March 2020    
  Lake effects  
  The Great Lakes contain a fifth of the world's surface supply of fresh water: six quadrillion gallons, more than half of that in Lake Superior alone. The region is also home to 9,000 miles of shoreline, 35,000 islands, and an estimated 6,000 shipwrecks. The bodies of water and their surrounding basin are home to 3,500 plant and animal species and 34 million people. While still a young water system compared to the oceans, the Great Lakes offer a vast and varied resource for scientific research--right in UChicago's backyard.  
  Small bugs and large beasts in huge ponds  
  (Photography by Courtney Winter)  
Mythical lake monsters are often inspired by dinosaurs, and America's fresh water is full of them.
  The largest beast in Lake Michigan is the lake sturgeon, an at-risk dinosaur contemporary that has called the Great Lakes home for 10,000 years. It can grow to a monstrous nine feet long and 300 pounds, and serves as a barometer for lake health and diversity.  
  At the other end of the spectrum, a drop of water from Lake Michigan contains roughly a million bacterial cells and 10 million bacteria-infecting viruses. Like the sturgeon, a lake's microbiome reflects--and influences--its ecological health, so understanding how such microbial communities adapt, interact, and coevolve is crucial for environmental protection.  
  Fresh science  
Learn about life aboard a floating laboratory.
Scientists probe "microbial dark matter"--mysterious genes of unknown purpose--by studying bacteria in their natural lake-water environment.
Argonne and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago analyze the Chicago River microbe population in a groundbreaking study.
  (Illustration courtesy the Adler Planetarium)  
  In 2017 a 600-pound meteorite crashed into Lake Michigan, its fiery fall caught by a police dashcam.  
  Meteorites are valuable scientific materials, but one has never been recovered from the bottom of a lake. UChicago grad student Jennika Greer and her adviser, Phil Heck, are working with the Adler Planetarium's Aquarius Project, a collaboration between Chicago science institutions, NASA, Adler's teen outreach program Far Horizons, and a right-place-at-the-right-time police officer, to find the space rock and bring it back.  
  Last July the team used a teen-designed and teen-built magnetic retrieval sled to dredge the lake. Now they’re sorting through the haul to see if anything came from space. The Aquarius Project Podcast chronicles this ongoing story.  
  In case you missed it  
In circulation: UChicago scientists set the pace for cardiac research.
Argonne event: Oni Basu talk on single-cell genomics tools, May 3, 2020.
  Support UChicago physical sciences.  
  Mark your calendars for Giving Day, April 7-8. Find out how you can support the sciences and more at Every nanosecond counts!

Sign up to receive µChicago monthly.