Researchers provide real-time info about water in Lake Namekagon

New website opens window into life of lakes high in St. Croix watershed.




3 minute read

Research buoy in Lake Namekagon. (Courtesy Northland College)

Real-time data from the Lake Namekagon chain of lakes went live this week with the launch of a new Northland College website. The website, hosted by the college’s Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation, gathers information hourly, such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll a, and broadcasts the data online.

“We are listening to the lake to learn the story it has to tell,” says Dr. Peter Levi, the Burke Center’s associate director—inland lakes. “We are taking the pulse of the lake on an hourly basis and broadcasting it live for homeowners, anglers, and researchers around the world to use.”

The research buoys were launched last summer and began collecting data in July on Lake Namekagon, as well as Jackson and Garden lakes. But the website had not yet been built in order to showcase the information online. Dr. Levi and his team spent the winter building that website, and as of this week, the data is available live at

The link above also includes a video describing the buoy project, and brief descriptions of the different stories that the various water quality parameters have to tell, such as dissolved oxygen.

Daily rise and fall of dissolved oxygen levels in Lake Namekagon during recent days. (Courtesy Northland College)
Dr. Peter Levi

“Think of dissolved oxygen like the lake ecosystem breathing,” Levi says. “It goes up during the day as algae are producing oxygen via photosynthesis, and down at night, creating a pattern akin to an EKG. The swings in oxygen represent the biological pulse of the lake.”

Chlorophyll a measures algal growth in the lake. “We can see periods when there’s more algal growth, like in the spring, just as the ice comes off,” he said. “But Chlorophyll a is also interesting in comparing algae growth between the three lakes, especially because Jackson and Garden are so much shallower with more available nutrients than Namekagon.”

Wisconsin has 14,000 inland lakes, but remarkably, only a handful feature real-time buoys like those run by the Burke Center on the Namekagon chain. The other inland lake buoys are run by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Dane and Vilas Counties.

“After months of collecting the initial data, we are very excited to launch this new website and share the story of these lakes with a broader audience,” Levi said. “A primary motivation of this project is to see how these lakes change over time, from day-to-day, week-to-week, season-to-season, and decade-to-decade.”

Stay connected with the Burke Center on social media for updates and details on upcoming events. Dr. Levi will present on the buoy data at several events this summer, including a session at the Forest Lodge Educational Campus in Cable, Wisconsin, on July 17.

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One response to “Researchers provide real-time info about water in Lake Namekagon”

  1. Edward Peters Avatar
    Edward Peters

    Dr. Levi,
    This is wonderful to see. I hope that I can attend your presentation in Cable.
    Edward J. Peters, PhD
    Professor Emeritus, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    Living in Loretta, WI



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Researchers provide real-time info about water in Lake Namekagon