Reserve Data Punches Above Its Weight

Aug 9, 2023

Sampling Old Woman Creek using a sonde, which contains several water quality sensors.

It all started with a conversation about a buoy. Last year, Lake Superior Reserve staff reached out to the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) to deploy a buoy that would help them better understand the water quality impacts of the St. Louis River Estuary on Lake Superior, and vice versa. Now, data from the Lake Superior and Old Woman Creek Reserves is available across the Great Lakes Region.

The St. Louis River is the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior and was also one of the region’s more troubled waterways—it is the second largest area of concern in the country, although clean-up efforts are expected to be completed around 2029. The area where the St. Louis meets Lake Superior is also home to the Superior-Duluth Harbor, one of the largest freshwater ports in the world.

As harmful algal blooms and other climate-related threats emerge in Lake Superior, better monitoring of this area is critical. Over the past year, GLOS worked with the Reserve to cost-share the buoy, using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds. The buoy will deploy in spring 2024 and live data will be available on Seagull.

“Developing this partnership between GLOS and the NERRS in the Great Lakes has been so exciting,” says Kait Reinl, research coordinator at the Lake Superior Reserve. “We’ve worked together to find ways to support each other’s missions. It’s a great example of how collaborative efforts can enhance and amplify the impacts of our work.” 

This collaboration also has created a pathway for data from the System-Wide Monitoring Program to be more widely available in the Great Lakes.

The new buoy will monitor the nearshore area just east of the entry to Superior-Duluth Harbor. See other Lake Superior monitoring stations on Seagull.

Both Reserves are working with the GLOS team to share the real-time weather and water quality data that Reserves collect into Seagull.

“[Connecting to Seagull] really expands potential use and impact of our data, and it is also a great opportunity for outreach, since Seagull is an intuitive, easy-to-use tool for multiple audiences,” says Hannah Ramage, System-Wide Monitoring program coordinator at the Lake Superior Reserve.

“We hope that by connecting with Seagull, we will be able to make other researchers aware of our monitoring efforts and share our data with other researchers, managers, and agencies within the region,” said Jacob Cianci-Gaskill, System-Wide Monitoring Program Coordinator at the Old Woman Creek Reserve.

Today, two Lake Superior platforms and seven Old Woman Creek platforms share real-time data via Seagull. Now that the initial integration is complete, both Reserves plan to add more real-time data to Seagull.

“Thanks to the support from Congress, Reserves are contributing to data monitoring throughout the Great Lakes region,” says Rebecca Roth, NERRA’s executive director. “These funds have enabled the expansion of the Lake Superior Reserve’s monitoring capabilities, which will help us better understand this very dynamic and economically important resource.”

“It’s been amazing to discover the capabilities of GLOS and to develop this partnership,” says Deanna Erickson, director of the Lake Superior Reserve. “Sharing our water quality data on Seagull allows our work to be discoverable throughout the Great Lakes, whether you’ve heard of a National Estuarine Research Reserve or not!” Discover data from Lake Superior and Old Woman Creek.

Lake Superior Reserve staff received their buoy earlier this spring.

A version of this story was originally shared by the Great Lakes Observing System on their blog. Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

What We Work ForClean WaterReserve Data Punches Above Its Weight