In an era when most of the world's population lacks access to clean drinking water, the science of limnology (the study of bodies of fresh water) is making a resurgence in both the scientific and political communities. Earth's water supply is limited, with no new sources in sight. This is important to public policy-making given that growing populations are placing increased demands on the water supply and that pollution is posing a greater threat to the health of that supply.

Limnologists study rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. The field of limnology has become an interdisciplinary one, filled with creative scientists from several disciplines. This group of scientists participates in areas that range from field studies to serving as White House fellows who assist in policy-making.

To become a limnologist, a broad education is necessary. In middle and high school, it is imperative that one master science and mathematics classes. In college, most limnologists choose a major in biology, chemistry, physics, geology, or mathematics.

Many seek additional formal training in graduate school programs. It can be equally important to gain some hands-on experience and perhaps to even participate in a research project before applying to graduate school. Classes and volunteer programs are available at aquariums, nature groups, and science museums.

A career in limnology can be challenging and exciting. There are many varied opportunities. One of the biggest challenges facing the science is protecting and improving the quality of fisheries and fresh drinking water supplies. One other benefit, as stated by Mia Tegner, a research biologist at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, is the opportunity to "do science outdoors rather than in an indoor laboratory."

SEE ALSO Lakes and Ponds ; Marine Biologist ; Rivers and Streams

Leslie Carlson


Committee on Inland Aquatic Ecosystems, Water Science, and Technology. Freshwater Ecosystems: Revitalizing Educational Programs in Limnology. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1996.

Kowalski, Kathiann M. "Dive In!" Odyssey 7, no. 9 (December 1998): 32–35.

Margalef, R. Limnology Now: A Paradigm of Planetary Problems. New York: Elsevier Science, 1996.

Wetzel, Robert G. Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2001.

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