Trout Lake Research Rewind: Bog Walks, Lab Work & Wild Rice

by Riley Steinbrenner

Week One

One of the first things I did up north was walk on water–well, on a bog, that is! TLS Interim Director Susan Knight took CFL outreach/communications specialist Adam Hinterthuer and me out to “Why Not” bog (because, why not?), which is located across from Firefly Lake and nearby Crystal Lake. Because it is made up of sphagnum moss, which can hold up to 200 times its weight in water, walking on the bog feels like walking on a waterbed! In fact, due to its high absorbency and inability to foster bacteria due to lack of oxygen, sphagnum moss was used to dress wounds during WWII.
We didn’t have to worry about falling in though, because the moss is held together by leather leaf, which acts like the skeleton of the bog. Even though it grows inward at a rate of just one cm per year, the bog will eventually cover the entire lake! But, that will be in several thousand years. Susan plans on taking a larger group of undergrads back later this summer for another “bog walk.” Stay tuned!
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Week Two

Ever wonder what lab experience is like here on station? UW biology undergraduate Ishita Aghi spends at least a couple hours a day counting different types of zooplankton species’ in three different 1-mL subsamples from a larger 100 mL sample of lake-water. Types of zooplankton found say a lot about the lake’s ecosystem–as they are the basis of many freshwater food webs. Samples are taken from either McDermot Lake or Sandy Beach, where the grad students, she is working with Holly Embke and Martin Perales, conduct research this summer in preparation for a bass-removal experiment next year.
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Week Three

Her first day on the job, UW microbiology undergraduate Kaela Amundson filtered bacteria from lake-water samples. Kaela and grad student, Alex Linz, plan on studying bacteria at different depths of their study lake this summer.
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A week after getting stuck between a hand drill and a hard place, Dom was ready to start bending some trees! On this day, he tested his rope-and-pulley system on his first study tree where the water table lies fifteen feet below the ground.
Dom measured the “bendiness” of the tree by cranking a strap marked with increments in centimeters. After every ten centimeters, he recorded the force of pressure required to bend the tree. Dom plans on doing this at least five more times over the summer, observing how the force-requirement changes as he manipulates the amount of water available for uptake by his four study trees.
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In preparation for her upcoming aquatic plant ID workshop, Susan Knight and aquatic invasive specialist Carol Warden went out to Rice Creek to fish out some invasive curly-leaf pondweed. Although not as bad as some invasive species, these lasagna-shaped plants do pose a nuisance for the native wild rice in the area, which also thrives in the same area. Since wild rice is a sacred crop to Native Americans, pesticides are not used to get rid of the competing pondweed.
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Finally, I joined Carol and Al Wirt of the Department of Natural Resources on one of their outings to monitor the health of Sparkling Lake. A few of the operations for the day included scouting out coarse-woody-debris along the shoreline–which serve as fish habitats–testing water clarity using a Secchi disk and sampling for spiny water flea tails and young zebra mussels. It was a great experience to see everything the WDNR does to make sure our beautiful northern lakes continue to thrive!
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