The Air/Water Connection: Lakes Crucial to Songbird Survival

by Meredith Smalley

TROUT LAKE STATION — While most projects at the University of Wisconsin’s Trout Lake Station put their boats into lakes to perform research, one project team heads into the forests surrounding lakes for their data collection.

Paul Schilke, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is looking at how aquatic insects that emerge out of lakes impact populations of birds that breed in the surrounding forests. Research finds that many of the birds that eat flying insects have declined in recent years and lakes may be a key food source for these species.

With the help of undergraduate field technicians Cody Lane and Sammie Buechner, Schilke is supervised by Dr. Anna Pidgeon, assistant professor of forest and wildlife ecology at UW-Madison. Dr. Pidgeon made a visit to help catch and band birds, a process that requires a special license. The crew went into the forest surrounding Allequash Lake in Boulder Junction to assemble the long, tall nets that are well-camouflaged for catching birds.

Within an hour of setting the first round of nets, two birds were captured: a least flycatcher and a yellow-rumped warbler. Clipping a piece of feather from each bird allows for later examination of the birds’ diets. The birds are then banded and released unharmed.

As the nets are used over the course of several days, bird crew ends their session by folding up the nets to avoid trapping other animals.

All video and text by Meredith Smalley, a UW-Madison School of Journalism undergraduate serving as Trout Lake Station’s summer outreach intern this field season.

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A River Sometimes Rushes, Sometimes Meanders Through It


Last Wednesday, your trusty blogger accompanied Center for Limnology post doc, Peter Levi, as he headed to Milwaukee for his research on what is, frankly, an under-served ecosystem in limnological circles – the urban river.

Peter Levi takes samples from the field. And the city. Here he is sampling Underwood Creek, as recently restored tributary of the Kinnickinnic River.

Peter Levi takes samples from the field. And the city. Here he is sampling Underwood Creek, as recently restored tributary of the Menomonee River.

Most metropolitan areas have a sordid history with their rivers. The waterways that first made them appealing for settlement, soon made them indispensable to industry, as turn of the century (and some much more recent) developments like paper mills, steel plants and feed lots used the rivers as a convenient way to flush waste downstream. As a result, many cities turned their back on their rivers and the prime real estate migrated far from their banks.

Straight as far as the eye can see. This channelized section of the Kinnickinnic River contributes to flooding issues downstream.

Straight as far as the eye can see. This channelized section of the Kinnickinnic River contributes to flooding issues downstream.

In many cases, cities also “improved” rivers by straightening their course and “channelizing,” or lining the river in concrete. They become little more than straight-as-an-arrow throughways designed to get water out of town.

The problem, as the city of Milwaukee discovered, is that, when you have all of the impervious surface of a city, combined with a massive rain event and nothing but concrete channels, well, rivers rise fast, resulting in dangerous floods. Milwaukee realized that letting a river wander actually slowed the flow of water and let downstream areas drain before a new wave of stormwater came pouring in. So the city, primarily the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), reversed course and put the bend back in its rivers. Nowhere is the effect as dramatic as on the Kinnickinnic. Continue reading

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Dishing Out Science (and Ice Cream) at Trout Lake Station Open House

by Meredith Smalley

Visitors check out stations under the watchful eyes of Bucky at the Trout Lake open house.

Visitors check out stations under the watchful eyes of Bucky at the Trout Lake open house.

BOULDER JUNCTION, Wis. — The first of August was a gorgeous day in northern Wisconsin: temperatures were in the mid-70s, the waters of Trout Lake were remarkably calm and clear, and the mosquitoes, for the first time this summer, were nowhere to be found.

It was the perfect day for Trout Lake Station‘s 4th annual open house. The Northwoods outpost of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology (CFL) welcomed its neighbors for a day dedicated to learning more about its research. During the afternoon, more than 300 visitors stopped by for boat rides, hands-on science, lake-themed crafts and, all the way from the Madison campus dairy plant, free Babcock ice cream. (Click below for slideshow)

 

“The main goal of the open house is to invite the community in and discuss what we’re doing,” says UW Trout Lake Station Director Tim Kratz. “By opening our doors to our neighbors, we’re able to both interact with a large number of community members and also provide our students with the opportunity to share their research with the public in a way they would never experience in the classroom.” (Continue reading -->)

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Toxic Algae, Drinking Water and Why Madison Won’t Be Toledo

In case you missed the news the last couple of days, around 400,000 residents of the city of Toledo, Ohio were advised to completely avoid the city’s drinking water thanks to a bloom of a cyanobacteria (often called blue-green algae) called microcystis. The bloom occurred in Lake Erie, where Toledo gets its water supply. Microcystis produces a toxin called microcystin, which is a neurotoxin that can be harmful, or even fatal.

An algae bloom in Lake Erie is capture via satellite photo. Toledo sits on the far western shore of the lake. Photo: NOAA

An algae bloom in Lake Erie is capture via satellite photo. Toledo sits on the far western shore of the lake. Photo: NOAA

Earlier today, water tests came back negative for the toxin, and the city lifted its drinking water advisory, but it left folks all over the country wondering if such a scenario is possible where they live. We even fielded a few questions about it here at the Center for Limnology. So, could Madison ever experience something like the Toledo scare? CFL director, Steve Carpenter, answers a few pressing questions: Continue reading

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Mud Masks from 22 Feet Underground

Undergraduate Willis Perley donning a mud mask after a peat sampling demonstration

Undergraduate Willis Perley donning a mud mask after a peat sampling demonstration at weekly seminar

by Meredith Smalley

Here at Trout Lake Station, the bog walk is a revered and cherished opportunity. Any chance to tromp around in our boots is a welcome break from the bogged-down schedule of daily routine.

