Spring 2022 eNewsletter
“Winter Grab”: Great Lakes Scientists Sample Laurentian Great Lakes in Winter
Evidence from the Great Lakes and elsewhere shows that winter is not a “dead season,” and that events and conditions in winter affect the rest of the annual cycle in aquatic systems. Yet, winter has remained grossly understudied in seasonally frozen lakes, including the Great Lakes. The extent of the winter knowledge gap and the rapid change in winter conditions in recent years create an urgent need to improve our collective understanding of winter processes through research. Improved quantitative understanding of winter ecological processes will also help guide management decisions that contribute to maintaining healthy biological communities in the Great Lakes.
This year, more than a dozen U.S. and Canadian institutions braved the elements to sample at 35 sites on all five Great Lakes during the “Winter Grab,” a first-of-its-kind coordinated winter sampling campaign. The event was proposed by University of Minnesota Duluth lake biologist Ted Ozersky and was funded in part by a CIGLR Rapid award, as a follow on to the CIGLR-funded Winter Limnology Summit he led in 2019. Scientists crossed the icy lakes in vehicles such as snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, sleds, and icebreaking vessels. As if they were ice fishing, researchers used augers to make holes in the ice. But, instead of catching fish, they used the holes to measure a broad range of characteristics such as light levels; water movement; and the presence of carbon, bacteria, and nutrients that feed fish but also can damage the environment in excess quantities.
Participating U.S. colleges and universities included the University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University, Central Michigan University, Bowling Green State University, Oberlin College, Wright State University, Lake Superior State University, Ohio State University, Clarkson University, and the University of Chicago. Participating Canadian universities included the University of Windsor, Lakehead University, and Trent University. Participating U.S. and Canadian government agencies included the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
- Winter Limnology on the Great Lakes – Prospects and Research Needs Summit (Webpage)
- “Winter Grab” News Media (Scroll down to News Stories and Related Media, and click the Winter Grab dropdown.)
- Ozersky, T., Bramburger, A.J., Elgin, A.K., Vanderploeg, H.A., Wang, J., Austin, J.A., et al. (2021). The changing face of winter: Lessons and questions from the Laurentian Great Lakes. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 126, e2021JG006247. (DOI:10.1029/2021JG006247). [Altmetric Score]
CIGLR Summit Season is in Full Swing
The 2022 summit and working groups (SWGs) season has arrived! After a long 2-year hiatus, SWGs are back to in-person collaborations with two summits meeting in March 2022 focused on Great Lakes oil spills and citizen science. We look forward to two more in-person SWGs in the coming weeks and months, covering benchmarks for fish habitat restoration and coordinated mesocosm experiments. CIGLR convenes top experts from Great Lakes universities, NGOs, government agencies, and businesses to participate in SWGs focused on identifying the most pressing research and management needs to achieve sustainability in the Great Lakes. SWGs are centered on CIGLR’s research themes and are designed to advance Great Lakes science and contribute to CIGLR’s mission to increase NOAA’s research capacity across the Great Lakes.
Great Lakes Oil Spill Summit
From March 9-12, 2022, a team of experts led by scientists from Michigan State University, CIGLR, Michigan Technological University, and Lake Superior State University (LSSU) convened at LSSU’s Center for Freshwater Research and Education to build a framework that will address the challenges of oil spills in icy conditions within the Great Lakes region. This interdisciplinary summit explored a broad set of issues ranging from underlying science (e.g., oil fate and transport under ice) to technical solutions (e.g., spill detection and remediation) and social impacts (e.g., risk awareness and community response).
Oil spills can lead to disastrous outcomes for all natural waters, but spills in icy conditions pose a greater challenge to an emergency response team. When oil is spilled in an area of ice-free open water, an aerial view can expose where the oil is congregated at the surface. Although theoretical models exist for the Great Lakes that simulate where oil might culminate at the surface, these models may not be valid during winter, when sufficient aerial views are not available due to ice conditions. Therefore, other methods for readiness, detection, and response must be identified to ensure recovery efforts are efficient and effective in the Great Lakes.
