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Great Lakes Article:

Measuring cleanliness
Researchers looking for volunteers to monitor lakes
By Ayse Twit and Bethany Warner
The Northwestern
Published May 6, 2005

Aquatic researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh are looking for a few good volunteers to help monitor the cleanliness of local lakes.

Michael Lizotte, director of the aquatic research laboratory at UWO, is hoping for 100 volunteers to go through training on how to measure how clear lake water is in Lake Winnebago, Lake Butte des Morts, Lake Winneconne and Lake Poygan.

“The idea is to have enough volunteers so we can span out over these huge lakes we have,” Lizotte said Thursday.


The water cleanliness project is the latest in the string of outreach projects at the university. UWO professors studied water quality on Great Lakes beaches as part of an effort to alert swimmers to dangerous water conditions.

“I think we need to keep (citizens) engaged in what’s going on within the community. UWO has a positive impact on the community at large, and it is critical that we keep them updated,” said Todd Sandrin, a professor in the Biology and Microbiology Department.

With cleanliness data collected by volunteers over a few years, Lizotte said it could provide the data necessary to get the lakes off the impaired water list.

Volunteers will go through a two-hour training to learn how to use a Sechhi disk, a device to measure the clarity of the water. At the training, volunteers will also have a chance to discuss other kinds of research they might be interested in, such as mapping fish habitats, taking water samples or watching for zebra mussels or other introduced species.

Volunteers will be given a location on the lakes to test once every week or two and track data. Lizotte said volunteers should be reasonable about having the right kind of equipment for being out on the lakes.

“The thinking is, something this big, everybody assumes somebody else is doing it,” Lizotte said.

The Biology/Microbiology Department recently received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for high-powered tools to study organisms on a cellular and molecular level.

The grant will also fund students across the country to study at the college and do research throughout Oshkosh. The department also gets funding from the Department of Natural Resources and the Door County Soil and Water Conservation district.

UWO conducted water-quality studies in Door, Iron, Bayfield and Ashland counties last summer and will continue the process again this year.

Researchers tested for microbial contamination in the beaches. City and county health officials used the data to post health advisories or to completely shut down beaches.

“We take what we do very seriously. Our role is to reach out and to do community service,” said Colleen McDermott, co-chair of the Biology/Microbiology department.

Bethany K. Warner: 426-6668 or bwarner@thenorthwestern.com.


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