Questions for Ron Lawrenz

Can I answer your questions about climate?Durring the Fall of 2005, Ron Lawrenz, Head of the Science Division at the Science Museum, answered questions about climate change and aquatic life in Minnesota. Learn more about Ron Lawrenz's research.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

There is a picture of your in a wet suit on your research page. How did you learn to SCUBA dive? Was it for science or for fun?

posted on Wed, 10/26/2005 - 7:32pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

I took classes and training at a diving school to get certified as an Open Water Diver by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). I did it for both science and fun and I still enjoy doing it for both reasons.

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 3:50pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Are you currently studying anything? If so, what?

posted on Thu, 10/27/2005 - 3:19pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Yes, I am examining microscope slides of aquatic organisms from the museum's collections that were collected in 1890 and 1891 from Yellowstone National Park, and Flathead Lake in Western Montana. They were collected by a famous scientist of that time, Stephen A. Forbes, who conducted the first major study of Western lakes. I hope to look at those same lakes today and see how they have changed over the last 115 years.

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 3:54pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How much has Minnesota's climate changed over millions of years? In the thousands of years that your samples were able to tell you about? What about recently? Do you see any trends for the future?

posted on Thu, 10/27/2005 - 3:22pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Climate has changed a lot in Minnesota over the millenia, and for many reasons. The earth's crust has moved such that 65 million years ago Minnesota was closer to the equator and under a tropical sea during the end of the dinosaur era. During the last two million years we have gone through a series of ice ages with periods when Minnesota was covered by very thick ice sheets, but also with times that were warm in between. My studies show that we have gone through cycles of dry and wet, cool and warm even during the last 10,000 years. Those changes were created by natural cycles and a series of natural events. However, we are currently in a rapid period of global warming which the vast majority of scientists believe is caused by man's addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 3:56pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What's your highest degree, and what field is it in? What did you have to study to be able to do what you do?

posted on Thu, 10/27/2005 - 3:22pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

I have a dual Bachelor of Science Degree in Fisheries Biology and Limnology (like oceanography except in freshwater), and a Master of Science Degree in Aquatic Ecology. I took several dozen courses in specific scientific areas (chemistry, aquatic biology etc.) in addition to the regular classes required for the degrees. Additionally, for the Masters Degree, I had to complete a detailed research study and write a thesis describing my work and results. I also had to defend my thesis before my thesis committee and make oral presentations.

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 3:57pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Does global warming explain our recent streak of wimpy winters, or is there another explanation?

posted on Thu, 10/27/2005 - 3:23pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

There several different reasons why climate changes. We know that climate does vary in natural cycles and it is difficult to separate the exact contribution of several factors when they are all happening at once. However, humankind's addition of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, is certainly one factor that is impacting climate change and causing some portion of global warming. If we are in a natural warming cycle to begin with, the addition of man-made global warming will make it all that worse. It's not good in any case!

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 3:58pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Looks like SCUBA diving might be a good skill for someone in your line of work. Do you have any other non-academic, off-beat skills that have come in handy during your research?

posted on Thu, 10/27/2005 - 3:24pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Knowing SCUBA is certainly handy for the type of research that I do, but there are several other skills that have come in equally as handy. Being creative and coming up with solutions to problems in the field has been handy (duct tape has saved many a research trip). Having some mechanical and electrical knowledge has allowed me to fix or fabricate equipment in remote locations. Artistic skills have helped me map out locations and draw plants and animals that I needed to describe or identify later. Patience and the ability to communicate are good skills to have as well.

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 4:00pm
emily Roberts's picture
emily Roberts says:

how long have you been a scientist????

posted on Fri, 11/04/2005 - 3:47pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Thirty years! I graduated from college in December 1975 and got my first scientific position in 1976. However, I have been interested in science and nature since I was a very little boy. I think I was doing science then too!

