The time I spent attending Lake Ecology at the Flathead Lake Biological Station (FLBS) has outlined my global theme and challenge very well while being a part of the Franke GLI program. My global theme, resources and sustainability has proven to be directly related to lake ecology and limnology on the basis of water being one of the most abundant resources on earth, but freshwater being one of the most scarce. This brings me to my chosen challenge of water availability, cleanliness, and overall ecosystem health.
When I first arrived at the FLBS, the Elmo 2 fire was engulfing the West side of Flathead Lake. Fire retardant agents filled with nutrients were of immediate concern to me as I watched the purple and red hued gasses falling from planes darting quickly and close to the water’s edge. As my two weeks progressed I learned how nutrients filter through aquatic ecological systems based on the ecological efficiency of the area you are reviewing. Luckily there are many precautions in place to ensure very little runoff from fire retardants makes it into water bodies within close proximity. The Flathead lake is actually a very nutrient limited limnological system, which is apparent when one notices the crystal clear water quality. I feel lucky to have experienced first hand the beauty of the Flathead while at the same time witnessing a human induced disaster billowing across the horizon because of the perspective it gave me on the amount of change a single stochastic event could have on such systems whether they are resilient or not. Freshwater ecosystems are the home-base of much of the primary production of the West when you begin to look at the trophic food chain beginning with algal photosynthesis making it an incredibly important resource to maintain sustainable nutrient filtering and trophic efficiency.
Regarding leadership, I have found that it is important when working out in the field to maintain a level of leadership for your own safety and productivity, as well as the groups. Being able to find the balance between speaking up and listening during preparing for a field trip, collecting samples, or sorting through data is indeed a leadership skill I have become more comfortable with. In my opinion everyone in my class was a leader in some form during the duration of this two week course, and once this dynamic became the norm, we all worked much more efficiently.
One of the most memorable moments I had during my time at the FLBS was witnessing the first sediment core being taken from the Flathead. This core was somewhat difficult for the scientists to extract due to winds, lack of suction, and weight variances of the messenger which knocked the core into place. With this sample, we can possibly look five hundred years or more into the past and decipher the different events that contributed to differing sediment layering. FLBS offers incredible opportunities for students, interns, and the community. My only regret is not taking more credits on station this summer. I want to thank everyone who made this happen for me in the GLI program, especially Bill and Carolyn Franke and the whole Franke family. Hopefully I can come back and conduct some of my own research one day!