The 2022 annual report is now available! We’ve had another productive year that ended with a number of publications coming online around the same time. We added a new team member, James, who is sampling our wetlands as part of the H2Ohio Wetlands Monitoring Program. In the coming year, we continue to grow and anticipate adding a postdoctoral research associate and a new research technician to our team. At this time, we’re in the middle of finishing up quality control and assessment on the 2022 HTLP data and calculating nutrient loads. That being said, the 2023 loading season for HABs in the western Lake Erie basin has also officially started (early season projections will start in May and the seasonal forecast is planned for June 29). Our plan for the remainder of 2023 is the same as every year, and that’s to sample on!
As we end 2021 and enter 2022, I’d like to share some lab updates… this time in the form of a short annual report! As you’ll see in the report, we’ve had a productive year and are looking forward to some new projects picking up steam over the next year. Our team has changed some over the past 2 years but we’re now a well-oiled machine and I’m thankful every day to have such great folks at the NCWQR.
The NCWQR had to say goodbye to our founder, Dr. David Baker, on Saturday. His accomplishments have been well summarized already here, and here, and here, andhere. Furthermore, a 255 page history of the lab was graciously written by Dr. Ken Baker in 2019 to help celebrate the lab’s 50th anniversary. As written to his family on Saturday, Dave Baker will forever be missed, but is also our constant inspiration to do more and always ask “I wonder if…”As long as the NCWQR continues to exist, so does the spirit of Dave Baker.
In this post, I would like to expand on this sentiment and reflect on how Dave has affected my life and will continue to do so. I joined the NCWQR 8 years ago as a research scientist to help Dave complete a few on-going projects that he started in the mid 2000s to better understand why dissolved phosphorus increased in the western Lake Erie tributaries and how to reduce those levels. It should be noted that these projects were started after Dave’s first retirement, and overlapped with his term as an interim director. Compared to most people in the lab, I’ve known Dave for a fairly short amount of time, however, I was able to interact with him closely on these projects and was lucky to see his thinking towards science and data.
Dave toed the line between being remarkably humble (he would be the first to say he didn’t have a degree in a field of water science and he didn’t have a strong statistical background) with being stalwart about the findings in the data and brave to show those data in sticky situations. He was able to analyze vast quantities of data in ways that were equally simple and yet ingenious. He was so familiar with these datasets that if other people analyzed lab data in a paper or presentation, he could tell immediately if they did something wrong without even having to look anything up. In fact, we are all a little worse off than we were before without having Dave around to apply his creative thinking to the world of water. I, for one, will miss having the opportunity to hear his thoughts on new papers or proposals, reports and guidelines to improve water quality, and his brainstorming on the next thing we should be studying.
It’s a unique type of grief I think, being in the position I’m in. I’ve essentially inherited Dave’s Water Quality Lab and while the team we have working in the lab currently along with our past director, Ken Krieger, are a wonderful support system, it somehow feels a bit more lonely without Dave. Furthermore, I am no Dave Baker. I share his enthusiasm for our work, but I don’t have his way of thinking, I have my own. The NCWQR these days is a little bit different than in past years. Much of the team that had been around for many years have retired since I joined the lab in 2013- Pete, Ken, Jack, Dave, Ellen, and Barb, and most recently, Rem started a new position with NIBIO in Norway. But when you think about the fundamentals of what we are doing to this day- how we collect samples, what we measure, and at what frequency- these are the same projects that Dave envisioned and Jack actualized in the early 1970s.
This year brings a lot of changes for the NCWQR. Ellen and Barb, our two longest term employees retired at the end of August. Their talent and dedication to the NCWQR is what made us one of the best water quality labs around! We already miss them both greatly but know that they are enjoying not having to panic during every storm.
Slideshow of Ellen and Barb from then to now
With that, I’d like to introduce our three new field & lab technicians! Taylor Fulton joined us in mid-August, Emily Clark at the beginning of September, and Kevin Jones in mid-September.
Taylor recently graduated from Kent State University with a BS in Environmental Conservation Biology and worked as an undergraduate researcher in a soil ecology lab and an ecotoxicology & biogeochemistry lab.
Emily is also a recent graduate, but from Bowling Green State University with a B.S. in Environmental Science. As an undergraduate she worked in a water chemistry lab and did an REU at U of Toledo on respiration rates of artic soils.
Kevin returned to Ohio to join the lab after a couple years of water monitoring in Florida at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Prior to that he worked for a couple of summers in the water chemistry lab at OSU Stone Lab and was a fish observer in Alaska. He graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.S. in Chemistry and Marine Science.
All three have experiences that are a great fit for the NCWQR and we’re so happy they all decided to join our team!
And so, our new year’s resolution will be the same as every year… sample on!
What weird times we’re living in right now! I can say, up until this week, 2020 has been an especially busy year. We’ve had at least 6 storm events in the past 6 weeks, which has kept the lab very busy with lots of muddy samples. As of March 1st we officially entered the spring loading season for the Lake Erie bloom forecast, so it can stop raining any day now!
Since the last update, I’ve been to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln to give a seminar and meet with our collaborators at the Water Science Laboratory (watch here). Nate gave a talk at the Great Lakes Symposium at the Toledo Zoo for an audience of a couple hundred middle and high school students from multiple Toledo-area schools. We also went to the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada in early March for a talk on the 2019 results and heard lots of updates from the edge-of-field research and other agroecosystem research. I’m also happy to report that the 2019 loads are complete for each of our stations. It took a bit longer this year, in part because of the record-high number of stations we are running! Monitoring 23 stations is a big task and we’ve been doing a great job of providing high-quality data for each of these.
The Sandusky River Watershed Coalition had a great News and Brews event in February featuring Ray Grob to chat about his experiences on the Sandusky River. In addition, supplies to start stenciling storm drains have been acquired and are available for people who need volunteer activities. These were tested a couple weekends ago around Tiffin.
