Past Projects

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Manoomin (Wild Rice) History on Fond du Lac Reservation, Minnesota

Using diatom-inferred total phosphorus to aid in prioritizing lake management decisions

Climate and Anthropogenic Influences on Aquatic Ecosystems in the Valley of the Great Lakes, Mongolia

Landscape-level controls on terrestrial, aquatic, and wetland responses to climate change in the southern Canadian Arctic

Evaluating Past Drought Conditions in the Nebraska Sand Hills Using Paleolimnologic Records


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.


Climate and Anthropogenic Influences on Aquatic Ecosystems in the Valley of the Great Lakes, Mongolia

The semi-arid plateaus of western Mongolia have a wide range of lake and other aquatic ecosystems, ranging from large, saline basins to small freshwater mountain lakes and wetlands.  Thousands of years of human habitation and a highly variable climate combine to create a complex series of stressors on these ecosystems.   After participating in a large hydrobiological survey which sampled sediment, water chemistry, ostracode, chironomid, and diatom communities from lakes, rivers and wetlands across western Mongolia, I used the collected diatom and water chemistry samples to develop a diatom-based calibration for lake salinity that was then applied to sediment core samples. By applying this calibration to diatom records in sediment cores, in conjunction with other geochemical proxies, I was able to reconstruct salinity variation over the past several thousand years and use the reconstruction to infer changes in moisture availability to the lakes.  This history of drought could then be compared with regional temperature reconstructions, and inferences of drought from neighboring regions in Central Asia to better understand possible impacts of current and future warming on moisture availability.  The examination of past variability in the lakes also allowed me to recognize that modern conditions in the lakes were far different than at any time in the past, including during previous warm intervals.  This conclusion led me to an investigation of modern human impacts and a hypothesis that recent changes in the traditional nomadic grazing practices, due to changing political and economic conditions after the end of Soviet policies, have combined with recent drought to increase the input of sediment and nutrients to the lakes, leading to deleterious conditions.  Future research in this area will focus on determining the mechanism for increased erosion, working to determine the relative impact of human land-use versus climate change on the deteriorating condition of many lakes, measuring the effects of increased nutrients on the lakes with in-lake experiments, and continuing to document the interactions of environmental and cultural changes on the watersheds.  See http://www.smm.org/mongolia/

Shinneman ALC, Edlund MB, Umbanhowar CE, and Soninkhishig N (2010) Late Holocene moisture balance inferred from lake sediment records in western Mongolia. The Holocene 20: 123-138.

Shinneman ALC, Edlund MB, Umbanhowar CE, and Soninkhishig N (2010) Late Holocene moisture balance inferred from lake sediment records in western Mongolia. The Holocene 20: 123-138.

Shinneman ALC, Umbanhowar CE , Almendinger JE, Edlund MB, Soninkhishig N. (2009) Paleolimnologic evidence for recent eutrophication in the Valley of the Great Lakes (Mongolia). Ecosystems 12: 944-960.

Umbanhowar CE, Shinneman ALC, Tserenkhand G, Johnson L, Lor P, Nail K. (2009) Regional fire history of western Mongolia since cal Yr AD 800, based on charcoal analysis of sediments of nine lakes. The Holocene 19: 611-624.

Shinneman ALC, Edlund MB, Almendinger JE, Soninkhishig N. (2009) Diatoms as indicators of water quality in Western Mongolia: a 54-site calibration set. Journal of Paleolimnology 42: 373-389.

Edlund MB, Shinneman ALC, Levkov Z. (2009) Diatom biodiversity in Mongolia: A new amphoroid diatom from saline lakes in western Mongolia, Amphora soninkhishigae sp. nov. Acta Botanica Croatica special issue, Proceedings of the 20th International Diatom Symposium 68(2): 251-262.

Shinneman ALC, Edlund MB, Umbanhowar CE, and Soninkhishig N (2010) Late Holocene moisture balance inferred from lake sediment records in western Mongolia. The Holocene 20: 123-138.

Shinneman ALC, Umbanhowar CE , Almendinger JE, Edlund MB, Soninkhishig N. (2009) Paleolimnologic evidence for recent eutrophication in the Valley of the Great Lakes (Mongolia). Ecosystems 12: 944-960.

