Limnology is the study of a particular aquatic ecosystem -- inland freshwater
bodies. It also involves the study of the biological, chemical, geological,
optical and physical characteristics of lakes, rivers, streams, ponds and
So limnologists tackle questions such as:
- Where is a particular organism?
- Where do pollutants come from?
- Where do currents flow?
- How much plankton is in an area?
- How much heat is contained in surface waters?
- How fast do algae grow?
Various branches of limnology focus on different areas. For example, physical
limnologists are concerned with water movement on all scales, from global
circulation patterns to small-scale mixing.
Optical limnologists are interested in the factors that affect the transmission
of light through water.
John Shearer is a biologist. He says that limnologists often work in groups
with other aquatic scientists.
To completely study an area, scientists with one specialization must draw
information from several fields.
Karen Kidd is a research scientist. She says that limnologists often develop
and test models to predict future conditions. For instance, they may study
the effects of fertilizers, pesticides or sewage on lakes and rivers.
Limnologists study everything from the role of plants and animals in the
carbon cycle to global warming. More and more limnologists are monitoring
the effects of global change on freshwater habitats.
Most limnologists spend at least some time doing fieldwork. Data is often
collected during one- to two-day trips, or during month-long stays at field
Research scientists spend a significant amount of time in the laboratory.
Those involved with educational institutions also spend time teaching and
A typical day for an academic aquatic scientist is varied, according to
limnologist Marianne Moore. It involves preparing and delivering lectures,
doing laboratory exercises, advising students, grading exams, going on field
trips and conducting data analysis.