CFL in Scotland: School Visit Focuses on Fish Migration

by Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley

Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley talks with ESMS students about fish migrations.

Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley talks with ESMS students about fish migrations.

“What kind of fish might migrate up rivers in your region?” I asked Junior School students at Erskine Stewart’s Melville (ESMS) in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. “Salmon”, said one. “Trout”, offered another.

“Yes, those are both migratory fishes,” I responded. “But, what about eels?”

“No way! Eels?”

I was inspired to visit ESMS thanks to the first annual World Fish Migration Day (WFMD) planned for May 24th 2014. WFMD is a one-day global initiative that is aimed at creating awareness about the importance of open rivers and the relationship between open rivers and the survival of migratory fishes. Continue reading

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Save the Date! Hasler Lab 2014 Open House

Modern limnology in North America was born right here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, scientists from across Wisconsin, the nation. and the globe are doing world-class freshwater research right on the shore of Lake Mendota – exploring issues like invasive species, sport fish dynamics and algae blooms.

On Friday, June 20th, from 2pm to 6pm, the Center for Limnology will open the doors of Hasler Lab for a “behind the scenes” tour of the science of freshwater research! You’re invited to come see how the research conducted at the CFL is being used to better understand, protect and improve Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers and streams.

Visitors board the Limnos for a "research cruise" on Lake Mendota.

Spend a half hour or the whole afternoon talking with scientists, getting your hands wet and learning what it means to study lakes for a living. Visitors will board our research vessel, the Limnos*, for a ride out onto Lake Mendota to try their hand at using various lake research tools. Continue reading

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Spring Has Sprung in Wisconsin’s Waters

It’s official! Not even highs in the low 40′s and a couple of overnight snow showers could stop it – spring has arrived in Madison. According to the Wisconsin state climatologist, Lyle Anderson (sorry, John Young!), Lake Mendota was free of ice on April 12th, right on the heels of the thaw of other Madison lakes Monona (April 10th) and Wingra (April 9th).

Yet another snow shower couldn't stop Lake Mendota from thawing and common loons from coming back. Photo: Hinterthuer

Yet another snow shower couldn’t stop Lake Mendota from thawing and common loons from coming back. Photo: Hinterthuer

Although the daily highs have been nothing to write home about, strong winds really did the trick, keeping the surface too choppy for ice to refreeze during nightly lows. The April 12th thaw date is only one day later than last year, but ranks as the latest ice off date since 1979.

All told, Lake Mendota was ice-covered for 117 days this year, a boon for anyone who loves to ice fish, ice skate, cross country ski, or kite board across the snowy surface. This year’s date would be considered “nearly late” in the records. In 1857, Continue reading

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Our Cup Spilleth Over: Science on Tap Keeps Getting Better

The initial Science on Tap discussion brought a standing-room only crowd. Photo: Carol Warden

The initial Science on Tap discussion brought a standing-room only crowd. Photo: Carol Warden

When we arrived at the Minocqua Brewing Company that cold and snowy February night back in 2013, we weren’t sure what to expect from our first-ever science cafe event. “Science on Tap-Minocqua,” the brainchild of Trout Lake Station director, Tim Kratz, was an attempt to introduce folks to some of the science we do at the Center for Limnology and, especially, at our research station up north. Not only does our research often matter to people who care about Wisconsin waters, as part of a public institution, those same people support our work.

We wanted to create a place where we could have a dialogue and folks would feel comfortable asking questions and offering comments about issues affecting Wisconsin residents. But, standing-room only crowds? For science? No way, we thought. Science is a hard sell.

Happily, we thought wrong. On that first frigid night, more than 200 people packed the room and spilled into other parts of the restaurant. And, since then, it’s just been getting better.

And you don’t have to make it to Minocqua to follow along. We now offer live streaming of all Science on Tap events, so viewers can follow along and even send in a question or two to have answered by an expert. And if you miss the show, no worries, we’ve got them all archived on our YouTube channel!

In fact, so many science-hungry audiences keep turning up on the first Wednesday of each month, that we’ve expanded our topics to include research from throughout the University of Wisconsin and all over the state. Some recent Science on Tap talks have concerned vitamin D and its effects on healthy aging, carnivores in the Northwoods, and ticks and tick-borne diseases. Next month, Maggie Turnbull, a UW alum and freelance astronomer, will talk about her work with NASA as she tries to identify potentially “habitable” planets in our solar system. And, in June, we’ll host an important panel discussion of the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron mine and take our first-ever Science on Tap field trip to see some of the area up close.

