Dr. Charley Liberko of Cornell College’s Department of Chemistry has an idea he’s working to bring to fruition. “Imagine a remote village in an underdeveloped country whose only source of water is a stream contaminated with toxic levels of metal ions such as cadmium and nickel,” states Dr. Liberko. “The villagers take locally available woody plant material, soak it in potash, and heat it up for several days until the wood partially decomposes. They then filter their water through this material to remove the metal ions.. . ."
Sometimes scientists have to make an extraordinary effort to study the questions that concern them. In fact, they may even need to design and build labs to their specifications. This was the case with the University of Nebraska, Lincoln’s (UNL’s) Fish Conservation Behavior and Physiology Lab, which serves as a locus for research on water management best practices based on fish physiology—work conducted by up and coming scientists as well as more established researchers. Dr. Jamilynn Poletto spoke to EM about how the lab was built and the work that is happening there.
In drought-stressed areas like California where every drop in the aquifer counts, seismic noise may be the key to monitoring water. Harvard University PhD student and principal investigator Tim Clements spoke to EM about the work, which might be a game changer for water watchers across the country. “The inspiration for this research was the historic drought in California from 2011 to 2017,” explains Clements. “This was the driest period in recorded history in the state. We started this research after California had implemented the first mandatory water restrictions in state history in 2015."
As of 2018, 75 percent of the main channel of the Mississippi River is monitored for water quality. This step forward is the result of an agreement between more than 30 mayors from cities close to the Mississippi River, the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative. Super gauges now monitor nutrients along the river, and Scott Morlock with the US Geological Survey (USGS) spoke to EM about this project.
The whole story (map) and super gauges
To get a great overview of how the USGS’s Missis...
Recently, EM reported on research from a team led by Dr. Dina Leech that shows America’s lakes are getting murkier. That study made use of the National Lakes Assessment (NLA), a unique collaboration between states, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and tribal governments. NLA is generating a tremendous amount of limnological data and making it publicly available; Tricia Lynn of the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs corresponded with EM about the NLA.
A recent renovation project in Omaha’s Fontenelle Park showcases how much good a coordinated effort to improve parks, sewers, and water quality can do. The 7.7 million dollar project is aiming to provide more recreational opportunities for locals while improving the quality of water in local streams and rivers. Adam Wilmes, an engineer with the City of Omaha, described the project, which began as a coordinated effort in 2014, to EM.
For almost a decade, the buoys of the Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) have been situated in the Caribbean Sea, providing the world with weather patterns and data about climate change. Since June 2018, a new, state-of-the-art oceanographic buoy was installed by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI), which runs the CREWS system. This new addition to the CREWS buoy system offers ocean state and weather data in near real-time, all accessible from a computer or smartphone.
Limnologist Dina Leech found herself reading more and more about lakes turning green, filling up with algae, and browning. She found herself wondering, could lakes be getting murkier more generally? Dina and her team decided to use data from the National Lakes Assessment (NLA) program directed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to find out, and the recent study was born.
Dr. Dina Leech spoke to EM about the study, and about why lakes appear to be getting murkier.
In north-central Iowa and Minnesota, shallow lakes and wetlands make up much of the landscape. These ecologically important areas are what the science-based conservation organization Ducks Unlimited calls “duck factories,” rich with aquatic vegetation and freshwater shrimp that historically have supported waterfowl breeding. Now, though, most of these regions are under threat.
Chris Sebastian of Ducks Unlimited spoke to EM about DU’s Living Lakes Initiative, their recent partnership with Purina, and their efforts to restore water quality by conserving wetlands.
Millions of Americans rely on well water at home, and in Virginia well water supplies about 20 percent of households. The Virginia Household Water Quality Program, run by Program Coordinator Erin Ling at Virginia Tech, is offering well testing across the state, helping the people who use that well water understand how to keep it safe and healthy. EM spoke to Ling and Carroll County High School STEM-Ag Lab Manager Rachelle Rasco about the program.
This summer, Michigan Technical University unveiled a new Marine Autonomy Research Site, located at the waterfront Great Lakes Research Center. The site is part of an ongoing push to advance autonomy in the marine industry and to help take humans out of the equation when research on the water is dull, dirty and/or dangerous. Dr. Guy Meadows, director of the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC), spoke to EM about the site.
The polar regions of the world have always a challenge for scientists to explore and study. Even logistics that are typically no more than passing concerns under other circumstances such as transportation become major problems during polar wintertime. Now, researchers are reporting on their use of hundreds of oceanic floats that are drifting and diving their way through the Southern Ocean, including under its ice, with surprising results.
This summer, scientists deployed new buoys in Lake Michigan—smarter, smaller buoys that record and provide data in real time. EM spoke to Illinois State Geological Survey coastal geologist and University of Illinois at Chicago adjunct assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, Ethan Theuerkauf and Limnotech project engineer Ed Verhamme about this development.
Reports of harmful algal blooms (HABs) are more common than ever, yet the ultimate mechanisms that cause these events are poorly understood. Since 2013, the Jefferson Project has been developing cutting-edge technologies designed to achieve deeper understandings of lakes, and now the project is extending a pilot program to Skaneateles Lake in New York. EM spoke with Dr. Rick Relyea of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Darrin Fresh Water Institute and the Jefferson Project about the move to Skaneateles Lake.
As part two in a series on Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS) at Yellow Bay, EM continues its talk with Jim Elser, a limnologist who is Director of the biological field station and the Bierman Professor of Ecology for the University of Montana (UM). Much of the educational effort taking place at FLBS happens during the summer when classes at the university level run as they have done since the 1900s.