Category Archives: Trout Lake Station

Notes from the Northwoods: Wading to Trip

by AnnaKay Kruger

Michaela Kromrey clips herself into her bulky waders, fitting the straps over her shoulders and sealing herself into their protective rubber lining. We’ve dropped anchor near the shore of Jute Lake, and waves whip the side of the boat vigorously in the high wind. It’s a beautiful day, utterly devoid of cloud cover, but the wind is sharp and swift over the water, forcing us to don our sweatshirts and windbreakers to stave off the chill. Michaela and I, both UW-Madison undergraduates, wait in the boat while Ellen Albright, a student at Minnesota’s Macalester College, wades along the shoreline, dragging a tape-measure behind her.

2015-06-05 10.24.58

Ellen and Michaela wade through the shallows of Jute Lake, looking for submerged logs as part of the Regional Lakes Survey. Photo: AnnaKay Kruger

Ellen paces out fifty meters and drops a small orange buoy into the water. Michaela explains that they’re looking for fallen logs, otherwise known as “coarse woody habitat”. Large logs with many branches are the ideal habitat for juvenile fish populations because they provide protection for fingerlings, or fish that are not yet fully developed but have fins and scales, and are capable of feeding themselves. (Editor’s note: CFL research underscored the importance of coarse woody habitat last year).

The prevalence of suitable habitat for fish populations in inland lakes is one of many variables being investigated in the Regional Lakes Survey out of Trout Lake Field Station. This ongoing study will happen every six years and primarily involves analyzing lake conditions for the purpose of mapping changes that occur over time. Continue reading

Notes from the Northwoods: Heavy Lifting on Sparkling Lake

by AnnaKay Kruger

“Well, that was an adventure!” says Aaron O’Connell, a UW-Plateville undergraduate, looking down at his bare feet as he steps gingerly across the gravel driveway. In one hand he carries his sodden shoes, and like me, he is covered from head-to-toe in lake grime. We have just spent the last two hours helping Tim Meinke launch a buoy into Sparkling Lake off of Highway 51 in Vilas County.

Ben Kranner and Tim Meinke team up to anchor the buoy to the bottom of Sparkling Lake. Photo: AnnaKay Kruger

Ben Kranner and Tim Meinke team up to anchor the buoy to the bottom of Sparkling Lake. Photo: AnnaKay Kruger

The buoy itself is an impressive device—substantial in girth, equipped with everything from weather antennae to a pressure sensor that records rainfall. A large solar panel hangs on one side, and the whole contraption is strung with a variety of complex wiring that is well beyond my expertise.

(Left to right) Ben Kranner, Tim Meinke, Aaron O’Connell, and Mark Gahler tow the buoy out onto Sparkling Lake. Photo: AnnaKay Kruger

(Left to right) Ben Kranner, Tim Meinke, Aaron O’Connell, and Mark Gahler tow the buoy out onto Sparkling Lake. Photo: AnnaKay Kruger

Meinke, a researcher at the Center for Limnology’s Trout Lake Station, is part of the Long-Term Ecological Research project (LTER) and the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON). Sparkling Lake is one of the LTER and GLEON research lakes, so the buoy will spend the summer collecting data on everything from water temperature to wind speed to the amount of oxygen moving in and out of the lake.  But getting that buoy in the water is no small feat, which is why Meinke enlisted Aaron, Ben Kranner, a UW-Madison undergraduate, and the CFL’s IT consultant, Mark Gahler, to the cause.

While they anchored and wired the buoy, I did my best to stay out of the way and document the experience. This proved more difficult than I had anticipated, as the team hauled in various ropes and weights, gradually filling the boat with lake debris and slime (or, as we call it in scientific circles, “muck”) from the bottom. My chance to contribute to the effort came when we had to retrieve a smaller buoy from just under the surface. It was anchored by sixty pounds worth of barbells, which I hoisted into the boat, a feat that proved challenging despite my enthusiasm. With Aaron’s help, we managed to haul the buoy and weights into the boat. I was grimy and out of breath, but proud to have been of service. Continue reading

Center for Limnology on YouTube

Just in case you didn’t know, the CFL is on YouTube chronicling our adventures both in the field and in the lab. Here’s a new trailer for the WiscLimnology channel that we hope you’ll enjoy!

On the channel, you’ll find playlists with headings like “Fish on the Run,” “Know Your Invasives,” “In the Lab,” and more – all there to keep you up-to-date on the research we conduct in waters right here in Wisconsin and around the world.

Got feedback? Video ideas? Comment here, or send them to hinterthuer (at)


Top 3 Posts From 2014: Ice, More Ice, and Murky Water

Happy New Year’s Eve!


We here at the Center for Limnology wish you a 2015 filled with opportunities to get out on your favorite lake, river, stream or wetland. As a final post of the year, below are snippets of our top 3 posts from the year. As usual, stories about ice and clear water led the way!

1. Ice is Nice: Three Perks to the Polar Vortex

We get it. It is cold. Face (and mind) numbingly cold. But that’s not an “all bad” thing. There’s a lot to like about a real winter. And it begins with ice. Here are three things to celebrate during the winter that brought “polar vortex” into our vocabulary!

1. Ice Caves

Icicle "stalactites" hang from one of Lake Superior's famed "sea" caves. Photo courtesy: UW Superior

For the first time in 5 years, winter temps have been frigid and consistent enough to form lake ice safe enough to walk out to the caves. This recent blog post from our friends at the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute takes us there, courtesy of Marie Zhuikov’s short entry. Or check out this from – full of beautiful pictures. If you live within driving distance of the Apostle Islands, this should really be on your bucket list. Just check the ice conditions first. There’s no quicker way to ruin a hike to the ice caves than turning it into a swim! Continue reading

2. 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

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

3. Clear-Water Phase: Are We Missing Lake Mendota’s Window?

Lake Monona's already doing it, why aren't Mendota's waters this clear? Photo: A. Hinterthuer











As always, thanks for reading! We’ll see you next year.

Invasive Spiny Water Flea Found in Trout Lake

New Invasive Species Confirmed in Trout Lake, Vilas County

BOULDER JUNCTION, WI – The aquatic invasive species known as spiny water flea has been confirmed in Trout Lake in Vilas County.

On September 22, 2014 a local fisherman noticed what he suspected were spiny water fleas attached to his gear. He collected specimens and contacted Carol Warden, an Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist at Trout Lake Station, the research lab of the UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology.

Carol Warden collecting plankton samples in a northern Wisconsin lake.

Carol Warden collecting plankton samples in a northern Wisconsin lake.

On September 23rd, UW Trout Lake researchers confirmed the invasion, pulling samples full of spiny water fleas (Bythotrephes longimanus) out of Trout Lake.

In Wisconsin, the spiny water flea is classified as a “prohibited invasive species,” meaning it is unlawful to transport, possess, transfer, or introduce it within the state. By attaching to boater and angler gear such as fishing lines, downriggers, anchor ropes, and nets, spiny water fleas can spread to new bodies of water. They can also be transported in bilge water, bait buckets, or live wells.

But individual adults are not the biggest concern, says Jake Vander Zanden, a professor at the UW-Madison Center for Limnology. Continue reading

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.

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 –->)

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

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

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 ->