Scientists Prepare For 3-Day Cruise on Lake Superior

Gathering Information to Keep Healthy Ecosystems in the Big Lake

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Lake Superior seems timeless. But in recent years, it has gone through some dramatic changes, including in nutrient content and increase in temperature. Now, a group of scientists is setting out to the waters to find some answers.

It’s the first–ever study off its kind.

“We’re interested in looking at how the lakes physics is affecting the lakes chemistry and its biology,” said Liz Minor, Professor at the Large Lakes Observatory.

The study will combine multiple aspects of science under the roof of The Blue Heron.

“If we have a temperature reading in Iowa, and a light reading in Minnesota, and a water reading in Nebraska, and we try to put those together, how do you do that?” asked Robert Sterner, Director of the Large Lakes Observatory.

All this, to protect The Great Lakes.

“It’s the largest lake on Earth in terms of area, it’s also the most pristine,” Minor said.

Lake Superior makes up 10 percent of the planets fresh water.

“Ten percent of what some people say is the most important stuff on Earth,” said Sterner.

But recent changes in the Big Lake have gained the attention of scientists at UMD.

“We know that nitrate in the lake has been increasing over the past 100 years, we know phosphorous has been decreasing, and we know that temperatures have been rising in the lake,” Minor explained. “It is concerning, it puts us into areas that are very hard to predict,” she added.

Six scientists and 5 crew members will embark on a 3–day cruise out on the open waters.

“We’re not here to raise alarms necessarily, it is going to have an impact on the lake,” Sterner said. “What we’re trying to do is figuring out what that’s going to be.”

They will conduct measures at various depths of the lake of things including levels of nutrients, carbon, oxygen, and PH.

“All of those things are important because that’s the base of the aquatic food chain in Lake Superior,” Sterner said.

For 72 hours, the 11–person crew will work around the clock, stopping at 12 stations on the lake.

“It’s a bit of a trick balancing being able to get the work done and getting enough sleep so that you’re able to do the work well,” Minor laughed. 

Scientists say, right now, Lake Superior is in good health.

“It’s not like all the fish are going to go belly up and die, the lake’s not going to suddenly turn green,” Sterner said.

Making it all the more important to take these precautions.

“It’s kind of part of our duty to make sure it stays that way,” Minor said. 

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