Umbanhowar CE, Shinneman ALC, Tserenkhand G, Johnson L, Lor P, Nail K. (2009) Regional fire history of western Mongolia since cal Yr AD 800, based on charcoal analysis of sediments of nine lakes. The Holocene 19: 611-624.

Shinneman ALC, Edlund MB, Almendinger JE, Soninkhishig N. (2009) Diatoms as indicators of water quality in Western Mongolia: a 54-site calibration set. Journal of Paleolimnology 42: 373-389.

Edlund MB, Shinneman ALC, Levkov Z. (2009) Diatom biodiversity in Mongolia: A new amphoroid diatom from saline lakes in western Mongolia, Amphora soninkhishigae sp. nov. Acta Botanica Croatica special issue, Proceedings of the 20th International Diatom Symposium 68(2): 251-262.

Manoomin (Wild Rice) History on Fond du Lac Reservation, Minnesota

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: http://lrc.geo.umn.edu

*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

Landscape-level controls on terrestrial, aquatic, and wetland responses to climate change in the southern Canadian Arctic

Climate is changing rapidly in the Arctic as evidenced by a 0.4°C per decade rise in temperature over the past 40 years. Ecological responses to this warming include increases in lake productivity, permafrost thaw, shrub expansion, and northward shifts in the subarctic tree line. Paleoecological studies have played an important role in understanding modern and historic climate change in the Arctic, but relatively little is known about how landscape, in particular peat development and exposed till, constrains terrestrial, aquatic, and wetland responses to climate. In this project we study six lakes across the forest-tundra ecotone of northern Manitoba. In lake sediment, peat, and soil cores we will variously analyze pollen/spores and charcoal, diatoms and silica, phosphorus, carbon and nitrogen (including isotopes), magnetic remanence, pollen/spores, and grain size. Our objectives are to (1) understand the role of landscape in mediating lake and terrestrial ecosystem responses to climate, and (2) investigate the impacts of changes in terrestrial and wetland ecosystems on adjacent lakes. Results will be broadly applicable to on-going efforts that model the impacts of warming on carbon dynamics in the arctic tundra and peatlands.  See www.smm.org/scwrs

Shinneman ALC, Umbanhowar CE, Edlund MB, Hobbs WO, Camill P, Geiss C (2016) Diatom assemblages reveal regional-scale differences in lake responses to recent climate change at the boreal-tundra ecotone, Manitoba, Canada. Journal of Paleolimnology 56: 275.

Camill P, Umbanhowar CE, Geiss C, Hobbs WO, Edlund MB, Shinneman ALC, Dorale JA, Lynch J (2012) Holocene climate change and landscape development from a low-Arctic tundra lake in the western Hudson Bay region of Manitoba, Canada.  Journal of Paleolimnology 48: 175-192.

Evaluating Past Drought Conditions in the Nebraska Sand Hills Using Paleolimnologic Records 

Working with an established data set of diatom samples and water chemistry collected from lakes across Nebraska, I helped to investigate how diatom assemblages could be used to infer changing water levels in the inter-dune lakes of the Nebraska Sand Hills.  The lakes are surface expressions of the regional water table and fluctuate rapidly with large changes in available moisture.  Diatom responses to these lake level changes appears to be complex, but a model to infer large and persistent changes in water level was developed. Research into the past movement of the sand dunes had established a Holocene history of major drought episodes, however, using lake records allows for a more temporally refined history of drought and provides the means to investigate regional differences in the timing and magnitude of drought episodes.

 Schmieder J, Fritz SC, Swinehart JB, Shinneman ALC, Wolfe AP, Miller G, Daniels N, Jacobs KC, Grimm EC (2011) A regional-scale climate reconstruction of the last 4000 years from lakes in the Nebraska Sand Hills, USA.  Quaternary Science Reviews 30: 27-28.

Shinneman ALC, Bennett DM, Fritz SC, Schmeider J, Engstrom DR, Holz J, Efting A (2010) Inferring lake depth using diatom assemblages in the shallow, seasonally variable lakes of the Nebraska Sand Hills (USA); calibration, validation, and application of a 69-lake training set. Journal of Paleolimnology 44: 443-464.

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