Muckraking Mendota: Seeing the Invisible

Last week I took advantage of the clear water conditions to observe fish in their natural habitat. While it was an awesome experience, I was left wondering: “Why does the water start off clear and get exponentially scummier over the summer?” At first glance, the question doesn’t seem complicated. Algae don’t thrive in cold conditions, but once the water heats up, their numbers boom. That’s a nice simple answer, but there’s more to the story. Clear water may mean there’s not much algae growth, but that doesn’t mean the lake isn’t teeming with life.

Clear water phase was a perfect chance to get a look below the surface last week. Photo: E. Hilts
Clear water phase was a perfect chance to get a look below the surface last week. Photo: E. Hilts

To see what else was in the water, I got help from Kaity and Jennifer, two UW-Madison undergraduates who are spending their summer analyzing zooplankton samples for Jake Walsh – keep reading.

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