Winter Grab found lots of life below Lake Superior ice
The early reveal on World Water Day found many living creatures.
DULUTH — Readers might remember the story we ran in February about the Winter Grab, the cooperative effort of scientists from 18 institutions in the U.S. and Canada, including universities and government agencies, who fanned out in 12 teams last month across the lakes — toting ice augers and wearing safety float suits — to grab as much data as possible during the coldest, iciest time of year.
The entire project is headed by University of Minnesota Duluth Large Lakes Observatory scientist Ted Ozersky.
Well the data collected, namely a lot of water samples, is still being packaged up and sent to labs across all eight institutions for analysis in what is the largest winter research project ever on the Great Lakes. But some early peeking by researcher Kirill Shchapov at the Large Lakes Observatory revealed some interesting observations.
“One thing I can tell you is that Lake Superior zooplankton, and phytoplankton, are very abundant in winter,” Shchapov said. “There’s still a lot of stuff going on down there under the ice.”
The ample zooplankton are a good thing, a sign of a healthy lake ecosystem, although scientists aren’t sure how the small creatures — the backbone of the food chain for fish — behave in winter, thus the Winter Grab.
Shchapov revealed his very preliminary findings Tuesday, World Water Day, aimed at drawing attention to the needs of millions of people who struggle to find clean water every day. The Great Lakes hold over 5,400 cubic miles of water, accounting for about 21% of the world's surface freshwater. And Lake Superior holds 2,900 cubic miles, or 3 quadrillion gallons, accounting for more than 50% of the water in the Great Lakes.