Inland Waters of Wisconsin – Looking Back to Inform our Future

June 4, 2020

Lake Mendota has welcomed visitors and residents of the area for centuries and is said to be one of the most studied lakes in the world. It is also where the science of limnology had its North American beginnings in the early 1900s. Over the years, Wisconsin’s inland waters have been explored and analyzed, supplying a wealth of data researchers use to address questions about fisheries, invasive species, climate change, pollutants, harmful algal blooms, and other issues related to lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwaters.

Although research began much earlier, a major project funded by the National Science Foundation is a continuing 40-year study of lakes near the University’s two field research stations, The AD Hasler Laboratory on Lake Mendota and the Trout Lake Station in Vilas County. As the work to study and protect our fresh inland waters continues into the future, the need became apparent that the program’s visual and auditory records, also, needed to be preserved and made available for people to view, listen to, and use for their research.

With funds granted from the Friends, the Center for Limnology has been able to hire archival students from the Information School to work on this digital preservation project for the last several years. The result is a movie constructed from audio visual archives which provides firsthand glimpses of activities and thoughts of students and faculty from earlier years, revealing both the changes that have occurred as well as what has stayed the same. The movie includes early clips from the 1950’s of students working on Lake Mendota, a 1960s interview of the late Professor Art Hasler about his homing of salmon research, 1970s winter footage from the Limnology’s “Trout Lake Station, and some recent clips that include previous Center Directors John Magnuson and Steve Carpenter, as well as Richard Lathrop, research limnologist for the Wisconsin DNR for four decades.

The film, tapes, and videos that went into this project had been gathering dust in the back of a hall closet in some cases for 70 years. Last year, i-School student Victoria Rose Findlay was able to complete this, the Center’s first digital movie. She organized the materials to be digitized, interacted with the campus digital conversion people, developed the metadata, and organized and backed up the digital files on center hard drives. Yet only a small portion of the digitized archival collection was used. “We are delighted with the results of these students’ hard work,” observed John Magnuson. “History of a science is not complete without the views and voices of the participants who shaped and did the science. Text can only take us part of the way. This film provides a glimpse of the people, their actions, and their words.”

Take a moment to enjoy a glimpse into our research at the Center for Limnology!

Views and Sounds from our History: Center for Limnology Archives