LakePulse visits 219 lakes in summer of 2019!

Completing the LakePulse dataset for 680 lakes across Canada

If you’ve been following our blog (thanks!) you’ll know that our last post didn’t go over too well with our director and therefore you haven’t heard from us in a while (yes, of course, we blame him for it). Now, he’s given us “one last chance” to put out “a decent blog post”. Well, gee thanks, we were otherwise twiddling our thumbs, getting paid the small bucks, and had nothing else to do…

As you probably know by now, LakePulse students, research professionals and postdocs go to incredible lengths to collect data about Canadian lakes, literally going “from sea to sea to sea”. LakePulse will soon complete an amazing dataset for 680 lakes sampled over 3 years across Canada. Our teams saw the Atlantic Ocean in 2017 and 2018 as they sampled hundreds of lakes. This summer, they will dip their toes in the Pacific and the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean as they sample 219 lakes during an 8-week field campaign. The map below shows coloured dots for the lake locations. The teams are identified by a colour, and they are assigned to regions in BC, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The teams cover large areas, and local knowledge is very helpful. Many communities help the field teams to access lakes and they sometimes participate in sampling.

LakePulse runs a huge campaign to sample lakes so that our scientists can study lake health. We have now started looking into the data and observing regional differences. We will soon share these results on the LakePulse Water Portal.

Field teams for the summer of 2019

The 5 field teams for the summer of 2019 are incredibly energetic, motivated, and determined problem solvers. The dedication of these teams makes it possible to collect the first pan-Canadian dataset on lake health.

The 5 teams are traveling for 2 months to sample over 200 lakes this summer. Each team will travel with a pick-up truck, motor boat, and an extensive mobile lab. With the help of local communities, each team aims to sample one lake per day for over 100 variables. The teams pack thousands of samples in the field each week and then ship them to the University of Sherbrooke. The Sherbrooke team coordinates the entire campaign, receives and ships the samples, and keeps the field teams supplied with all the materials they need. Or, as the director – who’s a member of the team (did you ever wonder why their mascot is a daft looking beaver?) – puts it: “we have to deal with their samples, supply them weekly with expensive gear, solve all their problems, but who gets to swan around lakes on a boat?!”

Each team member is trained to take a specific set of scientific measurements, such as optics, sediment coring, and water filtration. All the field protocols are described in our Field Manual, which is over 187 pages of lake sampling protocols that have been tested across Canada by LakePulse.

This year field training begins on June 17th at the University of Sherbrooke.

LakePulse Water Portal and research projects

Most field teams spend the rest of the year analyzing lake samples. They participate in research studies on lake health, and many of them are training to be scientists.

They also help to make scientific results accessible to the public by contributing to the LakePulse Water Portal, which is under construction. An early version of the LakePulse Water Portal is expected in late 2019.

The research studies in LakePulse are led by 16 scientists at 13 universities across Canada. We’ll tell you a lot more about them as their projects progress. LakePulse partners with provinces and territories to increase our understanding of lake health and human impacts.

The field coordination team at the University of Sherbrooke

Preparing for the field season is intense! It’s not possible to list everything done by the field coordination team, but here’s an idea of their massive task:

  • Plan the travel route of each team.
  • Create electronic logsheets to track thousands of samples.
  • Prepare containers and labels for those same samples.
  • Plan where teams on the road can find dry ice and deionized water.
  • Plan when and where field teams can ship samples each week, even in remote areas.
  • Review protocols.
  • Obtain permits from municipalities, parks, provinces and territories.

Each detail has been planned and is tracked by the field coordination team at the University of Sherbrooke:

  • The field coordinator, Marie-Pierre, is also the leader of the Purple team.
  • The geomatics specialist, Maxime, is also the leader of the Green team.
  • The database specialist, Jelena, creates the electronic log sheets, labeling system for tracking samples, and is on the Water Portal team.
  • The thousands of samples shipped by field teams to the University of Sherbrooke will be managed by Isabelle.
  • Administrative help from Marie-Claude helps to ensure that we do things right.
  • The LakePulse director, Yannick, juggles all our questions while keeping a “friendly smile on his face” (or so he says). He is a professor at the University of Sherbrooke in the Geomatics Department.

This team is so cool that they won the “team inspiration award” at the University of Sherbrooke. Way to go super team!

Amazing lakes

To whet our appetite for this summer’s sampling, here’s a photo from a special lake sampled in 2018.

In the picture below on the left, our field coordinator, Marie-Pierre, is showing off a sample she collected from Lake Mahoney near Oliver, BC, in 2018. Besides planning the most ambitious lake sampling campaign ever devised, she finds time to colour coordinate her outfits with her… samples! Note that Marie-Pierre’s pants and shoelaces are coordinated with the purple colour of the water sample, which is, yes, matchy-matchy! She is also the leader of the Purple team (Illuminati confirmed!).

We’ll boast here that our teams are “field chic” and fashion forward. In the photo above, Bruno sports a LakePulse tee and rubber boots while peering pensively into the distance wondering what he should eat after sampling. Think again if you assumed limnologists were boring scientists wearing drab clothes as they sample lakes (but who would blame you if you met our director!). Watch out this summer as LakePulse proves that limnologists can be cool too! (Sorry, all our LakePulse merch in the “bed sheets” category moves very quickly, and there’s already a 5-year backorder, so don’t even ask…)

Back to Lake Mahoney… and no, don’t worry, this is completely natural. It isn’t one of those lakes that have been so altered by humans that it’s turned into a weird colour (incidentally, we also sampled Camp Lake). Lake Mahoney has two distinct layers that do not mix: the upper layer mixes as the wind blows at the surface and, though somewhat saline, would otherwise seem like a normal lake. The lower layer, however, does not mix with the upper layer. Limnologists call these lakes meromictic (as opposed to “holomictic” lakes that mix to the bottom at different times of the year). Anyway, in this lake, sulfur accumulates in the lower layer and the oxygen levels are low, preventing most organisms from living there.

However, one clear exception is the “purple sulfur bacteria” that colour the water in the sample above. They are anaerobic organisms meaning that they can live without available oxygen. These bacteria are photosynthetic, meaning they use light to produced chemical energy for their growth. But they do not produce oxygen like plants, algae or cyanobacteria during photosynthesis; they are thus anoxygenic!

Since seeing this picture and learning about the term matchy-matchy, our director has been going around telling everyone: ‘Hey did you see Marie-Pierre’s picture, with the anaerobic anoxygenic photosynthetic purple sulfur bacteria from the meromictic Lake Mahoney it’s a bit matchy-matchy isn’t it’? Is he really just a daft beaver… we’re now rethinking… perhaps a geeky marmot, a nerdy walrus, or a dorky prairie dog are more appropriate? We’ll leave it at that and see what happens…