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Our History

Wetlands Research, Inc. was formed in 1983 as a joint venture between the Lake County Forest Preserve District and the Openlands Project, a Chicago-based conservation organization.  Although it has since gone its separate way, Wetlands Research, Inc. remains dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetland ecosystems.


Through collaboration with researchers, scientists, and universities from around the nation, Wetlands Research, Inc. has pioneered in investigations of ways to harness wetland ecosystem services for the greater good. This short video, The Forgotten Resource, demonstrates some of the early progress that was made in the state of Illinois.

Our People

Major Contributors


James Hayner


Jim recently retired after over twenty years as Village Administrator of Gurnee, Illinois. He spent a total of thirty-five years working for the village. Jim was instrumental in the construction of Gurnee Mills mall and the Tri State Parkway as well as other numerous economic developments. Jim lives in Gurnee, Illinois, with his wife.

Stephen Phillips

Vice President

Steve has been a general partner at Lake County Grading Company for over ten years. He is an avid hunter and environmental enthusiast. He resides in Harvard, Illinois, with his wife Jeri and three children.

Robert Johnston

Board Member

Ken Frank

Board Member

Ken received his B.S. degree in Business Management, from Illinois State University. He has been a member of the Urban Land Institute and Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago. He served 8 years as trustee on District 38 Board of Education, and 3 years as Trustee and Treasure for his local church. He and his wife of 18 years have four children, and are a licensed foster care family in the state of Illinois.


Donald L. Hey, PhD

Executive Director

Dr. Hey is the Executive Director and co-founder of Wetland's Research Incorporated and The Wetlands Initiative. His research focuses on the restoration of river and wetland systems and the development of low-cost management programs for sustaining natural aquatic ecosystems. Dr. Hey has served on numerous committees and editorial boards, including the Integrated Nitrogen Committee of the Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Assessment Plan; Technical Proposal Evaluation Committee, Everglades National Park, National Park Service; International Joint Commission, Levels Reference Study; National Research Council, Committee on Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems; Illinois Department of Conservation, Wetland Advisory Council; Ecological Engineering and Restoration Ecology. He is co-author of A Case for Wetland Restoration (John Wiley & Sons, 1999.) Dr. Hey is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Water Resources Association, the Society of Sigma Xi, Lambda Alpha International, and the Society of Wetland Scientists.

Kathy Paap

Senior Ecologist

Kathleen Paap is the Senior Ecologist for Wetlands Research, Inc. Kathy earned her MS in the Ecology and Evolution department at the University of Illinois – Chicago.  She has held many roles at Wetlands Research, Inc. over the past twenty-three years.  Her main interest is to find applications that use native wetland landscapes to improve water quality in a more environmentally sensitive and sustainable way.  Kathy is passionate about increasing habitats that promote pollinator success, restoring native landscapes in urbanized and otherwise disturbed areas, and managing these landscapes in sustainable ways with minimal chemical input. Kathy is active on the George Lake Rehabilitation District Board in Bristol Wisconsin and has held leadership roles in the Upper Des Plaines River Ecosystem Partnership and Racine-Kenosha Master Gardener Association.  Kathy is a member of the Society of Wetland Scientists.

Jerry Curran

Site Manager

Jerry has been with Wetlands Research Inc. since 1998. He is a designated erosion control inspector and has certifications in wetland delineation and herbicide application. Jerry manages the restoration staff and oversees native plant and seed installation, as well as herbicide application to non-native and invasive plant species. He plans and organizes the greenhouse propagation of native plants, conducts prescribed burns as needed, and leads educational tours. Jerry is an avid hunter, angler, and environmental enthusiast. He lives in Trevor, Wisconsin, with his wife Nicole and children Will and Grace.

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Abbott Laboratories

The Atlantic Richfield Foundation

Mr. William Anest

Borg-Warner Foundation

The Brunswick Foundation

Campanella & Sons, Inc.

Caterpillar Foundation

Anthony T. and Lawrie C. Dean

The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company

Elexa Consumer Products

International Minerals & Chemical Corporation

The Joyce Foundation

Lake County Grading

Land and Lakes Company

The MacArthur Foundation

Material Service Corp.

The McCormick Foundation

The McKnight Foundation

The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation

Prince Charitable Trusts

The Sudix Foundation

USX Foundation, Inc.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Walgreen Company

Waste Management of North America-Midwest

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