Muckraking Mendota: Of Shrimp and Glaciers

By Emily Hilts
Lakes transform when the sun goes down. The once-familiar shoreline becomes unrecognizable and water takes on an inhospitable chill, making an after-hours trip a notch more exciting. So, when graduate student Jake Walsh (who studies zooplankton in the Vander Zanden lab) invited me to come along for a night of sampling, I quickly accepted.

Jake pulls the zooplankton net into our boat, hoping to catch freshwater shrimp. Photo: E. Hilts
Jake pulls the zooplankton net into our boat, hoping to catch freshwater shrimp. Photo: E. Hilts

I soon wondered what I’d signed on for, because the night began with a series of misadventures. Equipment went missing. Keys fell in the water. We got lost on the way to pick up Jake’s high school assistant, Petra Wakker and had to stop at Walmart to buy lights for the boat. By the time we hit the road, it was already midnight, and Green Lake, where we were headed, was still an hour and a half away. Luckily Jake’s an easy-going guy and I was determined to get a better perspective about the history of Madison’s lakes.
But why head outside of the Yahara chain to do this? Well, this is a story about how our lakes got to be the way they are, and asking why something isn’t in Mendota can help explain why other things do call the lake home. Keep reading…

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