Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring 2010

It's been a long and rough winter. The ice on Thompson Lake caused considerable damage to area utilities and instruments, not the least of which was loss of power to the UIS field station for about a month. The YSI sondes (instruments that collect water data in real time) were damaged by the ice - we spent part of yesterday getting 1 of 3 units running. I attach a photo taken by Deborah Berman to give you some idea of the conditions at that time.

Winter seems like ages ago now. Since, we have had some warm days. The pelicans have returned and we are trying to get back on the lakes to sample. Yesterday was quite windy and coupled with high water levels, induced shore erosion. We are running a little shorthanded for sampling and, in addition, I am in the process of replacing our part-time technician, Doyn (in foreground of picture), as she is moving on to work on USGS food web project taking place this summer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

End of Field Season on Thompson Lake (at least the ice-off phase)

As you know, we sample Thompson Lake weekly up until the last months when we opted to go out every two weeks (cold and/or bad weather). You may not know, the transom on the Prairie Shark (boat) has fractures and we are thankful that it carried us through ice-cold waters these last days without mishap (I had to go swimming for it a month or two ago and that was cold enough for me!). Our faithful boat goes into dry dock for repair if I can locate a good aluminum welder.

And alas Jack London fans, with the recent cold weather, 2" of ice is across the lake. It is too thick to navigate and too thin to walk on (though we might in a few weeks; skating party anyone?). So - we finally have our rest from field work.

There are good days, scary days, and just plain miserable days on the lake when you are running a schedule, but they are all very much "alive" days, and perhaps this another reason we do it.

Many, many thanks to our field technician, Doyn, and volunteers for helping out on the project. It has been a long year but I am convinced we are on to trends that will be groundbreaking. I am now looking for time/funds to process the 2009 samples as recent data and published literature indicates that the trends we are discovering on Thompson reflect circumpolar trends throughout the world (NOTE - PNAS at

And so, this is the rhythm and consistency of field work and the science that goes with it. Should we teach this to our next generation? - - - - without a doubt.

To that end, Michael Cheney and I met yesterday and outlined a 2 week course that would meet needs for the International Study defined by Jonathan Goldbergbelle BUT also be a very good UIS upper division/graduate course. I get many inquiries about field study classes and work at Emiquon. We are at first draft stage with much room for input, but Michael is writing up the notes and we will share soon.

Take care - all the best for the holidays - and most of all, thank you for your support of the field station and the restoration of an amazing area -


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Still a bloom

The bloom that started in spring is still with us on Thompson Lake

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 10 - Evidence of cyanobacteria dying

It looks like someone spilled blue-green, blue, and amber paint in some of the quiet coves around the Thompson Lake boat landing. However, this is actually evidence of death of some of the cyanotbacteria (see April 28 post) that has been blooming since April (blue-green and blue pigments) and duckweek (amber bleached-out very small floating plants). Lakes go through a lot of changes in a year, especially if they are going through the transitions involved in restoration.

Our Summer Interns - from France!

Say hello to Charlotte (right) and Delphine (left), our summer interns from Montpellier SupAgro (an International Center for Higher Education in Agricultural Sciences). They will be staying at the Emiquon Field Station and doing several projects with The Nature Conservancy and lending me a hand sampling and processing water/DNA samples.

May 29

Well, I have some catching up to do. It's been a really busy spring-summer.

I'll start with a picture from a few weeks ago. Our field station became full of activity when 17 archeologists (professor and students) from Michigan State University moved in at the end of May. To celebrate and welcome all, we threw a picnic for them and invited folks from The Nature Conservancy, Dickson Mounds Museum, and the Univ. of Illinois at Springfield (UIS). After, we spent time on Thompson Lake and UIS Provost Harry Berman and his wife, Deb, canoed the lake and captured some excellent pelican pictures. I am posting one (with permission).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cynanobacteria - "They're back!"

There were two big stories on Thompson Lake when we sampled last week (4/22/09). The first was that there were people fishing on the lake. This is perfectly legal and regulated, but there had been no fishing up to this point. More at:

The second eye-catching event was that the cyanobacteria that had “filled” the lake the year before was back. The green material floating in lakes is commonly called an “algae” bloom, even though in this case, they are technically not microalgae, but phototrophic bacteria. Last year, we started picking it up in early June. I’ve gotten confirmation from an algal biologist that the species genus name is Aphanizomenon. I supply a diagram.

Upon first glance, the cyanobacteria looks like small, cut-up grass leaves. Upon closer examination, you can see it is composed of individual filaments, and under the microscope can ascertain the heterocysts (specialized cells that “fix” nitrogen from the air) and akinetes (thick, dormant cells that resting/”surviving” cells). I post a copy of a picture I had taken last year.