What is a Limnologist?

Limnologist Kevin Rose

Limnologist Kevin Rose

Pll team member Kevin Rose is a limnologist. He studies inland waters, including the biology, chemistry, and physical characteristics of lakes like Laguna Negra.

In many ways, the chemistry and physics of a lake set the constraints
on what life can and what it looks like. In Laguna Negra, that life
includes everything from phytoplankton to zooplankton to trout. Part
of the Planetary Lake Landers mission is to investigate how lakes
change when the climate changes. Changes in lake physics and chemistry
that result from reduced inflow from receding glaciers, for example,
could change the lifecycle of many elements in the lake and rapidly
alter the food chain.

If you’d like to know more about limnology, check out Kevin’s website
at www.lakescientist.com.

Activity log

By Eric Smith

This morning Nathalie, Nicolas and I took the zodiak titled “Viking 1”
across the lake to investigate the zooplankton at the base of a couple
of small waterfalls.
The trip over was calm, going with the wind, but as soon as we arrived
at the cliffs where the glacial melt enters the lake, the wind started
picking up, strong out of the south, the direction we needed to go to
return to the base camp. After confirming that the copepods population
was active, we headed into the waves for the long wet slog to

While we were off exploring, Liam, Suzan. and Trey continued
assembling the Lake Lander. Already creating its own electrical power
with solar panels. Today they turned on, the electronics, got them to
talk to base camp, and established satellite connectivity to Ames via
satellite. A big success.

The early cloud cover, and increase in wind speeds seem to confirm the
forecast of stormy weather to come, but we are still hopeful that
tomorrow is as productive as today was.

A Greeting from PLL Team Member Eric Wartenweiler Smith

By Eric Smith

Hi All,

Part of my role on the Lake Lander Project will be writing posts for this blog to let you all know what the PLL team is achieving on a regular basis. I tend to write short posts on a specific subject, hopefully accompanied by a good photo, and sometimes with links to more details or information. This will be in addition to working on the bathymetric survey of the lake and supporting other portions of the mission.

A little explanation about how I came to be on the PLL team for 2012. Principal Investigator Nathalie Cabrol and I met when she was preparing a team for the 2006 High Lakes Expedition. The project would include climbing Licancabur Volcano in the Andes and diving into its crater lake in a project to study the origins of life in extreme environments and better understand how to look for evidence of past life on Mars. As a scientific diver and research vessel captain who enjoys extreme environments, it sounded like just my cup of tea.

During those 6 weeks at high altitudes in the Andes we collected a lot of data from that beautiful lake on Licancabur, climbed 3 other volcanoes, and developed a great sense of teamwork.

Something that I confirmed during that trip is that as much as scientific exploration, I also love sharing the excitement that comes with being involved in a field expedition. So when Nathalie contacted me again this year to help out with Education and Public Outreach, it offered the best of both worlds.

So tonight I find myself in the Andes Again, on an expedition that I find incredibly exciting. And cant wait to tell you about. I hope you enjoy the story to come!

All the best,


A Full Day of Work On Laguna Negra

By Eric Smith

11 burns, 12 cuts, 66 fishermens knots, Nathalie fingers are showing the evidence of hard work preparing instruments for deployment in the lake, and then putting them in place.

Laguna Negra is very deep, scoured out by the power of huge glaciers that receded after the last ice age. The remnants that remain of that huge earth moving event include the Terminal Moraine of rocks that we have made our camp on, a lake over 300 meters deep in some places, and the remaining modern glacier Echaurren, that feeds the river that goes over Victoria Cascade and fills the lake that ultimately provides water for 9 million Chileans, There is a lot of geological history here, and a lot of its happening right now. Echaurren is receeding rapidly, andt hat’s why this location was chosen for the PLL project. Glaciers melting, lake levels changing, all at an accelerated pace.

The lake’s color and clarity keeps catching us by surprise. I hope that some of the pictures come out so that you all can see it too. How Clear? 10.5 meters on the secci disk.

How Blue? I’ll get back to you on that.

First order of the day, launch the inflatable boats to deploy a line of light and temperature sensors to profile the water column down to 50 m of water exactly. Not as easy as it sounds, because the wind was blowing and our little boat has trouble holding position once we found the depth we were looking for.

The idea is to find out how deep the environmentally damaging UV goes into the water. UV radiation is going to affect all the microbial organisms that live in the lake. How they deal with the radiation is an important part of this project that we’ll post about soon.

Arrival of 3 Roboticist Brings base camp population to 11

By Eric Smith

Arrival of 4 new personnel at the base camp (including myself) almost doubled the base camp population.

Nathalie and Cristian have been preparing the camp for the last week for the arrival of the whole team. That means transporting 4 big dome tents that will serve as Labs and the Mess, plus the entire Kitchen, 8 tents for sleeping, and the same volume all over again of scientific equipment in heavy cases. 2 tons of gear in total moved by mule, boat, or backpack from the end of the road to the Base camp location.

So now with the arrival of engineers Liam, Susan, and Trey, the robotics portion of the Project can get going.  This is important because we only have a few weeks of good weather to get a lot of work done. And when we leave, there will be a Planetary Lake Lander left behind to continue the work on its own for the rest of the year.