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Hongyan Zhang
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Hongyan Zhang

Understanding Great Lakes Ecosystems

Hongyan Zhang, Ph.D., is an assistant research scientist at the NOAA-funded Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER), which is located in Ann Arbor, Mich., near the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Zhang uses computer models to investigate various topics, like the impact of invasive mussels on plankton, the occurrence of blue-green algal blooms, and the effectiveness of the phosphorous reduction program in Lake Erie.

Why does your research matter?

I am taking a modeling approach to study aquatic ecology. With more and more data and knowledge accumulated, it is time to use models to integrate our understanding of ecosystems and generate a holistic view of the ecosystems and provide scientific support for ecosystem-based management. My research will enhance the ecosystem forecasting capability for the Great Lakes.    

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

Great collaboration with colleagues. Scientists here at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory and Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research are very supportive and are great mentors.  

Where do you do most of your work? In a lab? In field studies?

In the lab, with a computer.

What in your lab could you not live without?

"With more and more data and knowledge accumulated, it is time to use models to integrate our understanding of ecosystems and generate a holistic view of the ecosystems and provide scientific support for ecosystem-based management."

The Internet. It is very important for communication, storing data, and for developing and running models. 

If you could invent any instrument to advance your research and cost were no object, what would it be? Why?

A supercomputer. My models are getting more and more complex and I need a supercomputer to have work done more quickly. 

When did you know you wanted to pursue science?

By the end of my undergraduate studies. I was involved in a project on the sustainability of aquaculture at that time and found that doing research was very interesting to me. I ended up continuing my education with the professor and wrote my master's thesis on that project.

What’s at the top of your recommended reading list for someone wanting to explore a career in science?

Marie Curie by Ève Denise Curie Labouisse

And how about a personal favorite book?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Do you have an outside hobby?


What would you be doing if you had not become a scientist?

I’d be a government employee in China. 

Who is your favorite historical scientist and why?

Marie Curie. She was very persistent on pursuing her research ideas under very difficult conditions. She had great personality and contributed greatly to the world.     

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