Department of Fisheries and Wildlife

Read about the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and their work internationally.

About us

The Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University was established in 1950.  Its mission, vision and values build upon core strengths and contribute to continuing change in societal needs, scientific understanding and educational priorities. Faculty, students and staff address a wide range of research themes that fall along spectrums of scientific approaches to understanding, collaborators, funding sources, stakeholder groups and disciplinary areas. 

Collectively, the department is tackling challenges and developing solutions in:

  • Management of the sustainable harvest of fisheries and wildlife populations
  • Development of sound governance structures and effective policies
  • Assessment of the ecological status of animal populations and their ecosystems at broad geographic scales
  • Response to emerging infectious diseases, global climate change, human-wildlife conflict, wildlife trafficking, environmental toxins and invasive species.

The mission is to build local, national and international capacities to conserve ecosystems that support fish, wildlife, and society through integrated programs in research, education and outreach. The vision is to be a world-class, inclusive and innovative research, education and engagement community that promotes leadership in conservation of fisheries and wildlife resources.

The vibrant community consists of approximately:

  • 40 core faculty (tenure stream and fixed-term faculty, and academic specialists)
  • 100 graduate students
  • 240 undergraduate students
  • 30 research associates
  • 10 international graduate students
  • 5 staff members

International Programs:

The department has several international programs in research, teaching and outreach.

Research: Sustainable forestry, Great Lakes fisheries management, wildlife-human conflict and human-human conflict over natural resources, environmental crime (e.g., illegal logging, illegal fishing, mining, wildlife trafficking), science diplomacy, management by indigenous people, community-based conservation, water quality, invasive species, environmental governance structures and legal systems, gendered impacts of management, management under scientific uncertainty, trade/market impacts on natural resources. Water quality, waterborne pathogens and enabling sanitation, creating knowledge to practice platforms and apps.

Teaching: Study abroad, developing international case studies for courses on campus, conservation, social science short courses (Thailand) and conservation criminology (South Africa)

Extension: Great Lakes Aquatic Non-Indigenous Information Systems (GLANSIS); Seafood-HACCP food safety workshops

Current International Projects:

  • The Snares to Wares Initiative – Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda
  • The LIVEstock Initiative – Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
  • Public risk perceptions related to large mammals – Sweden.
  • Movement of wild-harvested meat under two governance regimes: a comparison of Sweden and Michigan
  • Indigenous Engagement in Protecting Rainforests and Wildlife in Protected Areas in Nicaragua
  • Transboundary Resource Conflict Intensification and De-escalation: Maritime Violence between India and Sri Lanka
  • Importing International Norms through Domestic Institutions: The Precautionary Principle in India
  • How Does Context Matter for Intersectionality? Comparing Gendered Adaptation Responses across Coastal Communities
  • Measuring the Impact of Scientific Uncertainty on High Seas Tuna Fisheries Management Organizations
  • Conflict and Climate Change
  • Epidemiology of flavo-bacterial diseases affecting cold water fishes in China
  • Community-based policing in Vietnam’s protected areas
  • Artificial Intelligence for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking in Vietnam
  • Disrupting Illicit Wildlife Trafficking Networks
  • Harmonization of Wildlife Trafficking Strategies in Africa
  • Gendered Dimensions of Wildlife Trafficking
  • Convergence of Human and Wildlife Trafficking in Nigeria
  • Environmental Insecurity in the Omo River Valley of Ethiopia
  • Africa’s vulture crisis
  • TIMBER project - Quantifying biogeographic history: a novel model-based approach for integrating data from genes, fossils, specimens and environments
  • Quantitative Fisheries Center – Core funding from Great Lakes fishery agencies, including Ontario MNRF; various research and consulting projects involving transboundary fisheries
  • Quantifying human and climate impacts on wetland ecosystems in the Lower Mekong River Basin
  • Assessing the impacts of dams on the dynamic interactions among distant wetlands, land use, and rural communities in the Lower Mekong River Basin
  • S. National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). Playing dominoes with tipping points. Exploring the linkages between anthropogenically-driven shifts in marine and terrestrial biodiversity and ecosystem services in a rapidly globalizing coastal region within the Mesoamerica Biodiversity Hotspot
  • K2P workshop at HRWM Conference 2020
    K2P workshop at HRWM Conference 2020 PIs Nynke Hofstra, Heather Murphy & Matt Verbyla Photo credit: HRWM-Vienna/Zsolt Marton
    Water Pathogen Knowledge to Practice (Water-K2P): Innovating evidence-based safe sanitation decision support tools
  • Community partnerships to combat sea cucumber poaching and trafficking in Yucatan, Mexico: Applying geographic information science to place-based monitoring and enforcement
  • Spatial value chain mapping of Lake Malawi fish value chains to understand food security contributions of fisheries

