Russell Cuhel

Russell Cuhel

  • Senior Scientist, School of Freshwater Sciences


Russell L. Cuhel, Senior Scientist, was born in Hollywood and raised in the City of the Stars. In college, he had already gathered over 150 days at sea, mostly in Antarctica, and 6 publications before he finished his Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Chemistry at the UC San Diego (1975). As a graduate student in Marine Microbiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1975-1981), he studied extreme environments, which continues as a passion to this day. Research work at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (U. Miami 1981-1989) added hundreds more days at sea covering most of the world’s oceans and a year-long time series on Lake Ontario. Adept at bench research, he began to include research education (high school to graduate student levels) as a major, well-integrated component of his service to UWM beginning in 1990. Building on a program initiated by Nealson and others, he brought the only freshwater Oceanography site of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates to national recognition. Innovative integration of the REU education program and NSF-funded research on Yellowstone Lake hydrothermal vents allowed students to work side by side with active scientists in cross-cutting and environmentally relevant disciplines (geochemistry, geology, chemistry, microbiology, policy, engineering). Such Interdisciplinary Approaches are also the core of his diverse funded research programs, which include year-round sampling in Lake Michigan, Wisconsin Inland Lakes, Yellowstone Lake, and several marine sites including the Guaymas Basin hydrothermal system. Community outreach is also a critical component of UWM’s mission, and Cuhel and Aguilar are reliably present as educators at a variety of community functions. Peer review of proposals and manuscripts, panel participation at funding agencies, and chairing of annual undergraduate research poster sessions at national meetings provides a taste of widely-recognized national service, all undertaken in the name of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee WATER Institute and now School of Freshwater Sciences.


  • PhD, Biology, Biological Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1981
  • BA, Biology, Chemistry, University of California, San Diego, 1975

Research Interests

  • Algae and bacteria: productivity and nutrient cycling, weather effects on lake and ocean plankton, nutrient limitation and eutrophication, seasonal cycles of plankton dynamics, episodic events influencing lake processes. Production of acid rain. Long-term studies of lake microbiogeochemical ecophysiology.
  • Invasive species. Zebra and Quagga mussels: effects on inland lakes and Lake Michigan; mussel feeding and effects on plankton composition; biochemistry of mussel tissue; basin-scale alterations in food web structure, optical properties, and seasonality.
  • Hydrothermal vents: microbiology and geochemistry of Yellowstone Lake hydrothermal vents; chemistry and microbiology of marine hydrothermal vents; growth of warm- and hot-environment bacteria.
  • Science education: Bench research education at independent study, student hourly, and capstone event levels; Career paths in environmental sciences; internships for students in aquatic sciences

Recent and Selected Publications

Cuhel, R.L. and C. Aguilar. 2018. The Quagga Mussel Experience: The Great Lakes' Lessons for the West. Municipal Water Leader 5(9): 12-16. (Joshua Dill, editor)

Cuhel, R.L. and C. Aguilar. 2016. Nutrient dynamics and biogeochemical cycling in Oneida Lake. Pages 111-137 in L.G. Rudstam, E.L. Mills, J.R. Jackson, and D.J. Stewart, editors. Oneida Lake: long-term dynamics of a managed ecosystem and its fishery. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland

Aguilar, Carmen and Russell Cuhel. 2016. Microbiogeochemical Ecophysiology of Freshwater Hydrothermal Vents in Mary Bay Canyon, Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park WY. P.M. Glibert, T.M. Kana (eds.), Aquatic Microbial Ecology and Biogeochemistry: A Dual Perspective, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-30259-1_23; Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.

Cuhel, Russell L. and Carmen Aguilar. 2015. Nutrient dynamics and biogeochemical cycling in Oneida Lake. Chapter 7 (27pp.) IN: Rudstam, L. and E. Mills (eds.) Oneida Lake: Long-Term Dynamics of a Managed Ecosystem and Its Fisheries. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda MD (Synthesis of 30-year time series)

Cuhel, Russell L. and Carmen Aguilar. 2013. Ecosystem transformations of the Laurentian Great Lake Michigan by nonindigenous biological invaders. Annual Reviews of Marine Science 5: 289-320. doi: 10.1146/annurev-marine-120710-100952.

