Three photographs taken of field work in Kurdistan for the Iranian Prehistoric Project from 1955 through 1963
Herb Wright doing field work in Kurdistan for the Iranian Prehistoric Project:Geologic studies of Ancient Climates and Origins of Agriculture 1955 - 1963

Limnological Research Center

By Herb Wright, 1994, edited by Anders Noren. The LRC was preceded by the pollen laboratory, initiated in 1956 by a grant from the Hill Family Foundation. In 1959 the LRC was established by a separate grant from the Hill Family Foundation, and in 1963 the pollen laboratory was incorporated within it. The pollen laboratory revolved in successive years around the year-long visits of experienced paleoecologists from European laboratories, starting with Magnus Fries from Sweden and followed by Saskia Jelgersma from The Netherlands, Willem van Zeist from The Netherlands, Bill Watts from Ireland, Roel Janssen from The Netherlands, Maj-Britt Florin from Sweden, Krystyna Wasylikowa and Kazik Wasylik from Poland, Johanna and Eberhard Gruger from Germany, Elizabeth Haworth from England, John and Hilary Birks from England, and (in later years) Rick Battarbee from England, Svante Bjorck from Sweden, and Jan Janssens from Belgium via Canada. Several of these persons returned in subsequent years, notably Bill Watts, Roel Janssen, John Birks, and Svante Bjorck. Foreign visitors for several months included Richard West and Kevin Edwards (England), Jan Mangerud (Norway), Norio Fuji (Japan), Alojz Sercelj (Yugoslavia), and Pan Mao (China). On the neolimnological side, Gunilla Lindmark came from Sweden, Dragica Matulova from Czechoslovakia, Nils BoJensen from Norway, and Victoria Okusami from Nigeria. This foreign flavor was supplemented by students from Ireland (Alan Craig, Norman Allott, Henry Lamb, Joan Lennon, Roger Dutton), Japan (Junko Ogawa), Finland (Liisa Koivo), Canada (Vern Rampton), Sweden (Kerstin Griffin, Elisabeth Almgren, Karin Ahlberg), The Netherlands (Rik Jansen), Belgium (Dirk Verschuren), and Russia (Elena Litchman).

Kerry Kelts became LRC Director in 1990 with a firm conviction that lacustrine sediment cores were valuable and should be studied and archived systematically. The establishment of the Core Laboratory and the National Lacustrine Core Repository are testament to his tireless effort. Kelts brought an expanded foreign contingent of researchers including post-docs from Spain (Blas Valero-Garces), Switzerland (Antje Schwalb, Essaid Zeroual), France (Babette Truze), and Canada (Brian Cumming), as well as students from China (Juanjuan Xia, Jun-Qing Yu, Zhigang Gong, Yue Han). Non-foreign post-docs have included Ed Cushing, Bob Megard, Linda Shane, Paul Glaser, Dan Engstrom, Sheri Fritz, John Bradbury, Mel Whiteside, Dick Brugam, Tom Crisman, John Kingston, Brian Haskell, Michael Rosen, Amy Leventer, and Feng Sheng Hu. Jean Waddington managed the pollen laboratory for many years before Linda Shane, who passed the torch on to Dawn Graber. Tom Johnson of the Geology faculty was closely affiliated with the LRC just before moving to Duluth, and Emi Ito became involved in the early 1990s. Of course many others have been associated with the LRC over the years, such as technicians, secretaries, administrative assistants, and undergraduate students.

Neolimnology at the LRC

In 1964 Joe Shapiro joined the LRC as Associate Director. He began studying the basic chemistry of lakes throughout Minnesota, with particular emphasis on phosphorus, iron and humic materials that give water its yellow color. Postdoc Bill Chamberlain was involved in helping determine the effect, on the analysis of phosphorus, of the presence of arsenate, which had been used to kill weeds.