A big congratulations to our post-doc, Tian Guo, for starting a new position with the National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory and Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering at Purdue University last week. She will be missed, but luckily in our line of work, we can continue to collaborate!
And now for the updates regarding COVID-19 and the Ohio Stay-at-Home order… You may have heard the news that the Heidelberg campus will be closed after Sunday for the rest of the semester and that all classes have moved online. Aaron and Rem will have their hands full transitioning existing content into this new platform! For the lab, we are suspending sampling at stations where the samples have to be shipped (Raisin, Cuyahoga, Great Miami, Scioto, and Muskingum) and reducing sampling frequency at the remaining stations to once per day starting on Monday, March 23. This should get us ~2-3 weeks of sampling before we’d need new bottles. We are in the Maumee loading season for predicting bloom severity, and thus will prioritize Maumee sampling as we are able. Though the order only lasts for two weeks, who knows what will happen as we move forward. We will be making decisions that prioritize the health of everyone at the NCWQR first, and then we’ll be sampling as much as we can second!
This is the start of a new series on the going-ons at the NCWQR! I hope to publish these posts monthly throughout the year to give everyone a view of what we’re up to on the 3rd floor of Gillmor Hall.
To start things off, let’s discuss last year! In 2019, our chemistry lab analyzed over 11,000 water samples for nutrients and/or sediment most of which were for the Heidelberg Tributary Loading Program (HTLP) and were collected from 25 different locations throughout Ohio and one in Michigan. Our researchers published 7 peer-reviewed articles (find them here); managed 8 different grants aside from the HTLP; presented at the International Society for Great Lakes Research, the Society for Freshwater Sciences, the Soil and Water Conservation Society, the Ecological Society of America, and the American Geophysical Union conferences; and gave over 20 presentations to various groups throughout the community. At the same time, we continued to analyze samples for private well owners, assisted in expanding the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition, and mentored students both as interns and in the classroom. To wrap up 2019, we were informed that 4 grant proposals were selected for funding, ranging in topics from antibiotics in rivers to using field-scale models to help develop water quality trading markets.
One of the biggest events in 2019 was the celebration of our 50th Anniversary in October. We had a 2-day workshop which culminated in an anniversary dinner. Most exciting, the history of the NCWQR, which was written by Dr. Ken Baker, is now available online here!
This year is off to an active start! Heidelberg’s Biology and Environmental Sciences department is in the middle of a search for a new assistant professor of ecology, which has given us the opportunity to see multiple teaching demonstrations and provide feedback. We’ve attended meetings for a multitude of advisory groups including revising the NRCS 590 standard and planning water quality sampling for the Ohio DNR H2Ohio projects. Rem has been involved in a collaborative effort linking phosphorus models from soils to the world, Laura attended a workshop on linking soil and watershed health to drainage practices, and both Laura and Nate have been involved in discussions on developing a pilot watershed.
On top of all that, January has been rather warm and rainy with 4 different high flow events about perfectly timed by each week leading to high samples loads for the lab with especially muddy samples (which take longer to filter).
The National Center for Water Quality Research (NCWQR) at Heidelberg University seeks a highly motivated postdoctoral research associate with experience analyzing large data sets using innovative data visualization and statistical approaches. The staff member will work primarily on data collected as part of the Heidelberg Tributary Loading Program as well as data collected by the USGS in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The goal of both of these projects is to assess suspended sediment and nutrient loading from watersheds throughout the Lake Erie watershed. While each program has been in operation for numerous years, a rigorous comparison of the datasets and loading methods has never been conducted. In addition, a fresh viewpoint on how to present these data to scientific as well as a lay-person audience is warranted. Finally, it is of vast importance to the region to consistently conduct trend analysis to assess the effectiveness of domestic action plans implemented in response to the nutrient target loads adopted in 2015 by Annex 4 of the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The ideal candidate will have a passion for environmental studies, be detail-oriented, and enjoy delving into the intricacies of water quality data. While a majority of the individual’s time will be spent on the project described above, the postdoc will have the opportunity for other professional development activities such as scientific outreach and education, relevant training workshops, proposal development and writing, and student engagement via teaching and advising student research.
Comprehensively compare data from the USGS and NCWQR sampling locations in terms of sample analyses as well as loading calculations
Analyze data from each of Ohio’s tributaries to Lake Erie using a variety of approaches ranging in complexity to provide information on trends
Visualize the results using state-of-the-art methods and applications informed by an advisory group of key agencies and researchers in the region
Participate in project meetings as needed to help guide the data analysis process
Disseminate results of this project to diverse audiences via presentations, fact sheets or handouts, webinars, or other means.
Publish the results of this research in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Participate in other professional development activities as time allows.
Completion of a Ph.D. in the Natural Sciences, Data Sciences, Engineering, or a related field.
Experience in data visualization and statistical analyses of large data sets.
Experience in writing with the goal of publishing scientific articles.
Experience in presenting scientific information to mixed audiences.
Experience in water quality data and watershed nutrient loading
Knowledge of agro-ecosystems and Lake Erie
Passion for learning new methods in data analysis
The postdoctoral research associate will be hired on a year-around appointment with full employee benefits with guaranteed funding for 2 years. The NCWQR is a research arm of the science departments at Heidelberg University, which is a private, comprehensive Master’s institution located in Tiffin in northwestern Ohio.For consideration, or to obtain additional information, please visit https://www.heidelberg.edu/careers. For questions or more information, contact Laura Johnson– firstname.lastname@example.org. Candidates should upload a cover letter describing why they’re interested in this position, a current resume, and the contact information for three references. Review of candidates will begin January 31, 2023 and will continue until the position has been filled.