Rivers and Lakes… or Livers and Rakes?
My absolute favorite class at St. Lawrence University, you ask? While there have been several classes that have changed me, motivated me, inspired me, there are none quite like my Rivers and Lakes class. Many times, I’ve gotten so excited about my Rivers and Lakes class that I mix up the first two letters, and what comes out is “Livers and Rakes." To clear the water, we did not study the function of the livers nor rakes, but rather the ecology of rivers and lakes, also known as Limnology. I knew the course was for me when I discovered the only thing required to take the course was no, not a text book, but insulated waders.
Why was it my favorite? Fifteen SLU students, including myself and Dr. Brad Baldwin, would embark on our weekly adventures into the North Country to investigate nearby aquatic ecosystems. During our first class, we canoed out into the middle of Lake Massawepie to learn how to lower a Hydrolab down into a lake to capture an idea of what the ecosystem looked like beyond what our eyes could see. This instrument would take vertical profile snapshots of abiotic and biotic factors; temperature, pH, oxygen, Chlorophyll A as an indicator of phytoplankton were few among many intriguing variables that we investigated.
Oh, but the fun did not end there. Each week was a new ecosystem, big and small lakes, deep ones and shallow ones, itty bitty streams to the gushing Grasse River that runs through Canton. This means canoeing, kayaking, buzzing around in a tiny motor boat, or braving the cold while wading into crisp October waters to search for macroinvertebrates.
This adventure course truly embraced the spirit of field work, where we learned how to use all different types of aquatic tools, and how to analyze data to understand how humans are impacting local lakes and rivers. If you want to learn and experience the true nature of the North Country, take Livers and Rakes – just kidding, Rivers and Lakes!