River Center

SFS Conference Recap, Part 1
by Joanna Blaszczak -- June 1st, 2015

As a first time attendee of a Society for Freshwater Science (SFS) conference, I have to say that it lives up to its great reputation. What I found in Milwaukee the week before last was a welcoming community of engaging freshwater scientists who are also not afraid to have a little fun.

The theme of this year’s SFS meeting was “Our Freshwater Futures” and our week in Milwaukee kicked off with a talk by plenary speaker Peter Annin. A successful journalist and author of the Great Lakes Water Wars, Peter kept his focus local to the Midwest by leading us through the interesting history of the Chicago Diversion (river reversal) project and the current diversion problems faced by the Great Lakes. The river reversal lowered Lake Michigan by two inches and Illinois has been facing lawsuits from surrounding states since 1922! However, despite these conflicts, Peter left us with a vision of a brighter freshwater future in the region due to increased cooperation through the Great Lakes Water Compact.

An 1896 image of the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal under construction. The canal diverted the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan and towards the Mississippi.

An 1896 image of the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal under construction. The canal diverted the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan and towards the Mississippi.

Throughout the next couple of days my understanding of freshwater biogeochemistry and urban ecology expanded as I learned more about ongoing research across the country. Tim Hoellein reminded biogeochemists that organisms matter with a talk early in the week on freshwater mussel facilitation of denitrification. Sylvia Lee, a post-doc at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, shared her findings of reduced ecosystem functioning in artificial stream experiments with different combinations of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PCPPs). I was particularly excited about back to back talks given by Amanda McCormick and John Kelly who both spoke about their research demonstrating that microplastics in rivers are distinct microbial habitats and the assemblages that colonize them change as they flow downstream. The Duke River Center contingent included talks by Kris Voss, Megan Fork, John Gardner, and me along with posters by Matt Fuller and Ethan Baruch.

Aside from the serious science, we had a lot of fun! I planned the Live Auction event this year which included a new (and hilariously awkward) karaoke component. Nick Aumen was a fantastic auctioneer who kept everyone on their feet while they bid to make well-known aquatic ecologist duets sing karaoke (Walter Dodds/Amy Rosemond (see below); Matt Whiles/Emma Rosi-Marshall; and Jen Tank/Bob Hall). A highlight in my opinion was when Matt & Emma broke it down to Baby Got Back with all the former SFS presidents in attendance.

Overall I had a great time last week exploring Milwaukee and eating tasty fried cheese curds. I hope to see more Duke students at SFS in Sacramento! Follow SFS on twitter @BenthosNews and like the SFS page on facebook to keep up to date. Also, check out our cool Stay Fresh! blog.

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