Located on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota, the Large Lakes Observatory (LLO) is the only institute in the country dedicated to the study of large lakes throughout the world. We focus on the global implications of our investigations in the areas of aquatic chemistry, circulation dynamics, geochemistry, acoustic remote sensing, plankton dynamics, sedimentology and paleoclimatology.
Two-thirds of the world’s surface freshwater is contained in just ten lakes. Lakes provide protein, drinking water, and a medium for transportation to millions of people. In addition, some deep basins contain unique sedimentary records of continental climate history in regions where people live. In spite of the societal and scientific importance of large lakes, logistic issues have hampered research; rigorous study of these systems requires equipment developed for the oceans. The Large Lakes Observatory was established in 1994 to make systematic use of oceanographic techniques in lake studies. LLO has grown (currently 10 faculty members) to have a global outlook and an international reputation with field programs and collaborators on 6 continents. In addition to housing a vibrant graduate program (we have attracted students from Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, China, Malaysia and the Netherlands), LLO provides unique research opportunities to undergraduates; in the past few years UMD undergraduates have participated in field programs in Indonesia, Mexico, Malawi, as well as on Lake Superior. We are working to understand how lakes function, how they behaved in the past, and what will happen to them in the coming years.
LLO's research ranges from lakes in the East African Rift Valley and Central Asia, to the Great Lakes of North America. Close ties have been formed with institutes in Canada, Uganda, France, Norway, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Nicaragua, Malawi, Tanzania and the United Kingdom, as well as with many universities within the United States. At the University of Minnesota, we have strong ties to the Institute on the Environment and are part of a major limnological program that includes the Limnological Research Center and the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior on the Twin Cities Campus, and the Center for Water and the Environment in the Natural Resources Research Institute on the Duluth Campus, and the University-wide Water Resource Science program.