Shipping and aging infrastructure in the Great Lakes increase the risk of an oil spill or leak. Awareness, preparation, and having the most effective methods for detection and recovery will lead to the greatest success in protecting the Great Lakes environment. Accordingly, there is value in developing economical techniques capable of widespread surveying of ice coverage and condition, as well as detecting and recovering trapped oil. Such techniques can be valuable tools for scientists and legislators concerned with the oil transport and related risks within the Great Lakes, and for identifying impacts to communities that live around potentially affected areas.
In October 2021, LSSU, partnering with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, MI, was selected to serve as the hub for the new U.S. Coast Guard National Center of Expertise for the Great Lakes studying the effects of oil spills in fresh water.
For more on the Great Lakes Oil Spill Summit and associated products, please visit the summit’s webpage: https://ciglr.seas.umich.edu/opportunities/summits-and-working-groups/oil-spills-under-ice/
Lake Erie Citizen Science Summit
From March 14-15, 2022, a team of experts led by scientists from The Ohio State University, Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA), Huron River Watershed Council, CIGLR, Heidelberg University, and NOAA GLERL convened on the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio, to build a framework for legitimizing water quality data collected by citizen scientists across the Lake Erie region. The outcomes of this interdisciplinary summit will not only enable more consistent and reliable baseline monitoring across Lake Erie and its watersheds, they will open up a valuable regional data source capable of baselining advanced observing systems, feeding modeling tools, and serving as the basis for new data products that support sustainable water resource decision-making.
Seasonal surges and legacy deposits of nutrient pollution make Lake Erie the epicenter of yearly harmful algal blooms (HABs) that can be seen from space. This annual ecological crisis puts the health and wellbeing of the nearly 12 million people that rely on Lake Erie for their drinking water, recreation, or livelihood at risk. States bordering Lake Erie are increasingly investing in solutions to reduce the nutrient pollution that drives the blooms, but often don’t have enough information to know how to strategically locate these projects, evaluate their effectiveness, or optimize their performance. Further, budget reductions in Michigan, Ohio, and New York are challenging the scope and sustainability of State agency water monitoring programs more broadly. These challenges synergize to produce significant limitations on the scope and granularity of state-collected data across Lake Erie and its watersheds.
Citizen science (volunteer monitoring by non-expert residents) represents an important opportunity to expand regional data collection capacity and address pressing water quality challenges like HABs. Lake Erie residents feel a powerful sense of connection to and responsibility for their water resources and are often willing to contribute their resources and time to that end. Local organizations have been harnessing this energy to power volunteer groups that monitor local water quality in communities across the region for years. However, these citizen science groups have typically developed in response to local management needs, resulting in approaches to data collection, management, and use protocols that differ on a watershed-by-watershed basis. As a result, it is difficult for state, federal, and academic scientists and managers to leverage the full scope of Lake Erie’s existing citizen science infrastructure to address their most pressing research and management needs.
CWA has made great strides to address these challenges through the development of the Smart Citizen Science Initiative. This three-year (2020-2022) initiative aims to build a network that coordinates volunteer monitoring groups across the Lake Erie basin. The initiative serves as a testbed for piloting new community monitoring technologies and has the potential to serve as a robust infrastructure capable of addressing challenges around nutrient/HAB detection specifically, and baseline water quality monitoring generally. For more on the Great Lakes Smart Lake Erie Summit and associated products, please visit the summit’s webpage: https://ciglr.seas.umich.edu/opportunities/summits-and-working-groups/smart-lake-erie/
CIGLR Welcomes New Members to Our Team.
Katy Frank is CIGLR’s Applications Programmer, working under Russ Miller and with the Observing Systems and Ecosystem Dynamics teams to facilitate data management, develop and maintain web interfaces for data products, and assist with research tasks as needed. Previously a software engineer with a computer science background, she recently returned to graduate school to obtain a Master of Science in Geospatial Data Science from the University of Michigan School for the Environment and Sustainability, and is very excited to now be assisting with CIGLR and NOAA’s research objectives!
Alex Kain is a CIGLR Modeling Data Analyst working with Dr. Michael Fraker to develop experimental ecological forecasts linked to the hydrodynamic models of the Great Lakes Operational Forecast System. Previously, he was employed as a Limnologist with the Spokane Tribe of Indians in Washington State. Alex holds a Master of Science in Environmental Science from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.