Students to study Minn. lakes with science foundation

This summer, a group of St. Thomas students will conduct research on shallow Minnesota lakes. The students will study two alternative states of lakes, clear and turbid, to discover which state buries organic carbon faster.

This project, funded by The National Science Foundation, is led by St. Thomas but is in collaboration with the University of Minnesota and St. Croix Watershed Research Station.

Although full-time research does not start until summer, there is still some work that can be done.

“Our core hypothesis is that lakes that are in clear states bury organic carbon faster, because the organic matter within the lakes is plant material rather than algae,” said Kyle Zimmer, the associate professor of biology supervising the research.

In time, the students plan to put this hypothesis to the test when they are able to go out and collect data.

Not only is carbon a prominent topic in today’s environment, but this project also gives students an opportunity to conduct their own research.

Senior Adam Johannsen and sophomore Tom Langer have participated in research projects before. Although they have yet to decide if they will be involved with this particular project, they understand the effort that goes into research of this caliber.

“Each person develops their own project, and is then able to publish papers, do active research and present on a unique aspect of he project,” Johannsen said.

With this opportunity, St. Thomas students are able to get hands-on work outside of the classroom.

“We have a lot of freedom, but a lot of responsibility along with it,” Langer said, adding that the students have to help the group as a whole and take specific data that pertains to their particular project and test it.

According to Zimmer, once a conclusion is found, this study has great management potential.

Not only would the research determine what state of lake buries carbon faster, but the group hopes that it will also offer insight into solving the human-caused problem of excessive carbon buildup in the atmosphere.

With this knowledge, groups like the one at St. Thomas hope they can alter the state of lakes in order to help bury the carbon quicker, ultimately helping the environment.

Although the work is already funded, the group is waiting on a pending proposal with another organization. This proposal would be focused more on the applied side of the research, specifically dealing with carbon credits and how people can balance their carbon use by aiding the environment.

Meg Tvrdik can be reached at