Water News from Near and Far

Student Summer Research Opportunity on Lake Champlain!

The University of Vermont is offering a 10-week summer internship for research on Lake Champlain. The program is open to any full-time undergraduate student from any institution with an expected graduation date later than June 2016. Applications are due February 5. The program is particularly interested in students from schools with limited research opportunities of their own. High school seniors entering undergraduate study (2-year or 4-year programs) in Fall 2016 are also welcome to apply. Students will participate in an interdisciplinary cooperative model that promotes integrated thinking across disciplines within and between the natural and social sciences. Funding for the internships is provided by the National Science Foundation. The program offers a stipend of $5,250 plus housing, a food allowance, and limited travel funds. Ten students will be selected to participate. 


The article on sex-switching bass in LCC's last Enews generated attention from the local media. Staff Scientist Mike Winslow was interviewed on the live WCAX show, The :30. In the five minute interview he discussed what sex switching is, what chemicals in our lives might be causing it, what is the significance to the fishery, and how common is this phenomenon. The full interview is available on the WCAX website. 

Rescued Loon Released on Champlain

The Biodiversity Research Institute's Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation conducted five rescues of trapped loons in the first week of January alone, according to the Lake Placid News. Rescues were needed for three birds that got trapped in freezing lakes, a young bird that accidentally landed on a road mistaking it for a river, and a bird that had been ensnared by fishing line during the summer. One of the birds trapped in an icy lake was in the process of molting and unable to fly; the other two lacked sufficient open water to take-off. The birds trapped in freezing lakes were released in Lake Champlain.  

Thanks to the Biodiversity Research Institute for saving these magnificent birds and adding to the Lake Champlain loon population!

E(e)rie Waves

David Sanford is a professional photographer who makes a living by providing sports images, a job he has been doing for over 18 years. Photography is also his passion, and in his free time he heads toward water to capture images of the liquid. In late-November he was on Lake Erie photographing waves. Check out his photos of surreal and massive waves that were published recently at the Washington Post

Global Fish Harvest Higher Than Expected

Global estimates of how many fish are caught each year woefully underestimate the impacts of commercial fishing according to a paper recently published in Nature Communications. The researchers, led by Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, used results from peer-reviewed research, interviews with local specialists and consumption information from population surveys to estimate the fisheries take for each country and compared their results to official estimates from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO produces the only official statistics for fisheries catches, but they rely upon data supplied from each country.

Pauly and his team came up with higher estimates of catch in country after country. In total they suggest the fish take is 30 to 40% higher than official estimates. Both the FAO and Pauly’s team agree fish take has declined in recent years. This may be evidence of declining stocks in the oceans due to over-fishing.

In a statement, the FAO noted that it has some “technical reservations” about the trends identified, but “agrees with the basic conclusions of the paper: catch statistics (including estimates of additional sources of removals) can and should be improved, and this requires additional funding and international collaboration and country commitment”.

Record Heat in 2015

Some records endure the test of time. The world record for the fastest mile has stood for 17 years. The largest smallmouth bass from Lake Champlain was caught in 1978. Records for the hottest year on the planet on the other hand, don’t seem to last very long. Last year, 2015, set the new record for hottest year ever recorded, eclipsing the previous record which had been set just one year earlier. NASA reported that 2015 was officially 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 degrees Celsius) hotter than 2014, a sharp increase for a record in which annual variation is normally measured in the hundredths of a degree.

Fifteen of the 16 hottest years on record have now occurred in this century, according to NASA. Ten of the twelve months of 2015 set new records. January and April were the only exceptions. Warmer temperatures are one of the driving factors behind an increase in blue-green algae blooms around the world.

The record was spurred by the massive El Niño that developed in 2015. The term El Niño refers to large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific. The last really large El Niño occurred in 1998, a year that also set a record for warmth. However, the 1998 record has since been topped five or six times (depending on who’s keeping the records). The 2015 El Niño has persisted into 2016.

Not everywhere on the globe experienced warmer temperatures. A portion of the North Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland was below average for the year. Scientists wonder if this might herald a change in ocean circulation.