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 4:00pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What other scientific reasearch is going on at the Science Museum?

posted on Fri, 11/04/2005 - 4:29pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

We have scientists studying paleontology (primarily dinosaurs and fossil crocodiles) in places as close as the Dakotas and as far away as Madagascar. You can see their work on the exhibit floor in the Dinosaur and Fossils Gallery. We also have different scientists studying archaeology (ancient cultures) and ethnology (current cultures), the distribution of plants and animals in Minnesota, habitat restoration, environmental history, mercury contamination, pollution of lakes and rivers, and many other things.

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 4:01pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What's the most interesting thing about your job?\r\n

posted on Fri, 11/04/2005 - 4:29pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Meeting all the wonderful and knowledgeable scientists that I am fortunate to know and work with, and learning about the world through them and their work. I also like taking the time to wonder about the world and how things work. Of course, we can all do that!

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 4:02pm
david's picture
david says:

how does contamination affect pond life?

posted on Fri, 11/11/2005 - 4:10pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Big topic! The effects of contamination depend on the type of contamination and the types of life that are in the water. Some types of contamination are just plain poisonous and cause death in short order. Scientists call these "acute" or lethal effects. Others cause lingering effects like loss of reproduction or slow growth which means that there may not be a next generation. These are called chronic or sub-lethal effects. Some organisms are very tollerant of certain pollutants and others are very sensitive. Entire books have been written on the impacts of contamination in aqautic environments.

posted on Mon, 11/14/2005 - 4:54pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Can the things that happened in the movie "Day After Tommorrow" really happen to New York City?

posted on Sat, 11/12/2005 - 3:26pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

I didn't see the movie, but from what I know of it they were more than a little over dramatic. However, scientists have more recently found evidence that indicates that climate change can probably happen in a matter of decades or hundreds of years rather than the thousands that were originally proposed (However, that doesn't mean glaciers would form that fast). While far from overnight, like in the movies, it is quite alarming for scientists to think that global temperature change can happen in such a short time period as a lifetime or less. We should be concerned because cities like New York are quite low to the ocean and, for example, if the huge ice cap covering Greenland were to melt or, even more dramtically, slide into the oceans the added ice and water would raise the oceans to a level that could flood much of that city and others around the world. There is good scientific evidence that the ocean shore lines have varied greatly over the millenia.

posted on Mon, 11/14/2005 - 5:28pm
layla luis leichtenstein's picture
layla luis leichtenstein says:

if i had to survive in the wilderness of minnesota what aquatic plantlife could i eat?

posted on Sat, 11/12/2005 - 7:37pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

There are many, but one of the best is cattail. The large starchy roots supply lots of carbs. The pollen can be gathered and mixed with floor to make breads and other things.

posted on Mon, 11/14/2005 - 5:32pm
Warming Trend Guy's picture
Warming Trend Guy says:

What will be the first trees or plants that can not take a temperature change in Minnesota? Are there some now seeing stress from changes? Where will the most likely change occur in plant/tree life from global climate change? Any insight? Thanks!

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 2:53pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

We live in an interesting part of the world where the border between the prairie (warm and dry), the leafy deciduous forest or "big woods" (warm and moist), and northern boreal/pine forest (cool and moist) change over just a matter of tens of miles. All you need to do is drive from here to Duluth and watch how the vegetation changes to pine and spruce forest. This has been referred to as the plant "tension zone". As a result we are at the southern-most extent of many northern species and the northern extent of many southern species. As climate warms the northern species will eventually die out giving way to the southern species and the tension zone will move north. Because some plants are living at their southern extreme they are probably already stressed and exist here in small micro-climate zones. For example, paper birch is a typically northern plant and when you find it growing this far south it is usually on the cool northern side of hills or slopes. It needs cooler soils. Nurserymen and landscapers know that you should mulch or shade the root area of birch to keep it cool and moist if you want them to grow and thrive here. However, temperature is not the only factor that will cause change as the climate changes. Warmer and dryer climate may allow new plant diseases or insect pests to invade and destroy certain plants and make the plants less able to resist pests or disease. This already occurs when we have droughts.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 11:43am
Dave's picture
Dave says:

