Grace Wilkinson’s Twitter Takeover

Grace Wilkinson, a limnologist, ecosystem ecologist and assistant professor at Iowa State University, took charge of our Twitter account on March 27th for our #TwitterTakeover series. She shared her experiences on her group research projects and statewide water quality monitoring programs.

Wilkinson starts her #TwitterTakeover by making sure everyone knows what limnology is (the study of inland waters, FYI). She explains further that limnology is the basis of understanding the physical, chemical and biological components of rivers, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, etc. Wilkinson also has a research emphasis on links between lakes and the landscape.

Wilkinson and her lab group monitor over 130 lakes and reservoirs in Iowa. They measure the concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, algae, zooplankton, stratification and even more. This summer marks the 21st anniversary of the Iowa Ambient Lake Monitoring program.  This program consists of Iowa State University students preparing to be limnologists that collect data from each 130+ lakes through the months May-September. The data that is found is used for listing and reporting lakes as a part of the federal Clean Water Act, as well as for additional research. All of this data is open to the public, and you can access it here.

Wilkinson’s research team also partners with the United States Army Corps to monitor the Des Moines River and its key reservoirs. This has been an ongoing program for over 45 years, with continuous data collection all year. She explains that long-term data is crucial to understand ecosystems and how they change over time. Her team published a paper revolving around the Des Moines River data to shed light on the importance of wavy patterns in aquatic ecosystems – you can read the paper here.

Since her research group is commonly referenced, Wilkinson took the time to highlight the group members and what they are studying.

First, we have Ellen Albright, a PhD student studying the mechanisms that control internal P loading in shallow lakes that are often found in Iowa. This field of interest helps guide in-lake management interventions, including alum application, dredging, fishery renovations and more.

Next, there is Tyler Butts, a PhD student studying the understanding of how a food web structure mediates the response of algae to changes in the environment that could potentially alter biomass. This can be caused by a big storm or an event similar. Butts is also one of the 2020 Iowa Water Center Grant Recipients for his research on the relationship between food web structure and ecosystem resilience, as well as how food web structure affects greenhouse gas flux.

Here is a little insight into the projects Butts has done in the past:

Finally, Quin Shingai, a master’s student studying cryptic fluxes of microcystin, is the last lab research group member. Microcystin is a cyanotoxin that can lead to human exposure. For those that don’t know, a cyanotoxin is a type of toxin produced by bacteria that can be found almost anywhere, but specifically in lakes and oceans. Shingai is interested in the absorption of microcystin to sediment particles that could be resuspended in shallow waters, such as beaches.

You can follow Grace’s personal Twitter account, @goodgracious23, Ellen’s personal Twitter account, @limnoellen, Tyler’s personal Twitter account, @Eco_Butts, Quin’s personal Twitter account, @Shingai_Science, and of course, the Iowa Water Center account, @IowaWaterCenter, to stay updated with recent news and events happening in the Water World.