Duluth Building Holds Scientific Research History

Northland Uncovered: Limnology Lab

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White fish and trout are important to Lake Superior and in the late 1800s the U.S. Government made a move to ensure their population growth.

In this week’s Northland Uncovered, we look at the UMD Limnology Lab, which has always been a center for science and natural resources.

It’s a building that calls the shores of Lake Superior home and continually has people questioning what it is.

“People come in and say “oh what is this building, I always wanted to know what it is” and it’s kinda neat having a building that sticks out in people’s minds,” said Molly Thompson, executive director for Sugarloaf Cove.

The ginger bread house look-alike is a two-story stick and shingle style building created by the U.S. Government as the first fish hatchery in Minnesota.

“When you do research on Lake Superior, you want to be at Lake Superior, pure and simple,” said Dr. Steve Hedman, emeritus professor of biology at UMD.

“It actually had fish tanks in the basement, I think even in the first floor and offices in the front and upstairs of the building,” said Thompson.

Completed in 1888, the scientists bred and raised white fish and trout.

“There was a dam that persisted until the 1950s. That dam stored water that came down through various conduits into this area,” said Hedman.

In 1947, the fish hatchery was sold to UMD and the biology department had a strong presence there.

“The most significant research was done during the 1960s–70s,” said Hedman.

They were studying the effect of reserve mining depositing talines into Lake Superior that contained espestice fibers.

“The research that suggested that was not a healthy thing to do, was done in the building behind me,” said Hedman.

Hedman says it’s incredible to have been part of such a vital piece of Minnesota’s science-based history.

“It’s very nice to know that the UMD, the university, and my home department of biology has had such a significant impact upon what has happened in this lake,” said Hedman.

Today, the building holds Sugarloaf Cove’s business office.

They work on reforestation on the North Shore and have a nature center.

“We’re trying to keep getting things better in the environment and that’s what people have been working on for a long time using this building,” said Thompson.
 

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