A Visit to the Flathead Lake Bio Station

The Flathead Lake Biological Station was established in 1899 making it one of the oldest active biological field research stations in the United States. This past week we were fortunate to take part in their open house. We had never explored the Yellow Bay section of Flathead Lake before and were astounded by the number of cherry orchards that we passed as we drove to the station. Even more exciting however, was being able to tour the Biological Station and find out more about the research projects taking place on and around the lake.

As we toured the grounds we met a variety of scientists both international and local that were more than happy to explain their research projects to us. We viewed and learned more about drones that are being used to map mountains and floodplains. The kids took part in a hands on experiment that helped them understand the many shapes (and their function) of plankton. At one display the kids were tasked with finding a representation of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in a large bucket of sand. This helped explain how little Nitrogen and especially Phosphorus there is in Flathead Lake. The Phosphorus in the lake is used so quickly that it is incredibly hard to detect in water samples.

After making our way through the Biological Station’s buildings we headed down towards the dock where we watched two dogs that were trained to sniff out invasive species. It was incredible to watch one of the dogs find a Zebra Mussel hidden in the motor of a boat within seconds of the scent hitting her nose.

For the grand finale of our tour we went out on one of the field station boats towards one of the monitoring buoys placed on the lake. The boat operator (a long-time researcher at the station) gave us a great overview of the work going on at the Flathead Lake Biological Station. The kids especially enjoyed the high waves that the boat encountered due to it being a very windy day!

All in all it was a fascinating open house and a great hands on look into the science being conducted just across the lake from us. It was especially wonderful to hear that Flathead Lake is a very healthy ecosystem and that a lot of work is being put into keeping it that way.