Don Uzarski steps down as director of CMU Biological Station, Kevin Pangle to take over

| Author: Robert Wang | Media Contact: Robert Wang

In a significant transition for the Central Michigan University Biological Station (CMUBS) on Beaver Island, long-serving Director Dr. Don Uzarski has announced his decision to step down after a remarkable 15-year tenure. Dr. David Ford, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at CMU, has appointed Dr. Kevin Pangle, a professor in the Department of Biology and the Institute for Great Lakes Research, as the new director.

A legacy of growth and achievement

Don Uzarski wears a jacket, collared shirt and tie while posing for a headshot.Dr. Uzarski’s leadership has been transformative for the CMUBS. During his tenure, he spearheaded a $30 million research program in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), which created 156 jobs across 13 institutions in its first year alone. Under his guidance, the station secured 23 additional externally funded research grants, collectively worth several million dollars.

In 2010, Dr. Uzarski became the founding director of the CMU Institute for Great Lakes Research, which now includes 33 faculty members and about 50 graduate students. His ability to balance a heavy teaching and university service load, while driving substantial research efforts, has been nothing short of admirable.

Key accomplishments under Uzarski’s tenure

  • 2010: Launched the Research Experience for Undergraduate Students (REU) program, attracting global talent to work on Great Lakes research.
  • 2010: CMUBS became a ‘window on the water’ for the newly formed Institute for Great Lakes Research, with an initial $10 million 5-year grant from USEPA.
  • 2012: Expanded research facilities with state-of-the-art labs and 12 mesocosm tanks, funded by NSF, enhancing research on biological factors affecting the Great Lakes.
  • 2012: Earned his USCG Captain’s license, allowing CMUBS to offer classes on the Great Lakes.
  • 2013: Introduced the M/V Chippewa, a 38-foot research vessel equipped with advanced water quality measurement instruments.
  • 2015: Secured an additional $10 million 5-year USEPA grant to continue protecting and restoring Great Lakes coastal wetlands.
  • 2016: Collaborated with the Beaver Island Boat Company to monitor climate change factors in the Great Lakes.
  • 2017-2018: Increased the number of classes and outreach efforts at CMUBS.
  • 2020: Awarded another $10 million 5-year USEPA grant and navigated the challenges of COVID-19, while achieving UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status and hosting international conferences.

Reflecting on his time as director, Dr. Uzarski expressed pride in the drastic increase in research, education, and outreach at the CMUBS, noting that, "With my two children growing up on the island, my wife Dr. Rebecca Uzarski and I share many amazing memories from our time at CMUBS."

A new chapter with Kevin Pangle

Kevin Pangle wears a jacket, collared shirt and tie while posing for a headshot.Dr. Kevin Pangle steps into the role of director with a rich background in Great Lakes research. A professor at CMU, his work has focused extensively on fisheries, particularly in Lake Michigan. Having taught and conducted research at CMUBS for the past twelve years, Dr. Pangle and his family have grown to cherish the station and its community.

“I feel fortunate to transition into the role of director, and I am excited that the station will be an even bigger part of our lives,” Pangle said. His experience and passion for the station, coupled with his understanding of its unique ecosystem and impact on students, position him well for this leadership role.

Vision for the future

Dr. Pangle plans to build on the strong foundation laid by his predecessor. His vision includes providing strategic direction and leadership across research, teaching, and community outreach. He aims to expand partnerships, increase class offerings, and enhance support for students, fostering a sense of belonging at the station.

“I look forward to enhancing our ties to the Beaver Island community and providing a welcoming place where people come together to learn about and from the natural world,” Pangle stated. His commitment to the transformative impact of CMUBS on students and faculty is evident, and he is eager to continue growing the station’s influence and reach.

Dean Ford noted the significance of this transition. “I’m grateful to Don for his sustained leadership over the last 15 years, which moved the Biological Station into a new realm of research productivity and international prominence. I’m also excited to see Kevin take the reins with his experience and strategic vision. I’m confident that he will grow the Station’s legacy of excellence and community impact."

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