It’s all just part of our effort to get good, solid science out into the social sphere, where we hope it can be used to help all of us here in Wisconsin make good decisions, craft sound policies and, of course, engage in a civil and casual conversation about big, important issues!

Science on Tap-Minocqua wouldn’t be possible without the strong support of the Minocqua Public Library, Lakeland Badger chapter of the WAA, UW’s Kemp Natural Resources Station and, of course, the Minocqua Brewing Company.

 

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Past Post: Early “Spring Cleaning” for Lake Mendota

Obviously Lake Mendota is still frozen over here in the Spring of 2014. But, two years ago, Madison lakes had officially opened up (i.e. thawed) on March 10th and, by early April, we were writing what proved to be one of the most popular posts in CFL blog history. Since we’ve been dreaming of spring since mid-February, here’s a post from the archives explaining why crystal clear water means a lake is teeming with life. Enjoy. And, never fear – spring cleaning is coming for Madison lakes even in 2014. Promise.

Madison Lakes Have an Early “Spring Cleaning”

Posted on April 18, 2012 by admin

The view along the Mendota shoreline shows the lake in its Spring "clear water" phase Photo: Adam Hinterthuer

If you head down to the shore of Lake Mendota today, you’ll notice you can see right down to the bottom. In fact, the current Secchi reading is seven meters, meaning you can get a clear view of Lake Mendota’s depths more than 20 feet down.

At first glance, it might seem that there’s just not much going on down there, but Lake Mendota is actually teeming with life and right in the middle of an algae bloom.

So what gives on the clear water?

The secret to our currently crystal-clear lake is a tiny zooplankton called Daphnia pulicaria.

While conditions are ideal for some species of algae, like fast-growing diatoms, to thrive, the current cool, highly-oxygenated water is also perfect for Daphnia pulicaria, which are voracious grazers of these kinds of algae. Continue reading

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The Year of the Flood: Can the Colorado River Delta Come Back?

Can the Colorado River delta be returned to a wetland ecosystem? Photo: The Sonoran Institute

Can the Colorado River delta be returned to a wetland ecosystem? Photo: The Sonoran Institute

In the fall of 1922, Aldo Leopold, on a camping trip with his son, Carl, and his dog, Flick, looked up to the sky to see “a huge ‘chimney’ of cranes, wheeling high in the sky…”

As Leopold would note in his journal, “When they got the glint of the sun, they showed pure white and looked like a huge skyrocket bursting into white sparks …”

To those of us here in Wisconsin, we picture the elder Leopold sitting outside of his Sand County shack on the banks on the Wisconsin River, documenting the annual migration.

But Leopold was 2,000 miles away from his home in a totally different ecosystem in the fall of 1922 – one that so impressed him that he vowed to never return in fear that it wouldn’t be the same. Continue reading

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Avoiding Elephants and Studying Fish Refuges in Thailand

by Aaron Koning

“At the next site we’ll have to be careful to avoid the elephants” warned my field assistant, Witu. His words would have struck me more soundly if I hadn’t come across the two Elaphas along the banks of the Ngao River while conducting snorkel surveys a day earlier. The two captive individuals belong to a village over the mountain, and were currently being rotated through various forest patches to browse their way through the dry season.

Elephants are just one of many considerations to keep in mind when working on Thai rivers. Photo: QSimple via Flickr

Elephants are just one of many considerations to keep in mind when working on Thai rivers. Photo: QSimple via Flickr

While conservation actions aimed at restoring elephant populations in Thailand have produced somewhat limited success, the protected river stretch I was surveying has been highly successful in increasing populations of native fishes, especially when compared to adjoining non-protected river reaches.

Local people have long been dependent on fishery resources in the mountains of northern Thailand. While less nutritionally dependent on local fisheries today, locals still prefer locally harvested fish, like the Mastacembelus eel captured by this boy. Photo: A. Koning

While less dependent on fish for nutrition than the past, local people in the mountains of northern Thailand still prefer locally harvested fish, like the Mastacembelus eel captured by this boy. Photo: A. Koning

Fishing pressure, which occurs year round and in a number of forms like gill nets, cast nets, bamboo fish traps, and spearfishing has reduced fish density throughout much of Southeast Asia to very low levels.

