Department of Environmental Sciences


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Main Campus
Wolfe Hall Suite 1235

2801 West Bancroft St.,
Mail Stop #604
Toledo, Ohio 43606-3390

Phone: 419.530.2009
Fax: 419.530.4421

Faculty: Carol A. Stepien

Carol Stepien
Distinguished University Professor of Ecology
ph.d. university of southern california 1985

Research and Teaching Interests:

  • Conservation Genetics
  • Invasive species genetic strategies
  • Evolutionary biology, biogeography

(419) 530-8362 |

 Carol A. Stepien
Research Biography
Recent Publications Download Vitae
    >> Download Lake Erie Center flyer (PDF)
    >> More information on the Lake Erie Center website.  


Great Lakes Genetics, Genomics LaboratoryThe Great Lakes Genetics/Genomics Laboratory (GLGL) of the Lake Erie Center, formulated and directed by Dr. Stepien, focuses on working with federal and state agencies and other researchers to develop and apply genetic DNA markers for:

  • Evaluating the population and biogeographic structure of native fishes in the Great Lakes
  • Developing understanding of the vector pathways, population dynamics, evolutionary relationships, and genetic time course of nonindigenous species invasions in the Great Lakes
  • Interpreting gene flow patterns of river and lake fishes as influenced by dams, habitat changes, and other anthropogenic factors.

    >> Download GLGL flyer (PDF)
    >> Read more on the GLGL webpage on the LEC website

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Stepien ResearchDr. Carol Stepien grew up near Lake Erie in Euclid, OH where she loved to collect trilobites, fishes, and salamanders. She received a Bachelor of Sciences degree cum laude in Biology with Chemistry and English minors from Bowling Green University, where she was an officer in the Biology Honorary Society Beta Beta Beta (winning their best paper award), published her first research on neurobiology of a luminescent fish, became a licensed SCUBA diver, and was mentored by Cynthia Stong in Marine Biology. Carol earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Southern California in Biological Sciences, with Ecology and Evolution specialization. She made more than 600 Scuba dives at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Santa Catalina Island for her dissertation research, "Regulation of Color Morphic Patterns in Kelpfishes: Genetic versus Environmental Factors". Carol began her grant track record as a Sea Grant graduate research fellow, and also was funded by the American Museum of Natural History and the Sigma Xi Scientific Honorary Society. She won the prestigious Stoye Best Paper award in Ichthyology from the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. Concurrently, she taught Marine Biology and Invertebrate Zoology courses for California State University as a lecturer. While writing her dissertation, Carol became a visiting assistant professor at the University of San Diego where she taught Marine Biology, taking her students on a field trip every other week, and was a researcher at Hubbs-Sea World Marine Research Institute. Carol then wrote her own National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral research fellowship, which she conducted at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego with the famous ichthyologist Dr. Richard Rosenblatt. She received a National Geographic Society award to investigate the kelp forest fishes of Chile in comparison to those of California. Next, she became an Alfred Sloan postdoctoral fellow in Molecular Evolution at the University of Texas at Austin with Dr. David Hillis. She then was a National Research Associate (through the National Academy of Sciences) at the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, to discern the genetic stock structure of Dover sole and rockfishes, which are heavily trawl-fished commercial fisheries. Carol returned to the Great Lakes as an Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University, where she held an endowed chair in Urban Ecosystems and taught Population Biology, Evolution, Population Genetics, and Marine Ecology. There she began her long-term work on the genetics of Great Lakes invasions by the zebra and quagga mussels, the Eurasian ruffe, and the round and tubenose gobies. She also founded her continuing research on the population stocks of walleye and yellow perch in the Great Lakes.

