Navigating Tomorrow’s Waters: Research Outbuilding Paves the Way for Year-Round Scientific Advancements

by Amber Mrnak

This year, Trout Lake Station (TLS) is embarking on an exciting new venture to help ensure we’re ready for the next 100 years of freshwater research. While it may not sound like a big deal to an outside observer, we will soon be breaking ground on a new 3,600 square-foot Winterized Research Outbuilding. This heated workshop will boast spaces for year-round research, outreach and maintenance that will be critical in advancing our capacity for research and collaboration in all seasons.

TLS research scientist, Noah Lottig, is excited to use the future winter workshop for a program he fondly refers to as “Buoys for the People.” Lottig and a team of technological experts and freshwater researchers at the Center for Limnology and TLS has spent the last few years dreaming up a program to create affordable buoys for data collection on our lakes.

The goal, Lottig explains, “is to increase the accessibility of high frequency monitoring and data collection for not only researchers and graduate students, but also members of the public.” Current scientific buoy systems come with a hefty price tag in the range of $60,000 to $110,000. The “Buoys for the People” program aims to create and share designs for buoys in the range of $5,000, making them substantially more affordable and accessible. Not only would this make buoys more available to wider groups of researchers, communities and lake associations but, Lottig says, the long-term dream is to also make the data these buoys generate more accessible by utilizing a cyber infrastructure that would let everyone share data and make it available to a broader community of scientists, boaters, lakefront homeowners and anyone else interest in our lakes.

Lottig hopes his project will help show the promise of the new building and inspire others to use the space. Its design won’t just allow for new buoy builds and dynamic spaces for classes, researchers, and collaborative initiatives, it will cater to the diverse needs of research groups by providing essential storage space for field gear, year-round access for servicing boats and trailers and just allow TLS users to interact in a space that, unlike the building it’s replacing, will be warm year-round!

We can’t wait to see what kinds of research, training, and outreach our new building will facilitate!