You’re a what?
rowing up in northern Illinois, Carla One objective of her research is to
Cáceres spent a lot of time on Lake determine why the fish population in the
Michigan. “I was fascinated by the Great Lakes is declining. “We look at what’s
lake,” she says. “I love the water.” going on in the food web that’s affecting
Carla turned her love of water into a the fish population,” she says. Because she
career in limnology. Limnologists are scien- understands the life-forms in the water and
tists who study the characteristics of fresh- their relationships with each other, she can
water systems such as lakes, rivers, streams, help to determine which organisms, if any, are
ponds, and wetlands. They also study nonoce- causing the decrease in fish.
anic saltwater, such as the Great Salt Lake. Limnologists work both in the field and in
The job title limnologist applies to work- the laboratory. In the field, limnologists spend
ers in many occupations who are trained time outside—on a rowboat, for example, or
Elka in different scientific fields. As Carla says, wading or diving in the body of water that
“Limnology is really broad, so within lim- they’re studying. Most enjoy this hands-on
nology we often specialize.” For example, work, but there is also plenty to do indoors.
Torpey limnologists might study the plants or animals In the lab, limnologists conduct
that live in a body of water, the chemical experiments, make and test hypotheses, and
properties of the water, or the physics of water compare their results with those of previ-
movement. ous studies. They might develop techniques
A limnologist’s area of specialization or instruments that will help them test their
usually determines his or her specific occupa- assumptions. And they use computers to ana-
tional title. Environmental scientists, ecolo- lyze the data that they get from their experi-
gists, fisheries biologists, natural resources ments and to make predictions by means of
specialists, and biogeochemists—all can be statistical models.
limnologists. What they share is a common Carla occasionally go