Dr. Knute Nadelhoffer, outgoing UMBS Director.

As of August 31, Knute Nadelhoffer has officially retired from the directorship of the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS). With confidence, he passes the keys to the Station to new director, Aimée Classen (more on Dr. Classen coming soon!). He will continue as Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology until the end of the calendar year, after which he will assume emeritus status.

Nadelhoffer has enjoyed a long and decorated career in science, including earning his PhD at the University of Wisconsin, being awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship to work at the Norwegian Institute of Water Research in Oslo, becoming a Senior Research Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Ecosystems Center in Woods Hole, MA, serving as co-Director of the National Science Foundation's Ecosystem Studies Program, and his recent selection as Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America.

Dearest to maize and blue hearts, however, are his great many accomplishments as UMBS Director. To break it down by the data:

  • Nadelhoffer served as UMBS Director from 2003-2020 (17 years!). This makes him the third-longest serving director (after Alfred H. Stockard and George R. LaRue) in UMBS’s 111-year history.
  • Under Nadelhoffer’s leadership, 2,411 students enrolled in UMBS classes.
  • He personally taught General Ecology for two spring terms at UMBS.
  • He advised 9 graduate students in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
  • He traveled to Washington multiple times to lobby for science-informed public policy, and hosted 2 U.S. senators, 2 state senators, and a state representative for UMBS visits.
  • He was the PI (principal investigator) or Co-PI for 28 UMBS-based research projects.
  • He initiated and led 8 UMBS Winter Research Meetings, now an annual event uniting faculty and researchers in advance of the spring/summer field season.

The numbers are compelling. But anyone who has worked with Nadelhoffer knows that the greatest successes of his directorship cannot be distilled numerically. His soft skills and coalition building are what set him apart as a leader - and a friend to all.

Nadelhoffer proudly displays the ceremonial preserved mudpuppy, a frequent item at the UMBS holiday party "white elephant" gift exchange.

Among the first to celebrate these contributions is UMBS Associate Director Karie Slavik, longtime colleague and Nadelhoffer’s right-hand in running the Station.

“We all know Knute is incredibly kind and wicked smart, but it is his generous spirit that makes him extra special to all of us,” says Slavik. “ I am so grateful to Knute for his guidance during our adventures together over 18 field seasons."

Some of Nadelhoffer’s notable accomplishments that may not appear on a CV:

  • He established strong and meaningful partnerships with local Anishinaabe groups, including the Burt Lake Band, the Little Traverse Bay Band, and the Grand Traverse Bay Band. 
  • He rallied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology staff for participation in the annual Burt Lake Band Walk of Remembrance, commemorating the tragic village burnout of 1900 in which the band’s ancestral village near Burt Lake was burned after an illegal land grab.
  • He wrote a successful grant application as part of the U-M Third Century Initiative. With that seed money, he and UMBS staff established the Transforming Learning Program, bringing a diversity of nontraditional courses - and students - to the Station.
  • He presented at and participated in numerous community events in northern Michigan, raising UMBS’s profile as a resource for the general public.
  • He performed in UMBS talent shows, do-si-doed at square dances, hosted dozens of jam sessions on the deck of the Director’s Cabin, told countless stories of his life and career, and never wavered in his willingness to share his gifts to enrich the lives of others.

Chris Poulsen, Associate Dean for Natural Sciences, worked closely with Nadelhoffer throughout his directorship.

Nadelhoffer meets with then-PhD student, Susan Cheng.

“Knute's leadership over the last 17 years has been wonderful and will have a lasting impact on the Biostation,” he says. “As director, he was dedicated to advancing research and field-based learning, and expanded opportunities for both. He did a tremendous job of making the Biostation accessible to all through his development of the Transforming Learning Program to increase the diversity of courses and students, and through his engagement of the local community including school groups, conservation organizations, and Anishinaabe group members. I have been so impressed with the compassion and care that he brought to his directorship.”

“He has been fantastic to work with and will be missed.”

Through his leadership, warmth, humility, and commitment to science for positive change, Nadelhoffer built meaningful and lasting relationships. He brought neighbors, donors, politicians, collaborators, faculty, and students into the fold. He made UMBS better by investing in its most precious resource: its people.

From the entire UMBS community: thank you, Knute. Congratulations on your well-earned retirement. To the next adventure!