What is the quality of the water? What insects and aquatic worms live there? What’s on the bottom, rock or sediment? What plants live in the water and on the stream banks?
LSRI scientists are gathering the information as part of a three-year project to monitor the condition of coastal wetlands, tributaries and near-shore waters of Lake Superior in northwestern Wisconsin. The work is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an Environmental Protection Agency program to address the most important Great Lakes priorities, including habitat and wildlife protection and restoration, coastal wetland assessment, restoring the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, and keeping out invasive species.
For the LSRI scientists, the monitoring enables them to establish a record of water quality feeding the world’s greatest freshwater lake. This is LSRI’s second field season of work on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant.
Last summer and fall, the researchers worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to set up coastal wetland monitoring sites along the shore of Lake Superior.
This season, the researchers are again taking samples from the coastal wetland sites while also setting up off shore monitoring sites in Lake Superior and stream monitoring sites. The overall network of 71 monitoring sites stretches from the remote headwaters of the Little Pokegama River in Douglas County to Oronto Creek in Iron County near the Wisconsin-Michigan border.
At the stream monitoring sites, like the one on the Iron River near Oulu, the researchers take down a long list of observations:
* Quality of the water, including ph level, temperature, and nutrient levels.
* Physical characteristics, such as vegetation in the stream and type of river bottom.
* Aquatic life, including insects and aquatic worms.
At some sites the researchers also conduct a habitat assessment, which is a more detailed look that includes observations about the type of plants along the banks, whether eroded areas are present, the clarity of the water and how fast it’s flowing. All the information is collected following a strict standard of quality assurance.
The three-year monitoring program will provide scientists with a thorough understanding to the current conditions of the waters feeding Lake Superior.