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Water Lines

The Stories of a Changing Lake

Lake Mendota is often called “the most researched lake in the world,” a name it gets from being one of the birthplaces of limnology, the study of freshwater. Humans have called this area home for more than 12,000 years, with effigy mounds first altering the landscape as early as 800 B.C.E. But since European settlement in the early 1800s, cities and agriculture have rapidly grown along Mendota’s shores, dramatically altering the ecology of this body of water.

Scientists have documented the ecological changes of Mendota for a long time, from water quality to the diversity of fish, to the smells given off in the heat of summer. This data paints a portrait of what happens to waterways amidst human development. As I research for a longform piece in the fall, I’m excited to blog about the intriguing stories and tidbits I find along the way. 

From smelly algae (which isn’t actually algae) to the long tail of the invasive Spiny Water Flea, Water Lines explores the historical changes this lake has undergone. These stories encourage us to look past our lifetime and recognize the timeframes in which environmental changes occur.

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About the Author & Project

Julia Buskirk has always loved lakes, but after doing research for the Center for Limnology at Trout Lake Station last summer, she is particularly interested in the stories science tells about them. As a Conservation Biology and English double major, she looks forward to bringing these stories outside of a scientific realm and sharing them with anyone who cares about our water.


Thanks to UW-Madison's Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Fellowship for funding this project, to Joshua Calhoun (Assoc. Prof., English Department; Affiliate Faculty, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies), & to the Holding History program for hosting this bookish, bloggish conversation about waterways.

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