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March 2022

Thirty-two million temperature data points – collected over 30 years in over 100 lakes – enabled scientists to explore how climate change is warming lakes and stunting biodiversity. Read the open access paper here. 

The short of it: researchers found that as lakes warm, aquatic life must move deeper or adjust their seasonality to survive – a tall order that not all organisms can fulfill. This novel, global-scale analysis points to new questions about how to manage lakes to maintain biodiversity. I’m telling this story because – of course – the longest running collection of temperature profiles in this global analysis came from UMBS monitoring on Douglas Lake.

We established the Douglas Lake buoy in August 2010 as part of a regional network of lake monitoring buoys. At the time, we didn’t have expectations for what we might learn from our buoy – only that it was a valuable piece of monitoring infrastructure that could potentially inform research at UMBS and beyond. Data collected across space and over time are powerful, yet uncommon in ecological research. Monitoring enables researchers to capture data before and after events (such as algal blooms in lakes) and to look at how long-term trends in temperature may be changing. Our yellow buoy provides data to our local lake community (what’s the lake temperature today?), to researchers working with lakes in our area (how are microplastics degrading?), to managers exploring land-use questions across the midwest (how does forest management change water temperatures?), and to global research teams exploring why biodiversity is changing in lakes around the world.

I strongly believe that one of the roles of biological field stations is to provide long-term data for local, regional, national, and international communities to use. Our buoy is only one example of long-term monitoring work at UMBS. Resident Biologist Adam Schubel is pivotal in maintaining another hallmark monitoring site at UMBS: our National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) site. NADP provides a long-term record of the acids, nutrients, and base cations in precipitation. Researchers have used this network to track pollution, to monitor deposition of airborne microplastics, to explore how changing precipitation may change nutrient loads in lakes, and to measure PFAS in rainwater. You can read all about it in our featured UMBS story.

We are committed to continuing our legacy of long-term data collection. What will be the next thing we learn? What sorts of patterns might we see in five years? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out what the next 10, 20, 50 years of monitoring reveals. You can follow along, too – come by and wave to our buoy when she is back on the lake this summer, and then follow this link to check on Douglas Lake temperatures, wind speed, and more. 

Dr. Aimée Classen

UMBS Director