Michigan Tech University conducts winter research on Lake Superior

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) — Michigan Tech University conducts winter research on Lake Superior.

Work is more important now to understand how climate change is affecting aquatic life. The research team of Trista Vick-Majors, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Michigan Tech University, is looking for answers in the largest of the Great Lakes.

“There’s almost no data on these large lakes during the winter,” Vick-Majors said. “What this winter take is really trying to do is help fill that gap in knowledge.”

Vick-Majors and his team of four undergraduates and a graduate student spent hours on the ice of the Keweenaw Waterway today. They collected ice and water samples, measured light, temperature, salt and oxygen levels in the water at different depths, and tried to catch small organisms in a net.

His team is among a dozen other U.S. and Canadian government agencies and academic groups conducting research on the Great Lakes this week. They are trying to better understand how the smallest organisms in lakes behave when they are covered in ice.

“One of our main interests is actually measuring the activity of microorganisms, so how fast they grow and how they transform carbon in water,” Vick-Majors said. “Our next step is to connect this to the ice cover itself.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Lake Superior is frozen eight to 46 fewer days per year than it was in the early 1970s. Vick-Majors says this change in ice patterns is having a big effect on these tiny creatures.

“We tend to see water temperature changes that persist throughout the summer, and temperature has a huge impact on everything from microbes to fish,” Vick-Majors said.

While microorganisms are impacted by changing ice patterns, Vick-Majors says the lack of winter research on Lake Superior leaves them wondering how. “We know so little about how they react to these changes in the environment and this base of the food chain is just super important in supporting fish and all larger organisms,” she said. .

Vick-Majors’ research is still in its infancy. She says her team has yet to come to any conclusions about how microorganisms in the lake behave in winter.

They hope to learn more as their research progresses.

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