Yang, T., Lyons, S., Aguilar, Carmen, Cuhel, Russell L., and A. Teske. 2011. Microbial communities and chemosynthesis in Yellowstone Lake sublacustrine hydrothermal springs. Frontiers in Microbiology 2(130): 1-17. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2011.00130

Cuhel, Russell L., Aguilar, Carmen, Remsen, C.C., Maki, J.S., Lovalvo, D., Klump, J.V., and R.W. Paddock. 2004. The Bridge Bay spires: Collection and preparation of a scientific specimen and museum piece. Yellowstone Science 12(4): 35-40.

Fogel, M.L., Aguilar, Carmen, Cuhel, Russell L., Hollander, D.J., Willey, J.D., and H.W. Paerl. 1999. Biological and isotopic changes in coastal waters induced by Hurricane Gordon. Limnol. Oceanogr. 44: 1359-1369.

Mayer, P., Cuhel, Russell L., and N. Nyholm. 1997. A simple in vitro fluorescence method for biomass measurements in algal growth inhibition tests. Water Research 31(10): 2525-2531.

Bates, T. S., Kiene, R. P., Wolfe, G. V., Matrai, P. M., Chavez, F. P., Buck, K. R., Blomquist, B. W., and Russell L.Cuhel. 1994. The cycling of sulfur in surface seawater of the northeast Pacific. Journal of Geophysical Research 99(C4): 7835-7843.

Cuhel, R. L. and D. R. S. Lean. 1987. Influence of light intensity, light quality, temperature, and daylength on uptake and assimilation of carbon dioxide and sulfate by lake plankton. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 44: 2118-2132.

Cuhel, Russell L., Taylor, C. D., and H. W. Jannasch. 1982. Assimilatory sulfur metabolism in marine microorganisms: considerations for the application of sulfate incorporation into protein as a measurement of natural population protein synthesis. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 43: 160-168.

Jannasch, H. W., Cuhel, Russell L., Wirsen, C. O., and C. D. Taylor. 1980. An approach for in situ studies of deep-sea amphipods and their microbial gut flora. Deep-Sea Research 27: 867-872.

Carlucci, A. F. and Russell L. Cuhel. 1977. Vitamins in the South Polar Seas: distribution and significance of dissolved and particulate vitamin B12, thiamine, and biotin in the Southern Indian Ocean. pp. 115-128. IN: G. A. Llano (ed.) Adaptations Within Antarctic Ecosystems: Proceedings of the Third SCAR Symposium on Antarctic Biology. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

Brown, W. C. and Russell L. Cuhel. 1975. Surface-localized cortex-lytic enzyme in spores of Bacillus cereus T. Journal of General Microbiology 91: 429-432.

Highlighted Media

Aguilar, C. and R.L. Cuhel. 2020. Keynote "Can It Make a Home Here? Invasive Species in Wisconsin Water for "“Seeing 20/20… a clear vision of clean waters”" 5th Annual Conference on "Clear Waters Clean Lakes", Healthy Lakes Conference: Virtual Meeting Friday, June 5th 2020.

Cuhel, R.L. and Aguilar, Carmen. 20 February 2020 : Wisconsin Public Television, Outdoor Wisconsin segment on "Science of Local Shipwrecks", Outdoor Wisconsin Series. Cuhel-Aguilar 8 minute ROV dive on Prins Willem.

Cuhel, R.L. and Aguilar, Carmen. 23 February 2020 : MS-NBC "What's Eating America" Segment 2 – "Overcooked" with Chef Andrew Zimmern (Food Cities series); Cuhel and Aguilar 8 minutes ROV Prins Willem Climate Change. 17 videographer crew, 3 SUVs full of stuff. Neeskay and Osprey to the Prins Willem (have MPG).

Cuhel, R.L. 2019 October: Story Collider Podcast of Scientist Stories About Doing Science, "Alvin Dive Recovery in a Tropical Depression", part of Wisconsin Science Festival 2019, 12 minutes:

Cuhel, R.L. 12 Feb 2019: Shepherd Express: "Milwaukee Steps up to Fight Climate Change." Mary Sussman. Interview about Milwaukee future considering the Fourth National Climate Change Assessment.

Cuhel, R.L. and C. Aguilar. 4, 11, 13, 18. 25 Jan 2019: UWM Science Bag: "A Cold Wind Off the Lake ... In August?" 1-hour public- and kid-friendly presentation on Lake Michigan Climate Change.