Understanding Inland Seas

The Large Lakes Observatory: Unique in the World

Cover of LLO report

The Large Lakes Observatory (LLO), located on the UMD campus, is the only institute in the country dedicated to the study of large lakes throughout the world. The LLO’s staff is made up of an interdisciplinary group of scientists committed to using oceanographic research approaches to unlock the mysteries of large lakes. Combining this oceanographic approach with a global focus makes the LLO unique among lake research institutes in the world.

Recently, the LLO published a research report entitled Exploring the Mysteries of Large Lakes. The 40-page report contains articles about research that the LLO is conducting in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. This research ranges from discoveries of new microbes and other forms of life to large-scale reactions to climate change.

Living in close proximity to Lake Superior, many people in Duluth probably take large bodies of fresh water for granted. Lakes can seem very familiar and yet, as the LLO research report points out, many parts of the ocean are better understood than large lakes. The LLO believes that it is important to increase our knowledge of these inland seas around the world so that we can learn how to better preserve and protect them.

In addition to information about the LLO’s research, they also provide information about their research vessel, Blue Heron; their analytical laboratories; and limnology courses that they offer. The report also contains articles about each of the ten faculty members that make up the LLO team. Below is an excerpt from the LLO research report which profiles Sergei Katsev, an assistant professor at UMD, who uses physics to better understand geochemical problems.

To read the entire publication, visit the LLO website http://www.d.umn.edu/llo/ and click on Report: LLO in 2010.

Sergei Katsev: Solving Geochemical Problems with Physics

Sergei Katsev
Sergei Katsev of the Large Lakes Observatory

A desire to move from theoretical physics to more practical matters brought Sergei Katsev from Canada to the LLO.

"For my Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa, I studied the physics of pattern formation in complex geochemical systems," Katsev said. "By the time I was finished, I was interested in doing more practical things. A person in my department needed someone to model aquatic sediments, so I took the job as a postdoctoral associate."

Later, at McGill University in Montreal, Katsev studied sediments in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and in the deep Arctic, and the water column in Lake Matano in Indonesia. Katsev, whose UMD appointment is joint with the Department of Physics, is still using a physics approach to address geochemical problems.

"For me, the job was an unbelievable match," he said. "The University wanted someone who could teach physics but also conduct aquatic science research." Katsev enjoys working with people from different academic backgrounds at the LLO. "If I need information from a different field, I can just walk down the hall and ask someone."

He also likes working on a variety of lake systems, and he's able to make connections with his previous research. "Lake Malawi is like Lake Matano in many respects, and Lake Superior sediments are turning out to have properties similar to the deep Arctic as far as geochemical dynamics are concerned," Katsev said.

Katsev teaches data analysis in physics to graduate students, and general physics to undergraduate students.

Katsev credits his two postdoctoral advisors, Denis Rancourt and Bjorn Sundby, for their influence in his career. "They have wonderful philosophies about life and science," he explained. "They taught me a lot about science and how to determine whether a problem is worth investigating."

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