Current Projects

Climate and Environment of the Mongol Empire (CEME): Water and climate are critical elements in the success of herders raising livestock on the Mongolian steppe.  This has been the case for thousands of years, and finding the balance between what the landscape can support and the desire for growth and production has always been a careful balance.  After previous work (see Past Projects) examining the impact that rapid increases in livestock population may be having on highly drought-stressed lakes in Mongolia, I am very excited to be starting a new project ( investigating how a similar situation thousands of years ago may have affected the environment.  I’ll be working with a great team of climate researchers, historians, modellers to understand how the rise and fall of the Mongolian Empire was linked to climate fluctuations and demands on water resources.  Read more about the team and the project at the blog above and in this great summary article from Science News:(

Manoomin (Wild Rice) History:  Wild rice (Zizania palustris) is a vital resource for the people of the Fond du Lac Reservation, located in northern Minnesota.  Personal recollections of local residents and band members and the oral histories passed down to them through generations indicate significant variability in wild rice population abundance and distribution.  Little research has been done, however, to understand the ecology of wild rice, including tolerances for water level variation, nutrient concentrations, and competition that may influence this variation. Beyond relatively short-term monitoring, little work has been done on the history of wild rice in lakes to put future changes into a long-term context. This project seeks to add to the scientific basis for management decisions by tribal natural resources managers by better defining optimal lake conditions for wild rice growth and to develop a long-term history of variation in wild rice productivity using lake sediment records.  The project is not only a research endeavor, but also a community and educational project;  K-12 and Tribal College students of the Fond du Lac Band,  with the aid of  expert mentors who are researchers on the project, have been helping to collect and analyze lake sediment cores and conducting their own smaller-scale version of the research.  Together, our goal is to reconstruct past lake levels and nutrient concentrations and link these to wild rice abundance.  My work is focused on using algal (diatom) remains to interpret changing lake level and nutrient conditions, and this work will be combined with data on wild rice phytolith, pollen, plant macrofossil, and geochemical changes in the cores to develop a holistic picture of how changing lake conditions affect wild rice abundance.  See:

*Moore C, *Bunch C, *Woods P, Myrbo A, Howes  T, Shinneman A, *Kochen A. (2011) Diatom Inferred Lake Level and Habitat Transition in Three Wild Rice (Zizania Palustris) Lakes on the Fond du Lac Reservation.  Geological Society of America Meeting, Minneapolis, MN.

Woods P, *Bunch C, Shinneman A, Myrbo A, Howes T, *Kochen A (2011) Diatom-based Inference of Lake Level Changes and Habitat Transitions in Wild Rice (Zizania Palustris) on the Fond du Lac Reservation, Minnesota.  North American Diatom Symposium.  Flathead Lake Biological Research Station, Big Fork, MT.

*Fond du Lac students

Using diatom-inferred total phosphorus to aid in prioritizing lake management decisions: In Minnesota, as well as in other U.S. states and several European countries, paleolimnologic data is used as part of the assessment of lake ecosystem health and the need, or priority, for significant management and remediation, particularly for nutrient loading.  In Minnesota, total maximum daily load (TMDL) standards for total phosphorus (TP) have been set at different levels for each of the state’s ecoregions, based on a combination of diatom-inferred and modeled values.  In making decisions about lake management priorities, watershed districts have often used diatom-inferred histories of TP loading to determine whether a lake has been significantly altered by local land use changes; however, basing these decisions on inferred TP values alone can be misleading, especially in shallow lakes (<5m).  Along with colleagues at the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, I am interested in moving toward a combined approach that uses inferred values, along with information on the rate and trajectory of change in algal assemblages and multi-proxy evidence for the stability of the shoreline and littoral vegetation to facilitate a simple yet more robust approach to using paleolimnology in lake management decisions.

Shinneman A, Edlund MB, Ramstack J, Andresen N (2011) Diatom-inferred Total Phosphorus Reconstructions for Lake Management: When to Say When in Interpreting Quantitative Phosphorus Values.  North American Diatom Symposium, Flathead Lake Biological Research Station, Big Fork, MT.

Bischoff  J, Ramstack JM, Strom J, Madejczyk J, Edlund MB, Williamson J, Shinneman ALC (2009) The complexities of developing excess nutrient TMDLs for shallow lakes. In: Proceedings of  the 2009 TMDL Conference, Water Environment Federation, Alexandria, VA, pp 1073-1098.

Edlund MB, Shinneman ALC, Ramstack JM (2008) Diatom-inferred total phosphorus in Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) Lakes: Phase II. Final Report Submitted to Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, Work Order #107-06. 15 pp.