Our Top 5 Posts of 2021: Dead Zones, Sleeper Populations & Good News on Algae Blooms

Happy New Year! Here’s hoping 2022 trends upward a little more steeply than the past couple of years. We here at the Center for Limnology are excited to share even more freshwater news, research and more with you in the year to come but, before we get to brand-new content, let’s look back at some of our top stories from 2021:

1. Invasive Species Often Start Out as Undetected “Sleeper Populations

A study funds that nonnative species can occur as small, self-sustaining populations ‘smoldering like embers’ in a new habitat, but only a handful react to some “environmental trigger” and get fanned into a five-alarm fire.

CFL director Jake Vanden Zanden explains why the idea that invasive species simply overrun any new ecosystem is not the typical version of the story. Read more to learn how the saga usually unfolds and what happens when a species goes off-script. 


2. The Link Between Climate Change and ‘Dead Zones’ in Lakes

CFL post doctoral researcher, Robert Ladwig, explains his study showing how the drivers behind ‘dead zones’ in lakes are predicted to get stronger under climate change projections. Which means lakes across the world will start to see dead zones developing earlier and lasting longer. While that may be “depressing” news, he adds, it does highlight where we should focus our efforts to address this problem. Read more to learn about why we should be thinking less global and more local.


3. Women Water Protectors, Woven Art and Trout Lake Station’s “Artist in Residence” Program

It can seem like all we do is give you bad news about our freshwater resources but, every now and then, we get to share something truly inspirational. Northern Wisconsin artist, Mary Burns, helped us do just that through her amazing weavings depicting some of the women leading the charge to protect our waters – including some CFL scientists. Read more to see works ranging from an Anishinaabe grandmother to noted scientist and author, Rachel Carson, inspired Burns’ work. 


4. Good Climate News? Yep! Algae Blooms Aren’t Getting Universally Worse

Here’s another dose of good news – not all of the worst climate projections are coming to pass. New CFL faculty member, Grace Wilkinson, led a study that found that, contrary to popular opinion (and a lot of scientific projections) warming waters aren’t leading to worsening algae blooms across the board. As Grace puts it, “algal blooms are not getting worse everywhere and if we can better understand what’s driving one lake getting worse while another one is getting better, that’s going to give us a lot more tools in our toolbox to better address this problem.” Read more for the full version of this good news story! 


5. Not Even the Largest Lakes in the World Are Immune to Salt

Sorry to close with a report on a more troubling trend but, it’s important to remember that what we do on land is reflected in our lakes. Hilary Dugan led a study published at the end of 2021 that showed increasing salinity trends are even being felt in the Great Lakes. Read more to learn how the Great Lakes are one of the most valuable freshwater resources in the world and why researchers are asking if they’d still be great if they weren’t fresh.