After too long of a hiatus from the NPS, he was hired by the Great Lakes Network in 2007 as a seasonal boat operator, then into his current position the following year. Ted is responsible for all aspects of outreach and communication about network monitoring programs. He also coordinates the songbird monitoring program, provides boat operations support for all projects, and is the network safety officer.
A woman with shoulder-length black hair wearing a red sweater and a gold and white scarf.

Joni Guenther

Administrative Technician

Joni came to the network and to the National Park Service with 19 years of experience working in administration for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Forest Service. Joni is extremely excited to be working with this team and looks forward to sharing her knowledge and providing technical assistance. Joni and her husband Mark have three children: Ireland, Gus and Iley.
A bearded man wearing a black baseball cap and a plaid shirt.

Cyrus Hester

Data Manager

Cyrus earned his B.S. and M.S. in Zoology with a focus on landscape ecology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He earned his Ph.D. in Sustainability Science from Arizona State University. His dissertation research investigated the history of industrialization and long-term trends in trace metal concentrations in the Sonoran Desert. He then worked for three years as a postdoctoral researcher on public health in the Population Program of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Before coming to the Great Lakes Network, Cyrus worked as an environmental scientist for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, an environmental ethnography intern with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and a Youth Conservation Crew Leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

a smiling man stands against a blank wall

Al Kirschbaum

Remote Sensing Specialist

Al received his undergraduate degree in Forest Science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a Master’s degree in Forest Science at Oregon State University. His graduate work focused on using satellite imagery to detect and map tree dieback in pinyon-juniper woodlands of Arizona and New Mexico. Al began working at the Great Lakes Network office developing and implementing the landscape dynamics monitoring program. Research interests include disturbance monitoring and working with LiDAR data.
a smiling woman stands against a blank wall

Jessica Kirschbaum


Jessica received her B.S. from Northland College, majoring in Environmental Science. During this time, she became interested in plants and started working as a field botanist for private and government agencies. Jessica continued doing botany work, as well as work in environmental education, before earning her M.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Botany through the University of Minnesota–Duluth. She began working as a botanist for the Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network in 2007.
a blue silhouette of a generic person


Plant Ecologist
a man in a green boat holds a small computer screen in one hand and a cord over the side

David VanderMeulen

Senior Aquatic Ecologist

David’s career with the Great Lakes Network began in 2007 when he was hired to lead the water quality monitoring effort on the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers. He now oversees the network’s entire aquatics program, which includes implementing five monitoring protocols. David has degrees in Applied Ecology and Environmental Sciences from Michigan Technological University and Water Resources Science from the University of Minnesota–Duluth. His areas of expertise include aquatic chemistry and ecology, hydrology, technical writing, and proposal development. He is actively involved in regional multi-agency committees and work groups focused on aquatics, but outside of work spends most of his time camping with his family, playing hockey with his kids, and working on a nearly 150 year-old house.
a blue silhouette of a generic person


Assistant Data Manager

a blue silhouette of a generic person


Network Program Manager

Last updated: May 14, 2024