A biologist and former Grand Rapids resident is sharing his knowledge of the Great Lakes at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.
Philip Willink, whose research specialty is fish, was recently hired as senior research biologist and leads the aquarium's Great Lakes conservation initiative.
Willink has long been intrigued by Lake Michigan. Born in the Grand Rapids area, he moved to the East Coast as a 2-year-old. He stayed connected with West Michigan through trips to family and returned to receive a bachelor's degree in science from Calvin College. When Willink wasn't in class, he was fishing for perch on Lake Michigan.
The research team's field work includes assessing rare and endangered species in the Great Lakes. Another project focuses on maintaining lake whitefish populations. He's excited to help develop the aquarium's research component.
"Shedd is well-known for education and outreach, and we're expanding our research in the conservation department, which hasn't been done much in the past," Willink said.
Willink has caught exotic fish in South America and Papua New Guinea, but there's much to be explored in our own backyard, he said.
"I've always been fascinated by the Great Lakes," he said.
He recently visited his parents' home in Grand Haven and said West Michigan holds a special place in his heart.
"We get the nice hills and sand dunes," Willink said. "And then it's just having a large lake nearby is special, too."