Deep Dive with Ian Withrow

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Bio Station columnist Ian Withrow. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

When ringing in the New Year, there’s always a moment in which we envision a brighter future and reflect on our personal growth. For me, that growth is often literal, so my New Year’s celebrations tend to inevitably drift toward the same, dog-eared resolutions that I’ve been resentfully coexisting with since early-2001.

They go a little something like this:

“All right, buddy. [Insert Current Year] is going to be totally different than [Insert Previous Year]. You’re going to exercise more, go to the dentist and take your vitamins. You’re going to stop being afraid of those squirrels that make eye contact, and the instant you finish devouring this pizza … and those cookies … and that leftover cheesecake over there … you’re going to dedicate yourself to the next overpriced diet you read about online.”

It’s important to remember, however, that individuals aren’t the only ones with aspirations for the coming year. Here are just a few of the notable objectives that, unlike my personal resolutions, the Bio Station will actualize in 2020:

This April, Bio Station Director Jim Elser will officially be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. This is the highest honor an American scientist can receive outside of the Nobel Prize, making his induction quite the feather in our collective Montana cap.

Additionally, Elser and our Microbial Ecologist Matthew Church, will launch a new research project that will explore the role chemical elements (especially carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) play in the growth rates of Flathead Lake organisms like zooplankton. Dubbed the “Rules of Life,” the project is funded by a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, and will, among other things, advance our understanding of how tiny lake inhabitants are influenced by the nutritional quality of available food. Preliminary data suggests that the quality of Flathead Lake’s nutrition is trending toward the junk food variety, indicating that I may have some company when I revisit those pesky resolutions in 2021.

Thirdly, our Flathead Lake Aquatic Research and Education K-12 Program will roll out an Aquatic Invasive Species Curriculum Trunk to middle schools in the Flathead Watershed and then statewide. The AIS Trunk is a collaborative effort between the Bio Station, the Flathead Lakers and state agencies and aims to educate students and teachers about the importance of preventing the spread of AIS, such as invasive mussels.

But perhaps the Bio Station’s most significant aim for 2020 comes in the form of a promise to you: This year, as we have done since 1899, we promise to stand as a world-class research and education institution on the shores of Flathead Lake, working alongside our partners and utilizing the most advanced research methods and innovative technologies available to monitor, maintain and best understand our beloved Flathead Watershed.

This is and will forever remain our highest resolution, and through it, our vision for 2020 is crystal clear.

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