Since 2004, Carol has been the Director of the Lake Erie Center and Professor of Ecology at the University of Toledo, where she brings her love of field stations to foster appreciation of Great Lakes natural resources in research and education. Last year, she was honored to become Distinguished University Professor of Ecology. Carol also has received the Sigma Xi Raftopoulos Outstanding Research Award, the University of Toledo's Outstanding Researcher Award, and served on the board of the International Association for Great Lakes Research. Carol is on the Editorial Board of the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, is special issue editor for the Journal of Great Lakes Research, and the genetics associate editor for the journal Biological Invasions. She actively serves on the boards of the University of Michigan's Water Center and Heidelberg University's National Center for Water Quality Research. Carol has 83 scientific publications and has headed more than $9 million in grant awards. Her greatest joy is helping her undergraduate and graduate students make and publish new and exciting discoveries about Great Lakes fishes.

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Recent Publications

C.A. Stepien.** and M.E. Neilson.*
What's in a Name? Taxonomy and nomenclature of invasive gobies in the Great Lakes and beyond. Journal of Great Lakes Research. In Press.

Pierce, L.R.*, J.C. Willey, E.L. Crawford*, V.V. Palsule*, B.S. Shepherd, and C.A. Stepien.** 2013.
Accurate detection and quantification of the fish Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia virus (VHSv) with a two-color fluorometric real-time PCR assay. PLoS One. 8(8): e71851. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071851

Haponski, A.E.* and C.A. Stepien.** 2013.
Phylogenetic and biogeographical relationships of the Sander pikeperches (Perciformes: Percidae): Patterns across North America and Eurasia. Biological J. Linnean Society. 110(1): 156-179

Kocovsky, P., T.J. Sullivan*, C. Knight, and C.A. Stepien.** 2013.
Genetic and morphometric differences demonstrate fine-scale population substructure of the yellow perch Perca flavescens: Need for redefined management units. Journal of Fish Biology. 82(6): 2015-2030. doi:10.1111/jfb.12129

Pierce, L.R.*, J.C. Willey, E.L. Crawford*, D.W. Leaman, V.V. Palsule*, M. Faisal, R.K. Kim, B.S. Shepherd, and C.A. Stepien.** 2013.
A new StaRT-PCR approach to detect and quantify fish Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia virus (VHSv): Enhanced quality control with internal standards.. J. of Virological Methods 189:129-142. doi:10.1016/j.jviromet.2013.01.006

Haponski, A.E.* and C.A. Stepien.** 2013.
Genetic connectivity and diversity of walleye (Sander vitreus) spawning groups in the Huron-Erie Corridor. J. of Great Lakes Research. In Press.

Sullivan, T.J.* and C.A. Stepien.** 2013.
Genetic diversity and divergence of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) spawning populations across the Huron-Erie Corridor, from Lake Huron through western Lake Erie. J. of Great Lakes Research. In Press.

Sepulveda-Villet, O.J.* and C.A. Stepien.** 2012.
Waterscape genetics of the yellow perch (Perca flavescens): Patterns across large connected ecosystems and isolated relict populations. Molecular Ecology. 21(23): 5795-2826. doi:10.1111/mec.12044

Stepien, C.A.**, I.A. Grigorovich, D.J. Murphy*, M.A. Gray*, and G. Kalacyi*. 2012.
Evolutionary, biogeographic, and population genetic relationships of Dreissenid mussels, with revision of component taxa. Chapter 28 in: Nalepa, T., and D. Schloesser. Quagga and Zebra Mussels: Biology, Impacts, and Control, 2nd Edition. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 403-444.

Pierce, L.R.* and C.A. Stepien.** 2012.
Evolution and biogeography of an emerging quasispecies: Diversity patterns of the fish viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSv). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 63:327–341. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.12.024

Karsiotis, S.I.*, J.E. Brown*, L.R. Pierce*, and C.A. Stepien.** 2012.
Salinity tolerance of the invasive round goby: experimental implications for seawater ballast exchange and spread to North American estuaries. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 38:121-128. doi:10.1016/j.jglr.2011.12.010

Stepien, C.A., J.A. Banda*, D.M. Murphy*, and A.E. Haponski*. 2012.
Temporal and spatial genetic consistency of walleye (Sander vitreus) spawning groups. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 141:660-672. doi:10.1080/00028487.2012.683474

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Last Updated: 6/24/19