By Kate Hamre
This April, Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) members from the northeastern United States gathered at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York for the 3rd annual Northeast GLEON (NE GLEON) meeting on April 8-9, 2017. About a dozen GLEON researchers brought 16 undergraduate students to the meeting, giving these budding scientists an idea of how these meetings typically proceed. Another nine graduate students participated, taking the lead to run workshops and a professional development session.
After a welcome and introduction to GLEON by conference chair Jen Klug, Kellie Merrill of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) gave the plenary talk Saturday morning, beginning by paying homage to the famous aquatic explorer Jacques Cousteau. Like many other aquatic scientists, Kellie was fascinated by exploring the underwater realm from an early age. She has dedicated her work to protecting Vermont’s lake water quality, and discussed the decreasing trend in number of oligotrophic lakes remaining in the State of Vermont, as well as possibilities for GLEON research to combine with Vermont’s lake conservation efforts and a newly emerging regional lake monitoring network.
Following the plenary talk, we heard eleven seven-minute ”lightning talks,” many of which were given by undergraduate students. These very-early career scientists spoke about subjects such as trophic states of their local lake systems and student research projects. The questions that student researchers receive when presenting at conferences often help them to think about their own projects with a broader perspective, and these lightning talk sessions were no exception.
In the typical GLEON fashion, much of the meeting was spent in working groups. Here, there were three loosely-interpretable working group themes to choose from: (1) engaging citizens in the scientific process, (2) cross-site experiments to do collaborative research, and (3) observational data to study regional patterns. Groups received helpful feedback during the report back, and several new projects were born out of these working groups, including an endeavor to use in situ incubations to study nitrogen and phosphorus limitation across several northeastern lakes on the landscape scale. One participant said, “I loved the interaction amongst everyone. It gave me new information and allowed me to discuss future research with grad students and principal investigators.”
The first day of this meeting ended with a professional development session, where three early- and mid-career lake scientists discussed their career paths and how they eventually wound up in their current positions. We heard from a Jason Stockwell, a faculty member at the University of Vermont; Kellie Merrill of Vermont DEC; and Sarah Princiotta, director of research and education at Lacawac Sanctuary and Biological Field Station. These stories were entertaining and informative, especially for undergraduate and graduate students wondering about the process of entering different types of scientific careers. A highlight of the meeting for one of the students was “talking with people at different points in their career.” Another student commented, “It was amazing to be surrounded by people who are passionate about a subject I’m interested in and to learn where their careers have taken them.”
Sunday morning, we wrapped up the meeting with two workshops: an Introduction to R workshop led by Rachel Pilla, and a Project Eddie workshop led by me and Jennie Brentrup. The Introduction to R workshop, designed for people with absolutely no experience working with data in R, started with very user-friendly foundations of the R statistical environment. This workshop was highly successful, and participants were able to play around with simple data functions, plot data, and even delve into rLakeAnalyzer.
The Project Eddie workshop, geared toward teaching Project Eddie’s new “Lake Modeling” module to faculty members who wish to use this module in their undergraduate courses, gave graduate students and professors a taste of some of the challenges involved in teaching lake modeling to undergraduate students. This module has incredible potential in the classroom, because it not only gives students exposure to modeling lake thermal structure, but it helps to unpack the “black box” of climate and environmental science models to students who may be unfamiliar with how they work. It also can empower students who previously felt intimidated by computer modeling. Participants in this workshop enjoyed forcing lakes with scenarios that ranged from realistic to highly far-fetched, and we had lots of fun seeing how lake thermal structure was affected by different climate scenarios.
Besides the opportunity to spot black bears and (unintentionally) collect ticks, lake scientists who attended this meeting were able to share current research endeavors, help undergraduate students get involved in the collaborative, grassroots-oriented GLEON process, and brainstorm new ideas for research projects. One participant appreciated having “time to network and talk with individuals that have the same or similar interests.” The meeting was a resounding success, and we look forward to the next one!
NE GLEON 2017 Conference Participants
38 participants from 18 institutions participated in the NE GLEON conference this year: Chris Hulbert (Bard College); Holly Ewing (Bates College); Lisa Borre, Chris Solomon, and Kathleen Weathers (Cary Institute); Denise Breusewitz, Katherine King, Carolyn Kwak, and Mara McDonough,(Colby College); Jen Klug, Coleman Macuch, and Jackie Noyes (Fairfield University); Sarah Princiotta (Lacawac Sanctuary); Lauren Adkins, Nicole Berry, Jennie Brentrup, and Rachel Pilla (Miami University); Maria Galluzzo (SUNY-Albany); Ken Chiu (SUNY-Binghamton); Simona Lukasik and Courtney Wigdahl-Perry (SUNY-Fredonia); Emma Bruno, Mike Forcella, Dejea Green, Tony Hollander, Sawyer McFadden, Dave Richardson, and Heather Wander (SUNY-New Paltz); Kiyoko Yokota (SUNY-Oneonta); Clare Garfield (SUNY Stony Brook); Allison Hrycik, Alex Looi, Kayla Morrison, Jason Stockwell, and Alex Taylor (University of Vermont); and Kellie Merrell and Heather Murphy (VT DEC and Johnson State College); and Kate Hamre (Virginia Tech).
The conference was supported by Project EDDIE, Colby Environmental Studies Program, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and the National Science Foundation.