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The Station Chief for the US Geological Survey, and former Chief Scientist at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, will officially retire Friday, February 28th. Dr. Richard Whitman told the Region News Team one of the biggest challenges that has faced water quality in northwest Indiana has been the consequence of all the ditching done over the last 100 years, which he says has aggravated the drainage of the wetlands. Dr. Whitman says, when he was Chief Scientist with the National Lakeshore, he started an initiative to re-ditch areas and return them to wetlands, which the park continues to do.
Dr. Whitman says as a whole, a phenomenal job has been done to improve the sewer treatment plants and noted the dredging of the Little Calumet River, which has been transformed from being completely dead to coming alive again.
Whitman earned his PhD at Texas A & M University in aquatic ecology. As an Associate Professor of Biology, he taught at Indiana University Northwest before being hired as Chief Scientist at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (INDU). He has served as Station Chief for the USGS, co-located at INDU, for 20 years.
Whitman specialized in recreational water quality of Great Lakes beaches and swimming waters, with a focus on microbiological and ecological interactions. His groundbreaking work identifying natural populations of bacteria thought only to be present in human sewage changed scientific thinking, our understanding of E. coli bacteria, and the monitoring recreational water for human health risk worldwide. His studies on bacteria concentrations in beach sand, forest soils, and algae have been recognized as pioneering work this field. Whitman has published over 100 scholarly journal articles and reports and several books, and he co-founded the Great Lakes Beach Association, an international organization of beach managers, scientists, and policy makers that now boasts over 1100 members.
Whitman’s expertise has been invaluable to local, state, federal, and nonprofit agencies around the Great Lakes, including the Indiana Dunes federal and state parks, cities of Milwaukee, Chicago, Gary, Michigan City, and other Great Lake states. In the course of his expansive career, samples from virtually every water body in Northwest Indiana and Chicago have passed through Whitman’s laboratory for biological and chemical analysis, with his findings impacting daily decision-making for people and water throughout the region.
He says even though he is retiring he will continue to work with area universities and lend his expertise when needed.
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