Trout Lake Research Rewind: Mega Buoy & Mini Mammals

by Riley Steinbrenner

Week Eight

Launching Mega Buoy

If you ever walked up to the station’s main lab at any time during the beginning of summer, a giant conglomerate of solar panels, wires, metal framing and heavy-duty floatation devices would be hard to miss among the row of terrestrial fleet vehicles. Affectionately known as “Buoy McBuoy Face” by its technicians—Tim Meinke, Keith Lyster and Paul Schramm—this “floating lab” gets launched every summer on Trout Lake to gather data on air temperature and CO2, relative humidity, barometric pressure, radiation, rainfall, wind direction and speed, water temperature profiles, as well as lake CO2 and dissolved oxygen.

Launching this “mega buoy” is no small task. Just after noon, Tim and Paul hitched the buoy’s trailer to the station’s diesel truck. While the pair slowly tugged the buoy down County N and up County M to Trout Lake’s boat launch on the north side, I joined a team of people at the station’s dock on the south end of the lake to head out in our two boats to help set the buoy.  

We quickly skimmed out to two smaller buoys which mark the “deep hole” of Trout—where depths reach 96 feet, the deepest point of the lake. Keith and Camryn helped retrieve the smaller buoys, to which Tim attached the mega buoy. In the water, Paul made sure the lines anchoring mega buoy in-between these two smaller buoys were taut, and made sure all the equipment was ready to run. Tim then sent down the monitor which measures the light profile—an indication of water clarity—dissolved oxygen and temperature, just like the North Temperate Lakes LTER base crew did earlier this summer. Unlike base crew, however, buoy crew won’t have risk going out on Trout Tower every week, because mega buoy collects these data 24 hours a day, seven days a week for them. Oh, the power of solar panels and intuitive technicians!

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Kevin, Tim, Paul and Keith check out mega buoy.
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Trapping Mini-Mammals

At the beginning of the summer, the small-mammal foraging team—made up of grad student Pete Guiden and undergraduate student Raina Eddy—took measurements to map tree locations at each of Pete’s ten field sites around Boulder Junction and Sayner. This preliminary work was necessary before they began trapping small mammals at the field sites, since Pete will use the trees to indicate where the animals were trapped, which is important since trees serve as habitat and food sources for the small mammals.

For a week in July, the pair set up 32 traps at each of their ten field sites to see what small mammals roam and call the area of Pete’s field sites home. In the winter, Pete plans on removing snow and woody debris—which serve as protection against predators—from some of his plots at each site to observe its effect on the small mammals’ foraging behavior. Before that part of the experiment, Pete must first collect data on what types of small mammals inhabit his sites.

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