By Jessica Montez
PhD Candidate, Freshwater and Marine Sciences at the Center for Limnology
Faculty advisor: Emily Stanley, Professor, Integrative Biology
Luke Loken is a hydrologic research technician for the USGS Wisconsin Water Science Center and concurrently pursuing a PhD in Freshwater and Marine Sciences in Emily Stanley’s lab at the Center for Limnology. He and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin developed a new tool to better understand aquatic ecosystems. Their device is a boat-mounted water sampling system that continuously measures surface waters as they maneuver around lakes or rivers. In this fashion they create maps of water chemistry, highlighting the variability of our freshwater ecosystems. Loken and colleagues took their device to the Mississippi River (850 miles) and found that most of the river acts as a passive transporter and does little to remove nitrogen before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.
Additionally, Loken has investigated Lake Mendota, and his research shows that the lake edges and other shallow environments contribute disproportionately to greenhouse gas emissions from the lake to the atmosphere. As a result of a UW2020 award funded by WARF, Loken and colleagues are partnering with engineers at the UW Physical Sciences Lab to advance the Fast Limnological Automated Measurements or FLAMe platform. Their newest model has an integrated data acquisition system to improve data visualization to more rapidly troubleshoot problems and to illuminate aquatic areas of interest. They hope to make the FLAMe more accessible to researchers across the state and ultimately improve our understanding of Wisconsin’s freshwaters