“Just like a thermometer is a sensor that detects temperature, we have sensors that detect what the pH of the water is, how much dissolved oxygen there is, how much nitrate is in the water, or other elements like carbon dioxide or methane,” Loken said.
The data collected from these sensors helps scientists understand the spatial patterns of the water chemistry in certain aquatic ecosystems.
Loken uses his chemistry background along with his curiosity about the operations of aquatic ecosystems, like Lake Mendota, to investigate the variability of these systems throughout time.
“We have this method figured out about understanding just how variable these systems are,” Loken said. “And by knowing how much has changed through these continuums, we are opening the door to looking into more than just a few places to fully understand how an aquatic system operates.”
Loken emphasized the relatability of limnology, especially with being a research university located on a large lake. Most people have a constant interaction with the lake and are interested how it changes along the shoreline.
“You can imagine a fisherman or someone enjoying the beach has action with the water, and they have an investment in it,” Loken said, “The people care if it’s clean and if their children are going to enjoy it.”
This research promotes a dialogue among scientists, lake managers and policy makers to seek possible ways to improve water quality in rivers or lakes across the country.
“The more we understand how these ecosystems work, the more we might be able to suggest improvement actions or work with the DNR to improve water quality,” Loken said.