Muckraking Mendota: Let’s Just Be Friends

UW undergrad, Emily Hilts, spent her summer getting to know Lake Mendota. While she didn’t fall head over heels for Madison’s lakes, she’s leaving on good terms.
by Emily Hilts
This morning, I moved my books and papers out of the desk I used at the Center for Limnology all summer, and took some time to reflect on what I’ve learned about Lake Mendota after three months of snorkeling, paddling, boating and exploring its shores. Thinking about the goals I set for myself, I realized that the out-of-work experiences I never shared in this blog taught me just as much about the lake as all of my naturalist-inclined explanations of its flora, fauna, geology and ecology.
In June, I was charting my way around Lake Mendota, searching for stories.
The purpose of this blog was twofold. First of all, I wanted to share my discoveries about Lake Mendota with my readers. At some basic level I think it’s safe to say I’ve accomplished that. But, in hindsight, that’s not really what I cared about.
I realized this after a morning of fishing with Jim Bruins, who was a UW zoology undergrad and a project supervisor at the Center for Limnology in the mid 1960s. After three summers with the department, it was time to at least learn how to catch a fish on a line, and I can hardly think of a better person to teach me than Jim. It wasn’t necessarily that he shared a wealth of technical information – we were just bobbing for bass and perch – but he was a library of stories about Madison and Lake Mendota. He told me about how the cisco used to be so abundant, he and some buddies could dip-net them out of the water when they came in to spawn. He knew where bass used to be easily caught, and how perch cycle between good and bad years. Read Emily’s final thoughts on life on Madison’s lakes –>

To read the full series of Emily’s work, visit The Life Aquatic, the blog for the lab of Dr. Jake Vander Zanden.

2 thoughts on “Muckraking Mendota: Let’s Just Be Friends”

  1. Dear Emily!
    My name is John and I am working on a report for a water environmental monitoring/conservation organization in Sweden called Mälarens vattenvårdsförbund. The name of the lake is Mälaren and it is Sweden’s third largest lake and it runs out into the Baltic sea at Stockholm.
    The report compiles and summarizes studies done on environmental toxins. I’ve been looking for a good picture of lake sediment on Google and I happened to find the picture of a hand lifting up sediment on your blog. I wonder if I can use the picture with your permission. And thanks also for a beautiful blog with lots of exciting photos!
    Link to the photo:
    Kind regards,
    John Lindgren
    marine ecologist
    Mälarens vattenvårdsförbund

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for asking! Emily has graduated, but I’m sure she’d be thrilled that her photograph was getting used somewhere else. Just please credit her and the UW-Madison Center for Limnology for the photograph! Thanks!

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