Do you think global warming is an urgent problem for this generation?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 2:53pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Yes! Even if it doesn't impact this generation to any great extent (although I think that it will), we are stewards for the next generations. I believe that we have an obligation to leave the best possible environment for all future generations. Our existence is but a tiny, tiny link along a very long chain of inheritance. I doubt if any parent would want anything less than the "best of all possible worlds" for their children and grandchildren.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 11:53am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

If the climate is going to change in the next few hundred years, then what are some of the things that are going on right now to try and prevent that?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 2:54pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

The most important thing to do is reduce or eliminate things that are under our control that cause global warming. Most notably, this means reducing the production of greenhouse gases that are a result of burning fossil fuels (gas, coal, oil), with the most important greenhouse gas being carbon dioxide. What often gets lost in the discussion is the fact that even if there are natural causes in play that are causing the Earth to warm , we are just adding to that issue and making it much worse for ourselves. We also need to trust our best science and scientists, not wait to take action at the last minute when things are broken, and set policy accordingly.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 12:12pm
Michael's picture
Michael says:

What would be the effects of Global Warming?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 2:54pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

There are to many potential effects to mention them all, and there are probably many effects that we simply can't understand at this point of our research. However, most scientists would include the following: the extinction of species, increased droughts and fires, more radical shifts in weather patterns, major changes in ocean currents, thawing of the tundra, melting of continental ice masses (like Greenland) with major increses in ocean levels which will flood low lying coastal cities, shifts in plant and animal distribution (including diseases and pests), shifts of crop growing regions to the north which means changes in regional economies, and changes in economic/political power to mention but a few. The list is long and mostly preventable.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 12:30pm
deepak's picture
deepak says:

how is the climate change, glaciation and the sea-level change important to the understanding of biogeography and the distribution and diversity of plants and animals?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 2:55pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

This is a big question with no good short answer! However, when we had the last major continental glaciers, ending about 10,000 years ago, there was so much of the Earth's water trapped in the ice on land that ocean levels went down over 200 feet. (A little fun fact is that the miles thick ice were so heavy that they depressed the land which is still slowly rebounding today). The lower qcean levels created land bridges which allowed plants and animals (including humans) to migrate between continents (Asia to North America and visa versa). Addtionally, as the continental glaciers moved south plants and animals "retreated" to refuges much further south. For example, northern pine and spruce forests could be found in the southern U.S. as evidenced by their pollen in the sediments of southern lakes at that time. As the ice sheet retreated north the plants and animals dispersed north again as well. The pattern of this dispersal and what it tells us of the climate shift is well documented in many studies. Different plants moved back at different rates depending on conditions and their specific biology. Also, huge, multi-state sized glacial lakes that once existed (Glacial Lake Boniville) in the western U.S. mostly dried up leaving remnant basins like Great Salt Lake and fish like the cutthroat trout that are now relegated to live in the mountain rivers and streams that once fed the lake. Understanding these climate changes tells us much about the current distribution of plants and animals and what might happen if the climate drastically changes again.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 12:57pm
Jeff Boyle's picture
Jeff Boyle says:

If the glaciers melted, how much would the sea level rise? And how much land will remain, if any?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:35pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Scientists calculate that if you melted all the ice that is on land (Antarctica, Greenland, etc.) that the oceans would rise over twenty feet. The ice that is already in the ocean doesn't count because it has already displaced all the water that it can, even if it melted. While a twenty foot rise in sea level wouldn't flood a great deal of the Earth's total current landmass, it would flood areas where there are many hundreds of millions of people living. You can find good maps of these flood projections on the web. Low lying coastal cities like New York, and as we already know, New Orleans would have major flooding problems. There are even entire countries, like Bangladesh, which would be largely flooded. It would not be good in any case!

