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Jesse M. Lepak, Ph.D.
Here Jesse is in Rocky Mountain National Park pursing one of his favorite fish in Colorado, the cutthroat trout.

Jesse M. Lepak, Ph.D.

Food Web Ecologist


Jesse received his M.S. (2004) and Ph.D. (2008) degrees from the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University with concentrations in fishery science, resource policy and management, and cellular and molecular medicine.  His collegial research focused on addressing various deleterious effects in aquatic ecosystems caused by anthropogenic perturbations, including negative impacts from mercury contamination in sport fish, introduced and invasive species on native species, and early mortality syndrome in Great Lakes salmonids from thiamine deficiency.

Jesse moved on to do postdoctoral research at Colorado State University for two and a half years focusing on mercury contamination in fish to maximize the benefits of fish consumption to anglers and their families while identifying ways of minimizing potential risks. From 2010 to 2015 Jesse worked as the statewide lake and reservoir researcher with Colorado Parks and Wildlife where he continued his efforts on mercury contamination research, serving on the Technical Advisory Committee developing fish consumption advice with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.  This position also afforded him the opportunity to acquire experience addressing other important ecological issues including introduced and invasive aquatic invertebrate species, introduced and invasive fish species, degraded water quality, the stocking of non-native fishes, fish parasites, aquaculture, biological control of invasive species, aquaculture, and sources of native fish mortality.  Jesse joined BRI in 2016 to provide expertise on mercury issues in fish and fisheries.


  • Ph.D., Natural Resources, Cornell University, 2008 
  • M.S., Natural Resources, Cornell University, 2004 
  • B.S., Biology, Zoology, and Biological Aspects of Conservation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2001

Expertise and Experience

  • Food web structure and dynamics 
  • Mercury dynamics and bioaccumulation 
  • Fisheries 
  • Aquatic ecology 
  • Environmental perturbations and mitigation

Research Interests

  • Evaluating various food web perturbations and their impacts on human and aquatic ecosystem health
  • Mercury contamination in aquatic systems
  • Invasive fish and parasite species and their interactions with native and sport fish
  • The consequences of food web structures and shifts resulting from stochastic and anthropogenic perturbation

Journal Articles


In Review:

  • Lepak, J.M., Hooten, M.B., Eagles-Smith, C.A., Lutz, M.A., Tate, M.T., Ackerman, J.T., Willacker, J.J. Jr., Evers, D.C., Davis, J., Flanagan Pritz, C., and Wiener, J.G. Assessing mercury concentrations in fish across western Canada and the United States: potential health risks to fish and humans. In review: Science of the Total Environment, special issue.
  • Eagles-Smith, C.A., Ackerman, J.T., Willacker, J.J., Tate, M.T., Lutz, M.A., Fleck, J., Stewart, A.R., Wiener, J.G., Evers, D.C., Lepak, J.M., Davis, J., and Flanagan Pritz, C. Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Mercury Concentrations in Freshwater Fishes across the Western US and Canada. In review: Science of the Total Environment, special issue.
  • Jackson, A., Evers, D.C., Eagles-Smith, C.A., Ackerman, J.T., Willacker, J.J., Elliott, J.T., Lepak, J.M., VanderPol, S.S., and Bryan, C.E. Mercury risk to avian piscivores across the western United States and Canada. In review: Science of the Total Environment, special issue.
  • Willacker, J.J., Eagles-Smith, C.A., Lutz, M.A., Tate, M.T., Ackerman, J.T, and Lepak, J.M. The influence of reservoirs and their water management on fish mercury concentrations in Western North America. In review: Science of the Total Environment, special issue.

Photo Credits: Photo © Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez.
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