Category Archives: Global Change & Long-Term Ecology

Video: “Into the Rift” Will Chronicle CFL Research in Africa

Readers of this blog may already be aware that Pete McIntyre and a handful of his staff and students are undertaking a big research project in Tanzania. Now a new interactive website is in the works that will let folks at home follow along as the team plies the waters of Africa’s gigantic Lake Tanganyika.

The following promo for the site was just released. Stay tuned for updates!

Into the Rift – Promo from HabitatSeven on Vimeo.

Thanks to the folks at HabitatSeven for the great film work!

Video: Going Global with Freshwater Science

GLEON fellowship students ask questions during the summer workshop. Photo: A. Hinterthuer

GLEON fellowship students ask questions during the summer workshop. Photo: Grace Hong

“Okay, now we’re going to do a little role playing,” the moderator announced to the room. “We need a customer and a shopkeeper, would anyone like to read a script?”

After a little coercion, two reluctant thespians assumed their roles and launched into an exchange, trading lines like “How much for that brass dish, sir?” and “You drive a hard bargain, young lady.”

The exercise is designed to help multiple stakeholders learn how to achieve what might be called “win/win” resolutions and is taken from the book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.”

It would be easy to mistake this for some sort of corporate seminar. But it was actually a workshop for the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), an international group of ecologists, hydrologists, information technologists and computer scientists all working together to answer some big global questions about our inland waters. Continue reading

Where Do All the Data Go?

by Corinna Gries

The CFL digital archive is being filled with hand-written data, like these notes sent from  L.R. Wilson, University of Oklahoma to Dr. A. Beckel at Trout Lake. Photo: C. Gries

The CFL digital archive is being filled with hand-written data, like these notes sent from L.R. Wilson, University of Oklahoma to Dr. A. Beckel at Trout Lake. Photo: C. Gries

For hundreds of years people have collected data on lakes. Ice on and ice off dates are probably the oldest data, but water temperature, water clarity, animal and plant species and abundance have also been recorded for a long time. Scientists usually collect data to answer a specific question for which they are summarized, analyzed, graphed, and interpreted. Sometimes the conclusions are published, other times they’re used in management. Once the question is answered satisfactorily, most original data are lost (if not actively thrown away during clean up).

In recent years, however, it’s become obvious that documenting the changes going on in our climate, lakes and other ecosystems requires having data available from a long period of time. Luckily, some researchers, agencies and citizens did not clean up and kept their data – in notebooks, on index cards, in boxes or drawers, on desks, and now on computers. Here at the Center for Limnology we are lucky that data collected by early limnologists like Edward Birge and Chauncy Juday were not discarded, but are still available to us and our research. Many cardboard boxes full of handwritten numbers on index cards are stored in the University Archives and have recently been fully digitized, a fancy way of saying “hand-typed into a computer database.”

They are now part of our data archive, which is where a lot of data go that are collected by some projects at the Center for Limnology. A data archive is not so different from a regular archive or a museum. All items (datasets in this case) are cataloged and described with who collected them, when, where and how they were collected, for what purpose etc. In other words, data are curated like museums specimens.

I like to think of the CFL archive as a museum for data. The only difference is that we don’t have them in cabinets or in glass display cases, but they can still be pulled out and used to answer new research questions – questions that weren’t and, in some cases, couldn’t have been envisioned when the data were first collected. For example, in the late 1990’s researchers prepared an experiment to combat the rusty crayfish invasion of a northern Wisconsin lake. The crayfish had already been around for more than a decade and long-term datasets, including those of Birge and Juday, as well as the annual samples taken for  LTER, were used to set basic parameters of northern lakes, allowing scientists to piece together what the lake looked like pre-invasion and what effects the rusty crayfish had on the ecosystem over time.

Without the "before" data, researchers would have had no idea how Sparkling Lake had changed after rusty crayfish control. Photo: G. Hansen

Without the “before” data, researchers would have had no idea how Sparkling Lake had changed after rusty crayfish control. Photo: G. Hansen

The data archive at the Center for Limnology currently houses almost 300 datasets, many of which go  back 30 years to when the North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecology Research project started to monitor lakes. But there are also data that go back much longer, like Secchi depths for water quality and almost one hundred and fifty years’ worth of ice data. All of this information is becoming more and more valuable as we see the world around us change very rapidly. It helps us interpret the change we see and predict the future with more certainty.

Corinna Gries is a research scientist with the North Temperate Lakes-Long-Term Ecological Research project. Special thanks to UW-Madison Archives for the footage of E.A. Birge.

Slideshow: Sparkling Lake Rebounds from Invasion

A recent study authored by our former postdoc and PhD student, Gretchen Hansen, reports that an intensive invasive-species trapping experiment had paid off for Sparkling Lake in northern Wisconsin. Not only did our researchers put a big dent in the rusty crayfish population but, four years later, they’re still being kept in check naturally.

Click on the picture below to launch a slideshow of life in the lake today.

After an invasion nearly wiped bluegill and their preferred habitat out, Sparkling Lake now boasts a booming population of the fish. Photo: Gretchen Hansen.All photos by Gretchen Hansen, Adam Hinterthuer and Lindsey Sargent.

The Sparkling Lake crayfish experiment was a project of Jake Vander Zanden’s lab at the CFL and the North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research program.

 

CFL in Africa: Fish Pee and After Hours Fieldwork

The CFL’s Ellen Hamann, lab manager for Pete McIntyre’s lab, has been back in Africa this summer, helping continue research on Lake Tanganyika. She sent in this note from the field before returning to Madison for fall semester.
By Ellen Hamann

For the past 48 hours, Benja (Ben Kraemer from Pete McIntyre’s lab) and I have been finishing up the ongoing fish excretion component to our Lake Tanganyika project. It’s pretty similar to last year’s endeavor except that it occurs primarily at NIGHT (in year 3, we seem to be finding creative ways to up the proverbial ante…). At this point, we have a pretty good handle on fish peeing rates during the day, but the suspicion is that things probably tail off at night (which is personally true for me, so it may hold true for the fishes as well).

Two eretmotus, probably peeing, are unaware of their impending capture. Photo: B. Kraemer

Two eretmotus, probably peeing, are unaware of their impending capture. Photo: B. Kraemer

Just to be clear, we’re not interested in peeing for peeing’s sake. As I’ve mentioned before, since Tanganyika is so lacking in nutrients, we suspect the fish themselves facilitate nutrient cycling in the lake (Meaning: algae probably take full advantage of the fact that hundreds of fish pee on them constantly, providing them with nutrients to create biomass that, in turn, feeds the fish) I “heart” cycles.

There’s a fair amount of prep work involved, like filtering 100 liters of water, labeling all the Ziplocs and vials, etc… and the field experience is a bit nuts since a job that was formerly performed by 6 people is now done by 3.

And, like I said, it’s all in the dark. Keep reading at Ellen’s blog, “Ellen At Large” –>

For more on the Lake Tanganyika Ecosystem Project, go here.