Dr. Donn Branstrator

Donn Branstrator Photo

Professional title

Associate Professor



  • B.A., 1987, Lawrence University
  • Ph.D., 1993, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Curriculum Vitae 

Research Interests

My research program seeks to understand the structure and function of freshwater food webs and how non-native species influence ecological processes. My students work primarily with crustacean zooplankton and use a variety of approaches including paleolimnology, laboratory and field experiments, stable isotopes, and field monitoring in inland lakes and the Laurentian Great Lakes. Many of our questions are motivated by finding solutions to the management of aquatic invasive species. Two current projects include: 1) 'Characterizing spiny water flea impacts using sediment records' which is funded by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, University of Minnesota; and 2) 'What gear on your boat is most likely to spread spiny water flea?' which is funded by the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program, St. Louis County, Minnesota.

Bythotrephes longimanus (aka, spiny water flea, pictured below) has been a model organism for my research program. This invasive species invaded North America in the late 1900s, most likely in the ballast water of transoceanic ships. Learn more about spiny water flea and our recent projects by accessing the following resources:



Recent Publications

  • Sorensen, ML, and DK Branstrator. 2017. The North American invasive zooplanktivore Bythotrephes longimanus is less hypoxia-tolerant than the native Leptodora kindtii. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences In press (doi: 10.1139/cjfas-2016-0188).
  • Branstrator, DK, AE Beranek, ME Brown, LE Hembre, and DR Engstrom. 2017. Colonization dynamics of the invasive predatory cladoceran, Bythotrephes longimanus, inferred from sediment records. Limnology and Oceanography 62:1096-1110.
  • Krueger, BR, JP Werne, DK Branstrator, TR Hrabik, Y Chikaraishi, N Ohkouchi, and EC Minor. 2016. Organic matter transfer in Lake Superior’s food web: Insights from bulk and molecular stable isotope and radiocarbon analyses. Limnology and Oceanography 61:149-164.
  • Branstrator, DK, KL Westphal, and BK King. 2015. Analysis of invertebrate resting eggs and other biota in ballast tank sediment of domestic Great Lakes cargo ships. Journal of Great Lakes Research 41:200-207.
  • Oliver, SK, DK Branstrator, TR Hrabik, SJ Guildford, and RE Hecky. 2015. Nutrient excretion by crustacean zooplankton in the deep chlorophyll layer of Lake Superior. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 72:390-399.
  • Branstrator, DK, LJ Shannon, ME Brown, and MT Kitson. 2013. Effects of chemical and physical conditions on hatching success of Bythotrephes longimanus resting eggs. Limnology and Oceanography 58:2171-2184.
  • Brown, ME, DK Branstrator, and LJ Shannon. 2012. Population regulation of the spiny water flea (Bythotrephes longimanus) in a reservoir: Implications for invasion. Limnology and Oceanography 57:251-271.

Current Graduate Students

  • Nichole DeWeese (MS in Water Resources Science). ‘Characterizing spiny water flea impacts in Lake Mille Lacs and Lake Kabetogama using sediment records.’

Recent Graduate Students

  • Ian Harding (MS in Integrated Biosciences, 2017 graduate). ‘Growth and predatory demand of cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Western Lake Superior.’ Co-advised with T. Hrabik.
  • Matthew Pawlowski (MS in Integrated Biosciences, 2016 graduate). ‘Changes in the zooplankton community of Lake Superior and the implications of climate change and Bythotrephes longimanus.’ Co-advised with T. Hrabik.
  • Michael Sorensen (MS in Water Resources Science, 2015 graduate). ‘Hypoxia tolerance of the invasive zooplankton Bythotrephes longimanus and the native zooplankton Leptodora kindtii.’
  • Matthew TenEyck (PhD in Water Resources Science, 2015 graduate). ‘Defining the risk-release relationship of Daphnia magna, a non-native aquatic species in the environment of the Duluth-Superior Harbor.
  • Samantha Oliver (MS in Integrated Biosciences, 2012 graduate). ‘Nutrient regeneration by the zooplankton community in the deep chlorophyll layer of Lake Superior.’ Co-advised with T. Hrabik.
  • Ashley Beranek (MS in Integrated Biosciences, 2012 graduate). ‘An assessment of the long-term phenology and impact of Bythotrephes longimanus in Island Lake Reservoir, Minnesota, using sediment records.