John A. Downing

John Downing headshot
Professional Title


  • Limnology, aquatic ecology, biogeochemistry, fisheries, lake management and restoration, eutrophication, harmful algae blooms, groundwater, biodiversity, endangered species, carbon cycling, global role of lakes and streams
  • Research, education and science policy
  • Professor, Department of Biology and with Large Lakes Observatory (UMD)
  • Immediate past chair, Council of Scientific Society Presidents
  • Immediate past president, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography



MNSG Leadership

  • Director


Ph.D. - Biology
McGill University
M.S. - Zoology
North Dakota State University
B.S. - Biology
Hamline University

Earth's Eye: Director's Column

Water from lakes and streams can contain a lot of things that can make you sick. Making drinking water safe when camping, on the trail, or simply traveling, has become big business with many options. A safe solution is easier and cheaper than you might think. Minnesota Sea Grant’s April 2023 Director’s Column has information to help keep you safe and hydrated. 

I wanted a tool to measure the thawing potential that weather exerts on lakes in spring so my friends, colleagues, and family could better plan for spring activities. So I made a fun widget called the Minnesota Lake Ice-In and Ice-Out Widget to help track thawing in spring. 

The open water of Lake Superior (right) and the frozen water of the Duluth-Superior harbor (left). Image credit: M. Thoms

Plate ice, cracked ice, and refrozen plate ice on a Minnesota lake. Image credit: John A. Downing.

Image credit: Igor Pushkarev. All AdobeStock images in this story are protected by copyright.

Image credit: ©diyanadimitrova.

Image credit: ©Mariana.

Image credit: M. Thoms

Image credit: ©besjunior.

Outreach Projects

The Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative (GLAC) is a three-year (2019-2022) project to create a regionwide group to foster relevant, science-based initiatives that support aquaculture industries. Credit: L. Angradi.

The Aquaculture Market Study is a three-year (2020-2023), $250,000 project led by the University of Minnesota Sea Grant program that was created to determine the potential for a sustainable food-fish aquaculture industry in Minnesota.

History, prevention, kits, rescue, field treatment and more about hypothermia.

This ice-in and ice-out widget is a bit of science fun to show you how to estimate when a body of water like a lake is likely to freeze or thaw.