Moira Harrington, assistant director of communications for Wisconsin Sea Grant in Madison, published recently in the Duluth News Tribune to give local residents a heads up about thorough, extensive research being conducted on Lake Superior this summer. According to Harrington, “a team of scientists is plying the big lake’s waters this summer to discover hidden reaches and untold stories.”
From July until October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) will be sending vessels out to conduct research over a large expanse of Superior – rather than just one isolated area. Harrington also states that the scope of research itself will be expanded, covering a broader, more in-depth range of considerations.
The EPA will be navigating Research Vessel (RV) Lake Guardian, RV Lake Explorer II, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s RV Kiyi to pre-determined research stations (or ‘sampling sites’). They will also employ the use of autonomous underwater gliders for sampling, one of which will be supplied by UMD’s Large Lakes Observatory. The gliders are described as “yellow, torpedo-shaped samplers . . . guided by satellites and onboard computers.”
The researchers will be studying “lower food web, contaminants, the near-shore environment, deep-water organisms, aquatic invasive species, and what factors might make certain areas of the lake prone to nutrient or algae problems.” They’ll be comparing the results to previous lake studies to look for improvements or degradation in lake conditions.
Harrington also states that 15 educators from around the Great Lakes basin will be joining the scientists on the RV Lake Guardian. Specially selected by the Wisconsin and Minnesota Sea Grant programs, they’ll be assisting in research projects and will be passing their experiences with the project on to students this fall as they return to the classroom.
Harrington reports that the research team focuses on a different Great Lake every year for study. Last year, Lake Michigan was subject to the in-depth scrutiny.