For Teachers

Background on Limnology

What is limnology? Limnology is often defined as the study of inland lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands (see Stanley Dodson's Introduction to Limnology for more background on the history of limnology.) E. A. Birge, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the earliest pioneers of the science of limnology. In fact, some of the instruments and sampling devices that Birge and some of his students invented more than 100 years ago are similar to some of the same ones that limnologists use today.














Learn about the early history of limnology and research of the North Temperate Lakes LTER program on the website of the Center for Limnology. See a large collection of historical photos from the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.


Today, North Temperate Lakes LTER, is part of a research network doing long-term ecological research in 26 different ecological systems Did you know that there are over 1800 scientists in the long-term ecological research network.


How is long-term ecological research different from other kinds of scientific research? It's long-term! It's still science. LTER scientists do research that includes observations and experiments like other scientists. The difference is that long-term ecological research tries to ask questions about what happens to ecological systems, like lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands over long-term periods, like decades. North Temperate Lakes LTER Scientists also do research to try to determine what causes some of the changes that we observe.

For example, did you know that Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin was covered with ice for 161 days of the year in the winter of 1881? That's a little more than 5 months! And in the winter of 2002, Lake Mendota was only covered with ice for a mere 21 days. That's less than a month! By looking at records of ice cover beginning in the 1850's and going through to the present, we know that there has been a trend or a pattern of decreasing number of days of ice cover in the winter. Will this continue? Will there be a winter when Lake Mendota is not covered with ice? Only time and long-term ecological research will tell. For more about this story, see the CNN archives




Let's meet some North Temperate Lakes LTER Scientists! Go to the individual websites of our Principal Investigators to learn more about the research of some of the North Temperate Lakes LTER scientists.

You can also read about some of the major findings from research of North Temperate Lakes LTER scientists at in our Research Highlights.

The North Temperate Lakes SchoolYard Limnology Explorers program is part of the National Science Foundation's SchoolYard LTER Program. The North Temperate Lakes Limnology Explorers program provides opportunities and educational materials for K-12 students, for K-12 teachers, for science educators, for families, and for the general public.




Resources for Teachers

Inquiry based learning in the classroom

Teachers can help children develop conceptions of the role and functions of questions, supporting evidence, and convincing argument. We trace the development of skills of scientific inquiry in a classroom where students designed sustainable aquatic environments and attempted to account for their successes (and failures). (download pdf)

This paper describes research on how to motivate students to ask scientifically productive questions and provides background for teachers for classroom applications. (download pdf)

Pond Study Curriculum

Most teachers include some form of field study in their curriculum. Many teachers use pond investigations. We created a set of resources for teachers to use with their students that incorporate longer-term field and laboratory investigations of aquatic systems. These resources may be used as a series of investigations beginning in the fall and continuing over several class periods throughout the entire year or teachers may selectively use parts. The resources include background, a bibliography, recommendations for classroom use, worksheets that may be directly used or modified, and rubrics for assessment. Download zip folder.

Opportunities for Teachers

Professional Development

North Temperate Lakes Limnology Explorers in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Biology Education offer professional development workshops and or courses for K-12 teachers that combine ecological research with classroom practice that emphasizes students asking and investigating their own questions about ecological systems at or near their school. Download slide show that describes our professional development model and research on student learning from a case study in one of our participating schools.

Research Experiences for Teachers

NTL scientists at the Trout Lake Biological Field Station and at UW-Madison routinely host teachers in their research group. Research Experiences for Teachers participants typically spend part of their summer actively conducting research and developing instructional materials related to their research, followed by academic year field-testing in their schools. Contact Dr. Robert Bohanan if you're interested in learning more about this opportunity.








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