Emily Stanley, Professor, Department of Zoology and Center for Limnology
Center for Limnology University of Wisconsin 680 North Park St. Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-2567 (email)
I am the lead Principal Investigator for the North Temperate Lakes Long Term Ecological Research (NTL-LTER) study, giving me the opportunity to work with a diverse and enthusiastic group of investigators. My NTL-related research activities focus on carbon and nitrogen dynamics in wetlands, streams, and lakes, and the influences of hydrology and geomorphology on streams in Wisconsin’s northern Highlands Lake district. Much of this work has been done with the assistance of the Wisconsin USGS WEBB (Water, Energy, and Biogeochemical Budgets) project.
NSF Macrosystems Biology program
We live in a rapidly changing environment, yet scientists’ understanding of the ecological consequences of wholesale changes in climate and land use is in its infancy. So too is the incorporation of this knowledge into environmental management and policy, which is so critical because both climate and land use strongly affect ecosystems and the services that they provide to society. The main goal of this research is to develop tools to measure and understand how climate and land use by themselves and as interacting factors affect lake ecosystems across scales of time and space (cross-scale interactions), even as these factors are themselves, changing. A cross-scale interaction occurs when a factor at one scale, such as agricultural land use around a lake, interacts with a factor at another scale, such as the climate of the region the lake is located within. Such interactions can lead to situations where lakes in different climatic zones respond differently to agricultural land use in their watersheds, all else being equal. Without an understanding of such interactions, it is challenging to develop and apply models that are effective in different regions. Unfortunately, to date, very few cross-scale interactions have been measured so that they can be incorporated into models relevant to ecosystems and policy. This project will identify and measure the most important cross-scale interactions that control lake nutrients and water quality. The research will be guided by a landscape limnology conceptual framework. Although the study focuses on lake nutrients, the models, tools, and knowledge will be useable to study cross-scale interactions in other important ecosystems. This collaborative team from three universities will collect an unprecedented dataset on lakes, nutrients, and watersheds, including over 5,000 lake ecosystems in 11 U.S. states spanning up to 30 years. Several new and innovative statistical modeling approaches will be used to tackle these important problems. For example, Bayesian hierarchical modeling (a robust statistical method for learning and modeling complex relationships in data) will be used to detect and model cross-scale interactions and to communicate these complex dynamics to other researchers and policy-makers.
This is a collaborative project with Jacques Finlay, Robert Sterner, and Chip Small, University of Minnesota, and is supported through a joint program of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Sea Grant Institutes to promote research at the newly established Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve. Our goal is to elucidate basic biogeochemical patterns and processes of the St Louis River Estuarty to provide critical insights as to how this system affects inputs of carbon and nitrogen to Lake Superior, and how internal processes and lake inputs are affected by pervasive human activities. We will use a combination of spatially extensive surveys, temporally-dense monitoring, and detailed biogeochemical assays and measurements to provide essential basic information about the ecology of this complex system, and establish a critical foundation for future research efforts.
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