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 biogeochemical dynamics, ecosystem metabolism, and long-term change in Wisconsin's streams, lakes, and wetlands.
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 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.
-->see Sea Grant web news about our project
Following emissions controls that reduced acid deposition, pH and acid neutralizing capacity of acid-sensitive lakes were expected to increase. Many lakes in northern Wisconsin were acidic and had little acid neutralizing capacity during the 1980s when levels of acid rain were just beginning to decrease following emissions controls. Today, limited data suggest that some of these lakes still have zero or negative acid neutralizing capacity and are acidic despite reductions in deposition. It is not clear if these unexpected lake conditions are linked to the deposition of atmospheric pollutants, climatic variability, other environmental factors, or complex interactions among these possible drivers. The overarching objective of this project is to document current and past lake conditions and use experiments to determine what effects, if any, changing atmospheric deposition and climate have on lakes in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest as part of an effort to understand long-term lake dynamics and to guide lake management.