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 1:10pm
From the museum's picture
From the museum says:

Can the trees and animals adapt to global warming? I know people are saying that it is happening too fast, but they adapted to the ice age quickly, shouldn't they be okay?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:36pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Plants and animals can not adapt to that quickly of an evironmental change. Evolutionary change and adaptation may take tens of thousands or even millions of years. During the last ice age some plants and animals "migrated" to suitable habitats (refugia) further south as the climate got colder. Some undoubtably went extinct since they couldn't react or adapt fast enough to change that occurred even over thousands of years. They slowly returned when the ice melted but the landscape looked very different. Many large animals went extinct at the end of the last ice age due, at least in part, to the rapid change in climate and environmental conditions. They include things like mammoths, mastodonts, dire wolves, shortfaced bears, ground sloths, giant beavers, among many others. Yet, some very small plants and animals (land snails for example) have survived warming and the retreat of the glaciers at the mouths of "ice caves" in the unglaciated area of southeastern Minnesota. However , these are very small and very special places. Some animals, like the white tailed deer, are very adapable and can weather a lot of change. The most likely senario will be that the warmer and drier prairie like habitats will move north and east as the climate changes, with trees giving way to grasslands and brush. Of course, we may not see much of that natural change either, but rather agriculture and development moving north as the climate becomes more amenible to those activities. In any case, it could look very different in the long run.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 3:02pm
Koua's picture
Koua says:

Because the earth in the past had an ice age, can global warming really come soon? or is it just a theory due to the fact that we had an ice age so there might be global warming? What makes scientists/astronomers think that there is a chance of global warming?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:37pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

We now have evidence that some climate changes that occurred during the ice age happen much faster that many suspected. At any rate, scientists have direct evidence that the Earth is warming today and that we are in a period of global warming. For example, we know that the oceans have warmed a degree or more on average over the last few decades. That is a lot of stored heat! Some of the warmest summers and winters have been recorded these last couple of decades as well. Scientists generally agree that the Earth has been warming. Some people have questioned whether or not it is due to mans activities. Most scientists believe that human activity, such as producing greenhouse gases, by burning fossil fuels, has ben a major contributor to that warming. Evidence like the fact that the rate of warming has matched the rate of increase in greenhouse gases is hard to ignore.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 3:14pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

can you prove without a doubt that there is global warming?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:37pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Science is not about proving something without a doubt. In fact, there is a thing in science called the uncertainty principle which basically says that it impossible to know everything about anything. The process of science adds new knowledge to old so that we can form theories about how things work and then use those to make predictions or models to guide future activity. It is the best of our collective and tested knowledge. So, no, I can not say without a doubt that there is global warming. However, We can say that we know that the Earth is warmer than it was just a couple of decades ago and we pretty much know that we are at least in part responsible for that warming. Based on study of the past, we also have some idea what that warming might do to the environment, and none of it is very pleasant.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 3:24pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Visit the "Global Climate Change" area of this website for more on the evidence for and effects of global warming.

posted on Fri, 12/02/2005 - 3:26pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE OLDER TREES IN OUR AREA IF GLOBAL WARMING CONTINUES?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:37pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Older trees are closer to living out their natural life spans. Depending on the tree species, the climate may not be favorable to the germination of their seeds or the survival of their off spring. They may also be out competed by plants better adapted to warmer climates. Some may be very adaptive to warmer climates (trees like cottonwoods are found through out a variety of conditions). Older trees may be more susceptible to drought, diseases, or pests that may invade as the climate warms. The truth is that we don't know the specifics of individual tree or age characteristic changes. In the long run, as the climate warms significantly and persists for longer periods we know that the forest will look different or be replaced by other habitat types. That we know from studies of pollen in lake sediments and fossil plant materials in bogs etc. during past climate changes.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 3:40pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How much does the methane emmisions from cattle and other farm animals contribute to global warming?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:38pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Methane contributes some greenhouse effect but it is much smaller than that created by carbon dioxide. The last figures that I saw estimated that methane made up about seven percent of the greenhouse gases in the U.S. There have always been large (and small) animals that produce methane, but methane production has increased about 150% in the last 250 years. Most of that is through increased cattle production. However, the more alarming total increases in greenhose gases have occurred with the production of carbon dioxide in the burning of fossil fuels. Interestingly, the increasing producion of cattle in formerly forested areas in places like the Amazon is having a double impact on the production of carbon dioxide. First the trees are cut and burned releasing the gas, and second, the trees are no longer there to use the carbon dioxide and thus take it out of the atmosphere (Note: plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to make sugar and the cellulose that their wood is made of. Some people are amazed to learn that most of the dry weight of wood comes from carbon dioxide taken out of the air!).