Brief Description of International Projects:

  • – An integrated research, teaching, engagement, and capacity-building initiative to comprehend the effects of wire snare poaching on wildlife conservation and human livelihood.
  • – An effort to study the dynamics associated with human-carnivore conflict and to develop sustainable solutions to secure livestock from carnivore attack.
  • Southeast Nicaragua is home one of the five great forests of Central America — key elements in protecting wildlife in Neotropical rainforests — and home to indigenous and traditional communities. Indigenous efforts to protect rainforests and livelihoods have received little support from the government yet persist as the main driver of conservation in the region. We work to support and study these efforts with the shared goal of improved conservation of Nicaragua’s vanishing rainforests.
  • The Palk Strait, between Sri Lanka and India, is the site of ongoing international conflict over fishing rights. Tensions intensify (arrests, boat impoundments) or ease (prisoner and boat releases) daily, providing variation to be explained. Using an original dataset of daily arrests, releases, and negotiations, we examine the conditions for conflict exacerbation and mitigation. This project analyzes the Indian government’s adoption of the precautionary principle through the bureaucracy, executive, legislature, and courts. Drawing on evidence from these four government organs, instructors demonstrate that customary international law is filtered through domestic political institutions, with some branches of government more amenable to adopting particular principles.
  • Climate change and fisheries governance affect certain groups more than others, depending on exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Focuses on differential opportunities available by gender in different contexts, examining how gender interacts with other factors that limit or empower individuals' adaptation opportunities. Whereas previous research explores these outcomes – adaptation differences between women and men – in particular case study contexts, we build on a network of people studying these patterns around the world. This project will aim to understand which aspects of gendered empowerment are universal and driven by global markets or legal/governance constraints, and which aspects are specific to particular communities and cultural contexts. Initial comparison focuses on India and Tanzania. Whereas previous research assesses whether or not scientific uncertainty impacts policy choices, we ask under what conditions does scientific uncertainty lead policy-makers to reject or adhere to scientific advice? We collected – and are preparing to analyze – an original dataset of stock assessments, scientific policy recommendations, and Commission decisions across all five high seas tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.
  • Working with a multidisciplinary group of scholars, the Conflict and Climate Change workgroup explores multiple interactions between the changing climate and violent conflict around the world. It seeks to identify more nuanced research that would address this relationship.
  • Diseases caused by fish-pathogenic bacteria within the Family Flavobacteriaceae generate significant losses in aquaculture operations in China. However, little is known about the epidemiology and disease ecology of the bacteria causing these losses in this country. This international collaborative project between the MSU-Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory and the Heilongjiang River Fisheries Research Institute (Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences) seeks to fill these knowledge gaps towards an ultimate goal of improving flavo-bacterial disease prevention and control methods.
  • Transnational environmental crime is the world’s largest financial driver of social conflicts. A series of applied research projects leveraging interdisciplinary science is bringing new insight to bear on illegal use of natural resources in Madagascar, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Mexico, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Nigeria
  • TIMBER – software development for integrative modeling of post-glacial expansion of forest trees, combining information from fossil pollen, occurrences, and genetic data. Interdisciplinary collaborative project with PIs at the College of Charleston, the Morton Arboretum, the Missouri Botanic Garden, and Mount Royal University.
  • GLANSIS database, mapper, and resource available to scientists, educators, managers, and communicators
  • Seafood-HACCP workshops in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula typically draw international participation
  • QFC projects with Canadian components include: Lake Erie Percid Management Advisory Group (LEPMAG) - facilitation and technical analysis for harvest policy development for Lake Erie walleye and perch fisheries; Structured Decision-Making support and ecological research related to grass carp control in Lake Erie; facilitation of management planning for Lake Huron salmonine and walleye fisheries; technical assistance and research consultation for Great Lakes sea lamprey management.
