Matt Moore, SETAC North America Senior Resource Group
This month, the Senior Resource Group highlights the accomplishments and career of Larry Kapustka, sole proprietor of LK Consultancy. Kaputska earned a bachelor of science in biological education and coaching (1970) followed by a master of science in botany (1972), both from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He received his Ph.D. in 1975 in botany, specializing in physiological ecology from the University of Oklahoma-Norman. His doctoral dissertation examined the influence of secondary phytochemicals to suppress dinitrogen fixation of asymbiotic organisms in successional grasslands. The work consisted of field and laboratory experimentation and field surveys that demonstrated the plausibility that allelochemical compounds produced in early successional species arrested the rate of succession that occurred in abandoned agricultural fields in historic tall grass (or true) prairies.
Kapustka’s first job following his Ph.D. was at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, where he held a research and teaching position. He taught a variety of classes spanning plant ecology, plant physiology and forestry. His research focused on the role of vegetation in minimizing erosion of the young glacial deposits of red clay along the south shore of Lake Superior.
In 1978, Kapustka took a tenure-track position in botany at Miami University. His research, including that of his graduate students, explored asymbiotic dinitrogen fixation in grasslands, dinitrogen fixation by actinorhizal bacteria in alder in northern forests, and a variety of studies involving mycorrhizal systems. He was promoted to professor and granted tenure.
The lure of government laboratory research led Kapustka to resign from his position at Miami University to take a position at the US Enivronmental Protection Agency (USEPA) laboratory in 1988 in Corvallis, Oregon. There, he led the Plant Physiology and the Hazardous Waste teams until leaving the USEPA in 1990. During his 2.5 years with the USEPA, the teams he led contributed to the development of ecotoxicology test methods in soil and the outline of methods to conduct ecological risk assessment at Superfund sites.
In 1990, Larry formed a boutique consulting firm, ecological planning and toxicology, inc. At its peak, the company employed 18 scientists and office staff engaged in ecological risk assessment and laboratory testing of plants and wildlife. In 2005, he took a position with Golder Associates in Calgary, Canada, where he continued to work on ecological risk assessments and environmental risk assessments. After three years, he left Golder to start LK Consultancy, a sole proprietorship operating in Calgary, and later Turner Valley, Canada, where he now resides. He was briefly employed by SLR Consulting to help develop integrated holistic risk assessment approaches.
Throughout his career, Kapustka has worked to improve the use of ecological science in environmental assessment and management. This has included use of more realistic testing methods, improved survey methods to characterize historic and extant biophysical resources, and consideration of a landscape perspective to frame assessment approaches. He advocates the use of the ecological risk assessment framework, especially the problem formulation phase, to establish dialogue among all affected stakeholders so that the sociological–ecological context can be used effectively to frame questions and structure the project design. In this context, he promotes expanding assessment endpoints to include ecosystem services as a meaningful way to approach sustainability.
Over the years, Kapustka has held many leadership roles within SETAC and served on the SETAC North America Board of Directors; on steering committees and as chair of several Interest Groups: Ecological Risk Assessment, Nanotechnology, Sustainability and the newly formed Indigenous Knowledge and Values; as coordinating editor for SETAC books; and as an associate editor for Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. He has been on the steering committee of several Pellston Workshops®, including Valuation of Ecological Resources, Superfund and Ecological Risk Assessment, Coordinating Risk Assessment and Restoration Efforts, and Ecosystem Services. He was the lead author of what became the Berlin Declaration, a statement of SETAC’s aspirations regarding sustainability.
Over the years, Kapustka has written or edited seven books, contributed 25 book chapters, published more than 75 peer-reviewed journal articles and over 100 project-specific technical reports.
He was a founding member of a local energy co-op in southern Alberta (Foothills Energy Co-op). He is vice chair of the Turner Valley Oilfield Society, a non-profit organization that communicates the historical significance of the Turner Valley oilfield region where the oil industry of Western Canada was formed. The society also delivers energy literacy programs, providing insights into a vital Alberta industry.
When not pursuing his passion for science to improve our assessment and management of environmental issues, Kapustka engages in an array of diverse interests, including hunting and fishing; gastronomic adventures, both preparing and eating; competitive sports; fine wines, beers and whiskies; politics; and creative writing and poetry. And of course, as each year comes to a close, Kapustka the scientist morphs into Santa Larry.
The mission of the Senior Resource Group (SRG) is to identify, cultivate and mentor future SETAC leaders, as well as document the Society’s history and evolution of environmental science. If you are interested in becoming a member of the SRG, or if you simply want more information about the group, please contact Laura Swanson.
Author’s contact information: Matt.Moore@ars.usda.gov