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Learn Aboard the Great Lakes' Largest Research Vessel

Kaitlin Reinl views an enlargement of a Blue-green Algal bloom
August 26, 2019

On Friday, Aug. 30, tour UMD's Blue Heron and learn about "Potential Sources of Cyanobacteria in Lake Superior.

The scientists and staff of UMD's Large Lakes Observatory (LLO) invite the public to board and tour the Blue Heron research vessel on Friday, August 30, docked near the Great Lakes Aquarium, 353 Harbor Drive.

This LLO Science on Deck event is free and takes place from 12 noon-4 pm. Graduate students and staff will be on hand to answer questions about fresh water research.

The Presentation
At 3:15 pm, LLO fresh water researcher Kaitlin Reinl will give a free talk entitled "Potential Sources of Cyanobacteria in Lake Superior.” Reinl is a PhD candidate in UMD's Water Resources Science program. and she is writing her Ph.D. dissertation on Lake Superior's blue-green algae. 

"The yummies for cyanobacteria, such as blue-green algae, are warm water, nitrogen and phosphorous," she says. It's a big concern because Lake Superior is getting warmer and extreme water events, like recent floods, are creating ideal conditions for algal growth.

Reinl belongs to a team assembled by Robert Sterner, a researcher and the director of the Large Lakes Observatory. The team conducts a bi-weekly sampling on land and at the mooring site. "We are paying attention to the land/lake connection," Reinl says. "We know the influx is coming from the coastal lakes and rivers, and it can be a potential source of cyanobacteria. We have to be extra vigilant with our work because, as we have seen in other bodies of water in the U.S., blue-green algae can become toxic."

Reinl does more than observe the lake. She brings all of the components into the lab. She is attempting to replicate conditions to determine the exact situations favorable to blue-green algal growth. "Our research indicates that cells exist in rivers," she says. "The rivers have conditions that are not suitable for growth, and when those cells reach the warmer waters and higher light levels in the nearshore, cyanobacteria may grow. We still don’t know with absolute certainty that this is the main process leading to the appearance of blooms in Lake Superior."

About the Blue Heron
The R/V Blue Heron is part of the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) and is chartered by research scientists to explore any of the Great Lakes. These tours are offered on a monthly basis during the sailing season (about five times a year). LLO began hosting the LLO Science on Deck program in the spring of 2013.

Located on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth, LLO is the only institute in the country dedicated to the study of large lakes throughout the world. They focus on the global implications of investigations in the areas of aquatic chemistry, circular dynamics, geochemistry, acoustic remote sensing, plankton dynamics, sedimentology and paleoclimatology.

Learn more: About UMD's Large Lakes Observatory.

About Swenson College of Science and Engineering

About UMD's Chemistry and Biochemistry program

Photo above: Kaitlin Reinl points to an enlarged image of blue-green algae.