Katya and Mark Gordon are avid sailors with long excursions under their belt. For the past few years, they’ve spent part of each summer on Lake Superior on their 40-foot steel sailboat with their two children. Their Sea Change initiative is the driving force behind their work. The program highlights the urgency of climate change and seeks to inspire people to become climate heroes. They mentor young adults aboard their boat and spread a message of hope, positivity and personal responsibility to curb the effects of climate change.
Engaging in citizen science activities like the Citizen Lake Monitoring Program (CLMP) is also an important, and sometimes interesting, component to their sailing trips. “Often the air and water temperatures are similar — around 40 degrees F — it’s a chilly exercise!” Katya says about measuring the water clarity of Lake Superior through the CLMP. “If there’s no wind and the water is below 38 degrees, we can usually see more than 50 feet down.”
On one trip, Katya was explaining how to use a Secchi disk to measure water clarity to three young girls ages 5, 8, and 9. “Once the disk goes out of sight,” she explained, “you have to pull it up a bit to get the exact depth right.” The girls stared intently down, waiting for the disk to appear. “It’s there! It’s there! It’s…..not there!” they said.
“Are you sure?” Katya asked. They were sure, and started pulling up the line. And up, and up, and up… “Where is it? I can’t see it yet!” the girls call out. Suddenly the end of the line appeared, empty. The disk had separated from the rope and was now about 500 feet down at the bottom of the lake!
Over their years of monitoring, the Gordons have noticed a distinct correlation between water temperatures and clarity. When temperatures rise in the deeper parts of the Lake, clarity goes down. “Since Lake Superior temperatures are rising twice as fast as the air, we are starting to really see a change in crystal clarity as the summer goes on.” Katya said. “We really love being citizen monitors. Changes are taking place in Lake Superior and the MPCA’s Citizen Lake Monitoring Program gives us the tools needed to track this in a meaningful way.”