A major study of the effects of storm drainage on the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, involving Olaf Pfannkuch and several students, led to a greater involvement in helping the public to learn about lakes and their protection. This led to creation, with Bob Carlson, of the Secchi disc program in which citizens monitor the transparency of their water body using a white disc provided by the LRC. Another impetus for the volunteer monitoring work came from a conversation between three limnologists (Andy Hamilton, Mike Michalski (?), and Joe Shapiro at a meeting. One went back to Canada and started the Ontario Cottage Owners Monitoring Program (1972) and Joe started the Minnesota Citizen’s Lake Monitoring Program (1973). The Minnesota volunteer program was eventually taken over by the State of Minnesota, and has been copied by many other states as a model for citizen involvement in monitoring the environment. Bob Carlson refined the trophic status index method that is employed by the US Environmental Protection Agency and many state agencies. For a time, John Lundquist served as a limnological information agent, visiting schools (with our Amphicar) with funding from the Minnesota planning agency.

A long period of small scale investigation of nutrient responses of algae (including work by Dragica Matulova from then Czechoslovakia) and of ways to decrease dominance of undesirable blue-green algae using microcosms suspended in lakes, led to a series of whole-lake manipulations to test the results. These were followed by other studies, small and whole-lake to find ways to restore over-fertilized lakes without reducing their phosphorus inputs, which is often impossible to do. The culmination was the concept of biomanipulation, in which lake populations, primarily planktivore fish, are manipulated, leading to changes in lower trophic levels, especially to increase zooplankters. In turn, this results in reduced algal abundance and clearer waters. Several graduate students were involved, including Val Smith, Vince Lamarra, Greg Lie, Mike Lynch, Bruce Forsberg, Eric Smeltzer, Ed Swain, Bill Lamberts and Post Docs Elena Litchman (from Russia), Gunilla Lindmark (from Sweden) and David Wright. This work led to many studies by others, particularly abroad, and to at least two International Conferences, and a special journal issue. Biomanipulation was adopted by the Dutch government as its main approach to restoration of their lakes because the nutrient loadings from the Rhine and its tributaries are not controllable.

Other work at the LRC has included determination of the kinetics of phosphorus uptake by various algae, lake carbon cycling (dissolved inorganic carbon abundance and carbon isotopes), effect of groundwater hydrology and sulfate reduction on lake water dissolved inorganic carbon abundance, carbon isotopes, and on Mg/Ca ratios, and a detailed examination of CO2 uptake kinetics by laboratory and lake populations of algae. Joe retired in 1996.

NSF Facilities

In the 1990s, LRC Director Kerry Kelts was awarded grants from the National Science Foundation to establish and support the LRC Core Lab, including acquisition of instrumentation, equipment, and materials to analyze and store lake sediment cores, Multi-Sensor Core Logger and digital core photography capabilities, and staff support. In parallel, Kelts and colleagues supported development of the Global Lake Drilling (GLAD) modular platform and specialized soft sediment drilling tools, which were first tested on Great Salt Lake in 2000 and led to deep drilling campaigns at 24 sites around the globe during the following two decades. Kelts was a strong advocate for systematic analysis, description, and curation of lacustrine sediment cores, adopting protocols developed over decades in the marine coring and ocean drilling research communities.

As Emi Ito became LRC Director, she continued to pursue NSF funding in support of the LRC facilities, including overseeing the establishment of the LacCore Repository for permanent curation of core samples in 2000, modernizing and expanding Multi-Sensor Core Logger and other instrumentation in 2004 and 2009, and developing CoreWall (Corelyzer) software for visualization of core imagery and related datasets in 2006. Multiple subsequent NSF awards through 2019 provided continued support to the LacCore Facility for project development, field services, core lab, and repository functions as facility use expanded fivefold during this time. In 2014, the NSF Continental Scientific Drilling Coordination Office (CSDCO) was established alongside LacCore, leveraging its staff and facilities to support planning and implementation of all types of continental drilling and coring projects. In 2020, a new NSF award supported the merger of LacCore and CSDCO into the Continental Scientific Drilling (CSD) Facility, which continues to support these functions today as a separate entity in the N.H. Winchell School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.  

Past LRC Research Associates

For a list of LRC researchers from the LRC's inception to present day, see the Past Researchers page.

Herb Wright

For more information on the legacy of Herb Wright, please see the collection of essays, articles, tales of field adventures, poems, eulogies, and picture galleries about Herb Wright and his varied life and enormous legacy hosted by the Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group at the University of Bergen.