The Great Lakes have often served as a topic of investigation for researchers. However, most of the time studies take place during the warmer months. Recognizing this, scientists are now taking a rare look underneath the Great Lakes as they are frozen.
ABC News reports scientists are now observing the frozen Great Lakes, with many going to Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. Several U.S. and Canadian universities and government agencies sent dozens of crews to scour the lakes. Known as the “Winter Grab,” the trips intend to boost knowledge of the lakes. Specifically, researchers aim to learn what happens when they are partially or completely frozen over with ice.
Don Uzarski, director of Central Michigan University’s Institute for Great Lakes Research, oversaw sampling and provided the rationale for the research. Lake scientists long thought aquatic activity greatly slowed in the winter months, but now they think more is going on than previously believed.
“All of these different components of the ecosystem … we always measured during the summertime, but we really don’t know what’s taking place out there in the wintertime at all,” Uzarski said.“You can’t take half the puzzle and figure out what it looks like. You have to put the whole thing together.”
Though you may not initially have thought this, the Winter Grab came about with a sense of urgency. Research discovered Great Lakes ice cover has steadily been shrinking since the 1970s. As the climate heats up, ice could become increasingly rare and may have ripple effects beyond things like ice fishing.
For example, Uzarski stated without ice, there is more winter evaporation. If that lost water isn’t replaced by rain or snow, lake levels will drop. If this happens, it may affect the entire ecosystem, including wetlands, nutrient concentrations, and fish.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Contributed $230 Million to Stop Carp from Invading Great Lakes
The Winter Grab isn’t the only effort regarding the Great Lakes’ ecosystem occurring recently. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also set aside nearly $230 million to prevent carp from invading the Great Lakes.
Field and Stream states it’s part of an $858 million project designed to stop Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it will donate $226 million to build an array of technological barriers. This includes an air-bubble curtain, a flushing lock, an electric barrier, and an underwater acoustic fish deterrent. The amount also allows the project to complete preconstruction.
Though seemingly harmless, the Asian carp present a significant threat to the area. They consume huge amounts of food and reproduce swiftly. If left to their own devices, they could drastically change local ecosystems and it could prove disastrous.
Nonetheless, this project will take several years to complete. Those involved suspect it won’t be finished until 2030 at the earliest.