Limnologist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotLimnology 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 wetlands.

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?

dotVarious 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.

dotKaren 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.

dotMost 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 stations.

Research scientists spend a significant amount of time in the laboratory. Those involved with educational institutions also spend time teaching and instructing.

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.

At a Glance

Study freshwater bodies that are inland

  • This career involves some fieldwork
  • You have to draw information from several different fields
  • Focus on math and the sciences