GLRC using new techniques to research under the ice

GLRC using new techniques to research under the ice

Even though the vast majority of Lake Superior is frozen, researchers are continuing their attempts to see what’s under those giant sheets of ice.

The Great Lakes Research Center is comprised of faculty from eight different departments and three different colleges within Michigan Tech.

With such a wide range of skills and abilities, GLRC Director Guy Meadows said it gives them a distinct advantage over most places.

“We do that so that we’re able to attract and conquer the toughest problems that face the Great Lakes,” he said.  “So we bring expertise from a wide variety of areas to focus on these very difficult problems.”

One of the issues is most of the lake is covered in thick sheets of ice.  Some pieces of battery-powered equipment cannot stay underwater for too long and need to be removed.

The inability to use the university research boats to go out and get information, leads the center to come up with other methods to retrieve measurements.

Currently, a video camera just off the dock of the center sends a live online video feed to researchers that includes certain measurements.

Meadows said it is very helpful during this time of the year.  “One of our major goals here is to try to remedy that situation and have year-round measurements and the only way to do that is essentially from the bottom looking up.”

Invasive species is another issue facing the Great Lakes.  While the problems deal mostly with plants, Professor Charles Kerfoot said they can get samples of the water just by drilling holes in the ice.

“We can take sediment samples and document the history of the lakes and the shoreline and how its been effected by exotic species,” he said.

But one big thing that brings researchers across the country to the GLRC is that it provides information on testing methods for these kinds of weather conditions, without having to go to places like Alaska or even Antarctica.