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 3:56pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Did you ever think you would be studying organisms in freshwater when you were a kid? if you didn't what did you think you would be doing when you were a kid?\r\n\r\n

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 5:02pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

I kind of did know that I wanted to work with aqautic organisms very early in my life. We had a stream and a pond on our family property in Michigan. As a child, I spent a lot of time digging around looking for and collecting things in all this water, much to the dismay of my Mother who had to wash my clothes and clean out my pockets (lots of stories there). I used to wander the woods around our house and look at woodland ponds, and we only live about a mile from Lake Michigan. I also grew up in a fishing family which put me on the water a lot. My Grandfather had a side job as a commercial fisherman on Lake Michigan and I used to go out with him. I was always facinated by what I saw and had many questions to be answered. My parents bought me a nice microscope when I was about 13 and that gave me a chance to see the "little things". I was very lucky to have that kind of opportunity and support.

posted on Tue, 11/15/2005 - 4:09pm
Emily's picture
Emily says:

Were there ever crocodiles in Minnesota? If so, why aren't they here now?

posted on Sat, 11/19/2005 - 3:23pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Yes, there were crocodiles in Minnesota during the Late Cretaceous period at the end of the time when dinosaurs were still roaming the Earth 65 to 100 million years ago. Minnesota was covered by a shallow sea at that time, but much of the rock from that era was scraped away by the glaciers that covered this area just a few tens of thousands of years ago. However, cretaceous rock can still be found in low areas between much harder and older rocks, where it was protected from the glaciers. It is in one of these spots in 1967, on the Iron Range of Northeastern Minnesota, that two men found the fossilized snout of a large crocodile in some mining rock debris. The Science Museum's Curator of Paleontology, Bruce Erickson, named it a new species, Teleorhinus mesabiensis, because it was found on the Mesabi Iron Range. It was a large marine crocodile that swam in the warm seas over what is now Minnesota. The Cretaceous deposits in Minnesota normally contain things like sharks teeth, fish bones, and marine shells. We don't have crocodiles here now because it is to cold for them. During the Cretaceous period, Minnesota was closer to the equator and the Earth was warmer in general. They are "cold blooded" and need warm climates to survive.

posted on Wed, 11/23/2005 - 3:33pm
Kyle Badger's picture
Kyle Badger says:

How do you study the animals?

posted on Mon, 11/21/2005 - 12:11pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

There are many ways. Sometimes we study them where they live, out in the lakes and rivers to see how they behave in the environment. Sometimes we collect them alive and bring them back to the laboratory. Other times, we may collect and preserve them to document that they were there or to study them more closely for contaminants or diseases.

posted on Wed, 11/23/2005 - 3:39pm
Shannon's picture
Shannon says:

Are our winters getting warmer?

posted on Mon, 11/21/2005 - 2:20pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Scientists now have measurements that show that the entire Earth has warmed up by a degree or more. That's a lot and it includes winters on a world wide basis. For example, in some places, the permafrost in the Arctic is thawing, glaciers are melting and receding, and ocean ice is tinning. However, on a more local basis, some areas may be getting warmer and some even getting a little colder as the climate changes. That sounds confusing but it is why scientists look at the average changes on a whole Earth basis. Most predictions are that our winters here in Minnesota will become milder and shorter with global warmimg, if that isn't already happening. In any case, greenhouse gases are adding to the issue of global warming.

