Meet the Bogs

As part of our long-term Microbial Observatory study of how bacterial communities change over time and space, we sample several bog lakes near Minocqua, WI throughout the summer. The lab has been sampling some of these bogs since 2003, making this dataset truly unique in its timespan! A bog lake is characterized as dystrophic – it has high carbon content, but low nitrogen content. Bogs have tea-colored water and are often surrounded by mats of sphagnum moss. These wetlands play an important role in the carbon cycle by acting as either producers or removers of greenhouse gases. In temperate regions such as Wisconsin, they freeze over in the winter and may undergo seasonal mixing.

We’d like to learn more about the bacteria and other microbes in these ecosystems – what chemical reactions and ecological functions do their bacteria perform? Are bacterial communities always composed of the same members, or do they change with environmental drivers? Do all bogs share a characteristic community, or are there major differences between bogs or even between years and seasons? Learning more about bacterial community dynamics in freshwater systems could impact how we use and re-use our supplies of freshwater. Freshwater is also a relatively simple system to study in order to learn more about how microbial communities function. Since microbial communities are everywhere, the principles learned from bogs and other lakes could be applied to agriculture, biofuels, or even human health!

But first, here’s a general overview of the bogs we study – stay tuned for some more specific stories!


Crystal Bog – the shallowest of our study sites at 2m. Mixes multiple times throughout the summer. Curious about the buoy? Check out for more info!


Trout Bog boat

Trout Bog – 6m deep and one of the best studied bogs in our dataset. Only a stone’s throw away from the beautiful, oligotrophic Trout Lake, our home base for the summer. Mixes twice a year, once in fall and once in spring.



 North Sparkling Bog – Both the North and South Sparkling Bogs require a bit of a hike. North Sparkling is 4m deep and normally mixes twice per year, but it was artificially mixed in 2008. We’re still looking to see if there were any long-term effects from the mixing!


South Sparkling Bog (1024x718)

South Sparkling Bog – 8m deep and also a fall and spring mixer. The sphagnum shoreline bounces when you jump on it.



Mary Lake – one of the larger bogs, but still fairly typical – except that it’s a whopping 20m deep! This bog never completely mixes, and may have some very unique bacteria living in its depths.


2 thoughts on “Meet the Bogs

  1. Pingback: Wrapping up the Field Season | mcmahon lab

  2. Pingback: Ice Off Mendota | mcmahon lab

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