Beginning with a jaunt to Crystal Bog, I tagged along with a group of graduate students from UW-Madison as they followed professor emeritus in soil science, Fred Madison, into the field.

Holding part of the peat sample at Crystal Bog, with Tim Kratz, Fred Madison and his graduate students

Holding part of the peat sample at Crystal Bog, with Tim Kratz, Fred Madison and his graduate students

Madison has taught this three-week summer course since the 1980′s, and says he doesn’t mind that the university can’t find anyone to take his place teaching the intensive, hands-on course. As part of his journey throughout northern Wisconsin, Madison brings his students to Crystal Bog for a peat sampling demonstration with Tim Kratz, director of UW Trout Lake Station. Continue reading

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Fish Fry Day Video: An Encounter with a Prehistoric Fish

Followers of this blog will know that Soloman David, the post-doctoral researcher we share with the Shedd Aquarium, is an unapologetic lover of prehistoric fish and a whiz with a GoPro camera. For this Friday, he sent in a recent encounter with a bowfin.

 Bowfin (also known as dogfish or mudfish) are a truly remarkable species. They have been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth during the Jurassic period and are the only remaining member of the Amiidae family of fish. Like gar, another primitive fish, bowfins are capable of both pulling oxygen out of the water with their gills or rising to the surface and gulping air. For more fun facts on the bowfin, go here.

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Video: Yahara 2070 – Science Fiction Predicts Science Fact

We’re a little late in featuring this wonderfully done piece from QUEST, a group of six public media outfits from across the country, collaborating to provide an in-depth look at the science of sustainability. But here is a great introduction to the Yahara 2070 scenarios.

To learn more about the scenarios, you can check out their website, or read an introduction to the scenarios from lead author, Jenny Seifert.

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Summer of Outreach Starts with Front-Row Seats to Mining Debate

Me, Meredith Smalley, loving summer life in the northwoods of Wisconsin

by Meredith Smalley

Hello there!

I’m Meredith Smalley, and I’ll spend this summer writing about my experience working as the summer outreach intern and living at the University of Wisconsin-Trout Lake Station in Boulder Junction, WI. I hope I can use this opportunity to share what I discover during my short stay in the Northwoods and immersion in limnological research. As an incoming senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in journalism, I hope to incubate what I’ve learned thus far during my “Wisconsin Experience” and develop my writing in the natural science setting.

The six panel speakers and moderator Larry Konopacki during the June 5th forum on mining in the Penokee range

The six panel speakers and moderator Larry Konopacki during the June 5th forum on mining in the Penokee range

My summer started off with a bang, as Trout Lake Station’s first major event was collaborating as part of Science On Tap Minocqua to host a panel discussion regarding mining in the Penokee Range. The event on June 5th aimed to provide the public (nearly 400 of whom filled the room) with unbiased information to better understand what mining in the Penokees might entail. With a panel of experts from the fields of geology, engineering, economics, the environment and regulation, the discussion seemed to thoroughly cover many aspects of the mining process and its potential effects, but there was also hesitation by the speakers to make too many concrete statements about what this particular mining proposal could encompass. Continue reading

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Fish Fry Day: Undergrad Relishes Her Summer Job Dissecting Perch

Limnology, unfortunately, can’t always be about the fieldwork. For every sunny day spent out on a boat in a lake, weeks and months pile up as our students and faculty retreat back to the lab and their computers to try to make sense of all the data they’ve collected.

Samantha "Sam" Neary prepares for another shift dissecting perch.

Samantha “Sam” Neary prepares for another shift dissecting perch.

Even though she’s only an undergrad, Sam Neary already knows this well – which is why I recently found her down in the sweltering Wet Lab cutting the stomachs out of long-frozen yellow perch. Continue reading

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Trout Lake Station “Artist-in-Residence” Program Inspires Art/Science Connection

This summer, Trout Lake Station hosted it’s 2nd annual artist-in-residence – painter, Helen Klebesadel. The program hopes to create collaborative art and science projects focusing on the long-term ecology of lakes. Below is Helen’s recap of her time “up north.”

Allequash Lake, plein air painted watercolor by Helen Klebesadel, near Boulder Junction, WI, June 2014

Allequash Lake, plein air painted watercolor by Helen Klebesadel, near Boulder Junction, WI, June 2014

I have just returned from a splendid ten days of non-stop plein air painting (and skitter swatting) in the lake country around Boulder Junction, Wisconsin.  It was my extreme pleasure to bring my art research through observation to the University of Wisconsin Trout Lake Station as a part of a new artist residency program.  I was given a space to stay and access to a canoe and the researchers working this summer at the Station.  The Trout Lake Station is a year-round field station operated by the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Located in the Northern Highland Lake District in northern Wisconsin, the station provides access to a wide variety of aquatic ecosystems and their surrounding landscapes. More than 2500 lakes are within 50km of the station.

The Trout Lake Station is a field site of the North Temperate Lakes Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project, which is part of a national network studying long-term ecological change.  The residency is designed for visual artists, writers and musicians who have specific interests in exploring the relationship between people, northern lakes and landscapes, and the long-term scientific investigations of the LTER project.  One 1-2 week residency between June 1 and August 31 will be offered each year. (Keep an eye out for the next call for applications in the fall.  I will post it on my Art Face Book page.)

My thanks to Trout Lake Research Station Director, Tim K. Kratz , who made me feel so welcome, and to freelance artist and field biologist, Terry Daulton, who was both a guide and an  inspiration.  Both Tim and Terry have been involved in actively imagining how the arts and humanities can become a part of the long terms reflections and research being done at Trout Lake Research Station. Continue reading and see more of Helen’s work ->

 

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