Partially motivated by reduced fish catches, and partially as a response to a local non-profit organization’s coaxing, several communities in northwestern Thailand have set aside short stretches of river (about 300-1000 meters) to serve as fish refuges. Creation of freshwater protected areas is not limited to streams in northern Thailand, but is a cultural phenomenon that has occurred throughout much of Southeast Asia.

The motivations for conserving freshwater fish are varied, but are often associated with an animist-based reverence to the spirits of a particular stretch of river.

Whatever the motivation for protection, the result is that certain stretches of river now teem with fish, while others do not. Continue reading

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Thickest Lake Ice in Decades May Last Into Spring

Ted Bier, our senior research specialist for the Long-Term Ecological Research program, was recently photographed on Lake Monona holding this massive chunk of ice in front of the Madison skyline.

Ted Bier hoists a two-foot thick chunk of ice on Lake Monona. Photo: Kirsten Rhude

Ted Bier hoists a two-foot thick chunk of ice on Lake Monona. Photo: Dave Harring

That picture led to the following story on The Capital Times website:

How thick is the ice on Madison’s lakes? Researcher Ted Bier almost didn’t have enough drill to find out this week.

Bier takes ice depth samples as part of his work for the UW-Madison Center for Limnology, and he was out in the middle of Lake Monona on Thursday to get a reading. The drill kept going and going until finally reaching water underneath the ice.

When they extracted the ice core that you can see in the photo above, the depth measured 65 centimeters, more than 25 inches.

“Generally speaking, all the lakes in the area had 2 feet or more of ice on them at some point in time this winter,” Bier said. “That’s 40 to 50 percent thicker than we usually have. I’ve been here 13 years and it’s the thickest I’ve ever seen.” - Read the rest on the madison.com website.

Posted in CFL In The News, Global Change & Long-Term Ecology, Hasler Lab, LTER | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fish Fry Day Video: Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia

Happy Fish Fry Day! Thanks to our invasive species specialist, Carol Warden, for pointing this amazing trailer from Freshwaters Illustrated out to us. Who knew that Southeastern U.S. rivers rival coral reefs for color? We can’t wait to see the whole video series.

 

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Spring Snowmelt Creates Short-Lived Ecosystems and “Master Survivalists”

A spotted salamander shares the vernal pool ecosystem with fairy shrimp. Photo: Piotr Naskrecki

A spotted salamander shares the vernal pool ecosystem with fairy shrimp. Photo: Piotr Naskrecki

Yesterday, we stumbled upon a beautiful post from “The Smaller Majority” blog about fairy shrimp, vernal pools, and the lengths organisms go to to survive in the ephemeral aquatic ecosystems that form when the winter snow pack melts.  It’s an amazing piece full of stunning photography via Piotr Naskrecki, an entomologist, photographer and author based at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Piotr writes:

A swarm of fairy shrimp take advantage of the short-lived perfect conditions in their vernal pool ecosystem. Photo: Piotr Naskrecki

A swarm of fairy shrimp take advantage of the short-lived perfect conditions in their vernal pool ecosystem. Photo: Piotr Naskrecki

As the first sunny days of March begin to melt away frozen remainders of winter in the northeastern United States, members of an ancient lineage of animals are getting ready to spring back to life. Throughout most of the year their habitat was as dry as a bone, but when the last patches of snow turned into water, leaf-packed depressions on the of the forest floor suddenly transformed into small, ephemeral ponds. Known as vernal pools, these fleeting bodies of water will be gone again by the time summer comes, but for now they create a unique aquatic ecosystem. Soon, the water is filled with thousands of tiny animals, at first not much larger than the point at the end of this sentence, but within a few weeks reaching the length of nearly a half of a pinky finger. They are the fairy shrimp (Eubranchipus vernalis), members of a group of crustaceans known as branchiopods, animals that were already present in the Cambrian seas half a billion years ago, before any plants even considered leaving water for terrestrial habitats.

If you’d like to know more about an organism that lays a kind of egg that can survive through years’ worth of blazing summers and icy winters, then Read the full post on Piotr’s amazing photo blog!

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