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.
Recently, EM was able to speak with Jim Elser, a limnologist who is Director of Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS) at Yellow Bay, and the Bierman Professor of Ecology for the University of Montana (UM). Dr. Elser caught us up on some of the exciting work happening at FLBS.
“We like to call it the oldest year round freshwater field station in North America, we’ve been around since 1899,” remarks Dr. Elser. “We have about 25 to 30 full-time, year-round employees. We have four tenure-track faculty members, many other research faculty, staff scientists, administrators, and educators.”
This summer, a joint project between the Portland Water District (PWD) and Saint Joseph’s College of Maine (SJC) submerged around 145 pounds of new, high-tech equipment in Sebago Lake. The new equipment includes a data buoy and sensors that monitor water quality parameters in the lake in real time, updating data every 15 minutes. Sebago Lake is the second largest lake in Maine, and among the country’s only lakes with clean enough water for use by a drinking water facility without filtration requirements—with residents of the Greater Portland area as the beneficiaries.
For years, researchers have known that cownose rays mate and give birth in the Chesapeake Bay every summer. However, scientists have long wondered exactly where these rays go once the weather gets cooler, and why—and whether or not specific groups of rays return to the same bodies of water each year. A tagging study led by a team from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) has finally begun to answer these questions. Study lead author and SERC marine biologist Matt Ogburn spoke to EM about this research.
Over the summer, the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS), which is dedicated in part to sharing buoy data with the public, got a viral social media boost to their text-a-buoy system. The GLOS texting buoys provide information about water and weather on the Great Lakes for anglers, boaters, and anyone else who wants it, including live video feeds from some buoys. GLOS communications manager Kristin Schrader spoke to EM about why the texting buoys are getting their 15 minutes of fame now—and the benefits these trusty texting sentinels of the lakes offer to humans.
In most places around the country where freshwater lakes and beaches offer recreational opportunities, health officials monitor the water for elevated bacterial counts—usually about once a week in populated areas, less often in more remote locations. However, the current state-of-the-art testing leaves about 24 to 30 hours of lag time between when water is tested for bacteria and when results come back. During that time, if the water seems unsafe, officials usually limit access to it....
This summer, the team from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago began pilot programs designed to reach local communities in a new way. Specifically, they ran excursions on both Lake Michigan and the Chicago River using ROVs equipped with underwater cameras and other tools to introduce more land-dwellers to what lies beneath the water. Shedd Aquarium Learning Programs Manager Sadie Norwick and Communications and Public Relations Coordinator Kayley Ciocci spoke to EM about the Shedd’s innovative ROV programming for the public.
This summer, teachers across northwest Ohio took the time to learn about water quality in Waterville at Farnsworth Metropark. The teachers were training in the Maumee River for the Student Watershed Watch (SWW) program, run by TMACOG. “TMACOG is the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, Sara Guiher, a water quality planner and SWW coordinator for TMACOG, explains to EM. “We’re a regional planning organization and we work with local governments on issues related to stormwater, wastewater, drinking water, and watersheds. . . .
If you’ve ever sat at the beach or on the shore of a lake reapplying your sunscreen and wondered what happens to that sunscreen as it washes off in the water, you’re in good company. A team of researchers has been investigating how sunscreen chemicals affect marine wildlife, and their recent paper indicates that ultraviolet (UV) filters from sunscreen and other personal care products can affect zebrafish embryo development.
Dyes are part of manufacturing everything from clothing to food all over the world. In fact, every year about 700,000 metric tons of dye change the hue of consumer goods. However, about ten percent of that dye ends up in the world’s waterways, sometimes with toxic results. Even non-toxic dyes pose a threat in the environment, because changing the color of the water in streams, lakes, holding ponds, and rivers can mean interfering with plants’ ability to photosynthesize.
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is composed of over 3,000 individual reefs, making it the most massive reef system on Earth. Its 900-plus islands cover more than 344,400 square kilometers, about half the size of Texas. That’s a lot of ground to cover if you’re a scientist or research team studying the reef; add in the difficulties inherent to conducting research underwater, including anything from sharks to bad weather, and you have a serious challenge on your hands. . . .
Do you have a childhood memory of a favorite lake you used to visit with family and friends? This is one of the most common experiences we share as Americans, and how much we care about lake ecosystems can affect how much protection we afford them. Recent research from Virginia Tech, University of Wisconsin, The Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and Michigan State University models both human and natural systems to explore how humans and the environment affect each other.