The 20th Annual Science night was Thursday, March 20th at the Cambridge campus in room G202. The room was full with eager adults as well as children.
The topic was “Minnesotans and Waters: Insights into This Essential Relationship.” Our host was Jared Trost, a USGS Hydrologist who worked with the Cedar Creek Ecosystem from 2001-2008. Trost works with White Bear Lake on groundwater contamination. Fun fact about Jared Trost: he and his uncle won a snow sculpture contest last January. They sculpted a bee and a honey comb. He showed pictures and the sculpture looked awesome! Trost really loves water of all forms!
Trost started out the program by educating the audience on how groundwater and surface water are one source. Surface water is considered water that collects on the surface of the ground and groundwater is considered the water below the land surface. The USGS was asked to look into the reason there has been low lake levels in White Bear Lake consistently observed since 2003. The USGS coordinated their research with the Minnesota DNR, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the White Bear Lake Conservation District and watershed organizations to conduct a study to examine groundwater and surface interactions through 2011. During 2010 and 2011, White Bear Lake and area lakes were at historically low levels.
White Bear Lake is a lake that is a “closed basin,” meaning that it depends on precipitation to fill it up. The present decline in lake levels started in 2003, the lake needs 4 inches or more a year of precipitation to sustain lake levels. There are two major aquifers under White Bear Lake, The Praire du Chien Group aquifer and the Jordan Sandstone aquifer. The researchers used depth measurements on the White Bear Lake and stable isotopes to explain low lake levels. Using stable isotopic ratios is similar to DNA fingerprinting to identify sources and mixtures of water.
The conclusions of the study was higher, regional, municipal pumping and lower precipitation explains the low lake levels. More groundwater was pumped as development increased in the area from 1940-2010. The USGS will continue to monitor the White Bear Lake levels and which wells are impacting lake levels.
Other topics that were covered during Science night were Nitrogen fertilizer and water quality, Trost stated that Minnesota is the sixth highest contributor of nitrogen source to the Gulf of Mexico, from farming runoff, and lawn fertilizer of residential lawns and golf courses.
A surprise to me was that oil travels through Minnesota. Trost mentioned that 13% of the nation’s oil supply travels through Minnesota. Trost notes, “There’s always going to be oil moving across Minnesota.” Trost mentioned the Bemidji Crude Oil Spill Research Site, which is the site of an oil spill in 1979 northwest of Bemidji. The research by the USGS on the site began in 1983, which includes oil eating microbes.
Science solved the “Disappearing Water Trick” in White Bear Lake, and man was behind the trick, at least partially in this case. Jared Trost emphasizes, “Minnesotans value water.” He ended his program with the goal of the USGS. Trost endorses, “The goal is to protect ecosystems, and to use water without causing future problems.” With California’s drought forcing the state to reconsider water as a scarce commodity, the White Bear Lake example shows how easily water can be consumed and not replenished.
Science Night is a needed, essential, night for all ages. I am a going to be there for every Science night, and so should you.