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Snapshots From Lake Itasca

Itasca station biologist Lesley Knoll launches a social media campaign to document lakes daily. 

Lesley Knoll, station biologist at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories, is taking her love of photography and science to the world of social media. She recently launched the #lake365 project. The goal: to take a photo of Lake Itasca from the same spot each day for a year. By using the #lake365 hashtag and encouraging others to do the same, Knoll hopes she can not only share her appreciation in the study of lakes, but also connect with others globally in an effort to further their knowledge in limnology. We recently caught up with Knoll for more information on the project. It's working. Fellow social media users in locations around the world have taken up the challenge.


What inspired you to start this project?

I work at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories and my office overlooks Lake Itasca. I take lake photos all the time and I thought it would be fun to take a photo everyday (I work) in the same spot for one year both for the beauty of it, but also for science communication. I can use the video (gif) to show lake phenology. Phenology can be described as nature’s calendar. For example, when do maple leaves turn color in the fall or when do lady slippers bloom? Phenology can also be used for a lake. You might use it in a lake to document the date of ice breakup or wild rice growth. Studies have shown that average ice breakup dates in the Northern Hemisphere are now earlier than they were in the past. I will document only one year of a lake, but I can use the video as an interesting visual to complement discussions on long-term trends in ice cover in Minnesota.

This became a bigger project while I was at the GLEON (Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network, annual meeting in November 2017. A colleague of mine, Sarah Princiotta, and I decided to make this happen for at least our two lakes (her lake is in Kentucky, mine in Minnesota). We also wanted to involve others and toward the end of 2017, we sent it out to the Twitter world with the #lake365 hashtag. There are at least 15 lakes in nine states and five countries (USA, France, Ireland, Italy, and Norway) participating. Many of the people involved are part of GLEON. GLEON is a grassroots group of lake scientists in countries all over the world with the common goal of understanding, predicting and communicating the role and response of lakes in a changing global environment. I can imagine the #lake365 effort becoming a science communication tool used by many GLEON scientists since we are capturing such a diverse group of lakes and geographical areas.

How did you decide on a spot?

My spot is practical and I think it is also aesthetically pleasing! The location is just steps from my office. From this vantage point, you can see Lake Itasca’s shoreline and the edge of Schoolcraft Island.

What have you noticed so far?

Since the lake is covered with about two feet of ice right now most of the daily changes I am noticing are related to weather and ice fishing. I have observed and captured snow whipping around the lake on windy days, interesting snow formations after these windy days, sundogs (halos around the sun), the large number of beautiful blue skies we tend to have on our many January and February subzeros days, and lots of ice houses coming and going. One morning was also special because we had a great view of the super blue blood moon total lunar eclipse.  


March, 2018