New director appointed at St. Croix Watershed Research Station

Dr. Jim Almendinger, new director of the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, is pictured on the banks of the station’s “home waters,” the St. Croix River. (Submitted photo)

Dr. Jim Almendinger has been named the new director of the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, the Marine on St. Croix field research station of the Science Museum of Minnesota. Previous director Dr. Daniel Engstrom has stepped down to focus on research.

Almendinger has been a senior scientist at the station since 1995. He has spent nearly 20 years doing hydrological research to better understand human impacts on the environment at the watershed scale. He has been involved in numerous influential studies, from work on Lake St. Croix that led to its designation by the federal government as “impaired” for nutrients that feed algae, to Mongolia, where he and other Research Station staff surveyed small aquatic organisms in remote lakes.

Much of Almendinger’s research has focused on groundwater connections with lakes, wetlands and streams. Currently, he is using watershed and lake models to better understand the impacts of land-use and climate change on aquatic resources.

“The need for strong scientific understanding of the complex questions about water are more important than ever,” Almendinger said. “I’m looking forward to leading this station to more important findings that will help Minnesota protect our most important natural resource.”

Almendinger received his Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Minnesota and his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University. He also currently holds an adjunct professor position at the University of Minnesota.

“I am excited to work more closely with Jim as the director of the research station,” said Laurie Fink, Vice President of Science at the Science Museum of Minnesota. “He will bring a new perspective to the role while maintaining and expanding key internal and external relationships. And Dan has built a world-class research institution during his time as director. He is highly respected in the field and often called upon by community leaders and legislators. I am happy he will continue his relationship with the museum on a part-time basis.”

Since being named director in 1999, Engstrom assembled a team of scientists, analysts and graduate students to tackle important environmental questions. He has been an international leader in mercury research and documented the rise of other toxins in the environment, such as the now-banned bactericide triclosan. Engstrom also identified critical mechanisms of how sulfide-ore mining would exacerbate mercury pollution and harm wild rice. His work was also pivotal in developing understanding of how siltation of Minnesota’s waterways and eutrophication of our lakes, both driven by land uses that generate excessive loads of sediment and nutrients.

Engstrom will remain at the station part-time as a senior scientist, continuing research studies of these and other subjects.