  • Mekong Climate Change and Dam Construction: The primary goal of this research is to improve understanding of how dams affect ecological processes in wetlands, and to provide a scientific basis for improved operation of dams to mitigate the expected effects of climate change.
  • Dams and Rural Communities in Lower Mekong: The goal of this research is to used advanced remotely sensed information to improve our understanding of the dynamic interactions among hydropower dams, distant ecosystem services, and livelihoods in rural communities with an emphasis on the economic, ecological, ad social tradeoffs under a range of dam operation scenarios in the LMRB.
  • Tipping Points in Nicaragua: The goal of this research is to understand critical transitions among coastal human and natural systems.
  • K2P Team site visit in Uganda
    K2P Team site visit July 2018 in Kampala, Uganda The goal of the Water Pathogen Knowledge to Practice (Water - K2P) project is to develop user-friendly tools to help improve data accessibility, and knowledge translation around pathogens in excreta and sewage. Specifically, we are developing apps and visualization tools that can help to improve evidence-based decision making and to better inform safe sanitation and water safety planning by stakeholders at different levels. The project currently based in Kampala, Uganda.
  • The Water-K2P project seeks to support water and sanitation safety planners with evidence-based decision support tools. The goal is to improve better management of health outcomes and improve access to scientific data on the efficacy of sanitation technologies and the occurrence and persistence of pathogens in human excreta and sewage. This project leverages the open access knowledge resources generated by the Global Water Pathogen Project (GWPP) (
K2P workshop at HRWM Conference 2020
K2P workshop at HRWM Conference 2020 Team member Innocent Kamara Tumwebaze presenting Photo credit: HRWM-Vienna/Zsolt Marton
K2P Team stakeholder presentation
K2P Team stakeholder presentation July 2018 in Kampala, Uganda
GWPP Celebration at HRWM Conference 2020
GWPP Celebration at HRWM Conference 2020 Joan Rose with GWPP authors and editors Photo credit: HRWM-Vienna/Zsolt Marton
  • Community partnerships to combat sea cucumber poaching and trafficking in Yucatan, Mexico: Applying geographic information science to place-based monitoring and enforcement. This project combines approaches from conservation criminology and scholarship on common-pool resource governance to inform community-based projects for improving monitoring and enforcement in the sea cucumber fishery in Yucatan, Mexico. Through a series of there workshops with fishing community organizations as well as governmental agencies, stakeholders learn to apply place-based investigation techniques to design, implement, and track projects to combat sea cucumber poaching and trafficking.
Abigail Bennett and Meredith Gore with Mexican Officials meeting about sea cucumber poaching
Abigail Bennett and Meredith Gore meeting with US and Mexican officials about combatting sea cucumber poaching and trafficking. 
Fishing cooperative members in Rio Lagartos, Mexico
Fishing cooperative members in Rio Lagartos, Mexico presenting plans for community-based projects at the conclusion of a two-day workshop.
  • Spatial value chain mapping of Lake Malawi fish value chains to understand food security contributions of fisheries. In most small-scale fisheries around the world, we know very little about where first goes after it is harvested. This limits our ability to understand how fish contributes to food and nutrition security, especially with respect to distributional dimensions. The innovative, explicitly geographical approach developed and implemented in this research allows us to geospatially map flows of fish post-harvest and explore spatial associations with other socio-demographic variables. This research aims to improve policy communication about the food security value of fisheries and identify potential interventions to enhance that value.
Dr Park Muhonda conducting a focus group and collecting data for the spatial value chain
Dr. Park Muhonda (FW postdoc) conducting a focus group (left) and collecting data (right) for the spatial value chain mapping in Malawi.

Focus Countries or Regions: Canada, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Singapore, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Sweden, Nicaragua, high seas, Vietnam, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Mexico

Study Abroad Program(s):


South Africa


Selected Publications:

  1. Tumwebaze, I.K., Rose, J.B., Hofstra, N., Verbyla, M.E., Musaazi, I., Okaali, D.A., Kaggwa, R.C., Nansubuga, I. and Murphy, H.M. (2019) Translating pathogen knowledge to practice for sanitation decision making. Journal of Water and Health. In Press
  2. Rose, J.B, Hofstra, N. Murphy, H.M. and Verbyla, M.E.  2019   What is Safe Sanitation?: ASCE J. Environ. Eng. In Press

For more information, contact:

Dr. Scott Loveridge, Ph.D

Professor and Interim Chair
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife

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