By Danny Szydlowski
For the past seven years, from my undergrad to my master’s to my PhD, my summers have followed the same ritual. Come May, I pack up my things, hop in my car, and leave urban life for Wisconsin’s Northwoods to do lake research. This year, I’m in for something different. Thanks to ASLO’s LOREX program, I am trading the trees and waters of Wisconsin for a month of urban life in Montreal, Canada, including metro rides, great food, and more than a little French!
I’m Danny Szydlowski, a PhD candidate in Grace Wilkinson’s lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Limnology. My research focuses on the effects of disturbance on aquatic ecosystems, especially meteorological disturbances such as storms and heatwaves that are increasing in frequency and intensity because of climate change. In my dissertation research, I found that lake phytoplankton respond more strongly and positively to summer storms following colder winters. I hypothesized that colder winters could be increasing dissolved organic matter quality and quantity through increased freeze thaw cycles in the soil. With each passing summer storm, these important resources would then be delivered to phytoplankton in the water column.
Through ASLO’s LOREX program, I aim to investigate my soil freezing hypothesis through a collaboration with Dr. Jean-Francois Lapierre at the University of Montreal. His lab does a lot of work with terrestrial-aquatic connections and carbon, making it the perfect place to learn some techniques to address my questions. I will then apply these techniques to soil samples taken from a set of ten lakes, which I will experimentally freeze. Hopefully then I can understand how different winter temperatures might interact with storms to affect lake ecosystems under a changing climate.
When I arrived in Montreal I headed immediately to the building which houses my host lab and was impressed by its size and tall glass facade. I picked up my apartment keys from one of my new lab members and, bags in tow, walked thirty minutes to my apartment under a coffee shop.
Even though it was raining, I then took a hike up Mont Royal, a mountainous park that the city was built around. As I looked over the buildings below and the bridges cutting across the St. Lawrence River, I already knew I was going to enjoy my summer in the city.