posted on Wed, 11/23/2005 - 3:54pm
Amy's picture
Amy says:

Do you like your job.

posted on Tue, 11/22/2005 - 1:21pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Yes, very much! The Science Museum is a wonderful (and wonder filled) place to work, particularly because of the great (creative and smart) staff that I get to hang out with every day. Thanks for asking.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 5:47pm
Nick's picture
Nick says:

what is the coolest freshwater organism in your opinion and why? what about the coolest in Minnesota?

posted on Tue, 11/22/2005 - 5:29pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Well, my favorite freshwater animal is the fairy shrimp. I like them because they swim upside down (at least it looks that way to us humans) and have many legs that look like little oars. They are beautiful to watch glide through the water. A famous Minnesota author, Sigurd Olson, once described them in one of his books as little "golden galleons". I also like them because they live in shallow, temporary wetlands that dry up in the summer. That means they need to complete their entire life in just a few weeks! Their eggs rest in the dry wetland mud during the rest of the year ready to hatch again in the spring. I think that one of the coolest aquatic animals in Minnesota, and maybe anywhere, is the freshwater jellyfish. Most people don't know that our freshwater lakes can have jellyfish, sponges, and bryozoans similar to those in the ocean! We had some freshwater jellyfish on display in the museum this past summer, but they only come out at that time of the tear so we can't show you any right now. You might want to check out the museum's Science Buzz Archives to see a photo of a freshwater jellyfish.

posted on Wed, 11/23/2005 - 4:13pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

We posted about freshwater jellyfish on September 1st. You can see video and read about sightings.

posted on Fri, 12/02/2005 - 3:15pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What is your favorite under-sea animal?

posted on Wed, 11/23/2005 - 12:35pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

Please read my answer to the question right before yours. My favorite freshwater animal is the fairy shrimp with the freshwater jellyfish as a very close second. However, your question was about an under-sea animal and that means from the ocean. That's a tough one because I haven't studied the ocean as much, but I would probably have to say the giant squid is a favorite. The giant squid is the worlds largest invertebrate (without a backbone) animal and we know so very little about it. In fact, scientists from Japan just took the first photographs of a live giant squid more than 2,700 feet below the surface in the fall of 2004 and just published their findings this fall.

posted on Wed, 11/23/2005 - 4:28pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

We posted a story on September 28th with links to the photos and video of the giant squid.

And this post, from July 29th, is about scientific research into the giant squid's diet. (Cannibal or no?)

posted on Fri, 12/02/2005 - 3:24pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

It seems like each year the snow comes later and later Is this caused by global warming?

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 1:52pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

That's hard to determine since there is so much natural variability in the weather from year to year. Because of that, scientists will need to gather more data over a greater period of time to understand if we are really having later snows than normal and if that change is related to global warming, but that is how science works!

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 5:31pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

What is your favorite exhibit in the museum?

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 1:53pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

That's a tough question because I like so many of them. However, since I do like studying the past, I would have to say that I like the Dinosaurs and Fossils Gallery the best, but not just because of the dinosaurs. I am particularly fascinated by a group of fossil animals called Trilobites, which you can find in the exhibit.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 5:42pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

when did youfirst discover that you wanted to be a scientist?

posted on Wed, 12/07/2005 - 11:29am
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

I think that I knew I wanted to study science when I was only 8 or 9 years old. My parents bought me my first microscope when I was just 11!

posted on Wed, 12/28/2005 - 5:41pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

Have you ever been afraid of the bugs you find in the water?

posted on Fri, 12/09/2005 - 12:27pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

I was probably afraid of some bugs when I was very young, but I quickly learned as much as I could and now I find them all very fascinating. Most bugs that you find in the water are harmless, and the few that might bite or sting are looking for better things to do than attack humans. A few make mistakes, like the organisms that cause swimmers itch. They are a stage of a parasite looking to infect a water bird. If they accidently burrow into your skin they quickly die and cause an itchy rash, but I have not been bothered much by that. There are also a few that I handle with respect because they can cause a nasty "bite". One of those is the Giant Water Bug, our largest insect in Minnesota. They are predators that grab prey with their first two "raptorial" legs and then use a sharp beak to inject an enzyme. This enzyme kills and digests the tissue of the prey so they then can suck the juices back through the beak. You have to be careful when handling them because they will also try to inject you with the enzyme in defense. It can cause a nasty sore spot. Luckily, they are not very flexible and can be handled if you stay away from the head area. I have handled hundreds without getting bitten. Go to this web site (www.pca.state.mn.us/kids/c-october.html) if you would like to see what they look like and learn more about them. The bottom line is that there's not much to be afraid of out there in the water, especially when you think about how much you can learn!

posted on Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:37pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

Do you think there are 1,000's of underwater creatures that have yet to be discovered?

posted on Fri, 12/09/2005 - 12:28pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

There are millions and maybe tens of millions of organisms yet to be identified, especially if you include all the bacteria, virues, protozoans, algae out there in the water. One of the museum scientists working at our St. Croix Watershed Research Station just discovered and described a new species of Diatom (algae) from Lake Superior (find that story on our web site). Researchers working at the Research Station about ten years ago found a new species of dragonfly on the St. Croix River! Some scientists predict that we have identified less than ten percent of all the species that currently live on earth. There is much yet to discover!

posted on Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:46pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

Do you know what is polluting the Mississippi River?

posted on Fri, 12/09/2005 - 12:29pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

There are to many kinds of things polluting the Mississippi River to mention them all here. Some of the most important big categories of pollutants includes fertilizers (phosphorus and nitrogen), toxic chemicals, metals (mercury), bacteria, sediment, chemicals that mimic hormones or that are hormones, among others. The good news is that the river is much cleaner than it was fifty years ago and we are making progress in cleaning it up even more. There is also still a lot of room for improvement.

posted on Mon, 12/12/2005 - 3:54pm
tiffany  kirsch's picture
tiffany kirsch says:

how come there isnt as many sunfish in Lake~MTKA as there used to be \r\n

posted on Fri, 12/16/2005 - 1:17pm
Ron Lawrenz's picture
Ron Lawrenz says:

There are many reasons why populations of certain fish may be reduced in any given lake. One of the most common reasons is a poor spawning or reproductive year in the recent past. Most fish have a reproductive strategy that is based on the production of tens of thousands of eggs and fry (young fish) every year. They need to lay all those eggs because only a few will survive to be adults (if they only produced a few eggs not enough would survive to keep the population going). Additionally, most fish that live in lakes, like sunfish, all spawn at about the same time in the spring when there is just the right combination of water temperature, water depth, and day length. Note: many fisherman lump bluegills, pumpkinseed sunfish, and even crappies in a category they call "sunnies", but each of these species has its own specific spawning time and depth. If the conditions are not right at the time that a given species spawns (to cold or hot, low water levels, etc.), they may have a very poor spawning success with few surviving young. That means there will be very few adult fish of that age in the following years. It can be even more pronounced if there are several poor spawning years in a row. Fisheries scientists call this a poor "year class" of fish. Since different species of fish spawn at slightly different times and in different places, you can have poor year classes of one kind of fish (say sunfish) and very good year classes of other fish (like walleyes). It gets more complicated than that, however, because in the long run if there are fewer sunfish then there is less food for predators like walleye or northern pike that eat sunfish. In all ecosystems, everything is interdependent. Of course, there are many other things that could reduce a given fish population including things like disease, over harvesting, larger populations of natural predators, pollution, water temperature, etc. I'm not sure of the exact reasons why the sunfish populations might be lower in Lake Minnetonka, but you could call the Metro Fisheries offices of the Minnesota DNR to see if they have noticed or studied that issue in the lake.

posted on Thu, 12/29/2005 - 11:10am