During 2018, my junior year at UNH, I took Lake Ecology as a sustainability elective. This course focused highly on the natural environment and went into depth on the ways that humans are impacting ecological systems. For example, several discussions were based on the introduction and implications of adding phosphorus and nitrogen to the environment. We learned how these nutrients can lead to fish kills once phytoplankton blooms occur, bacteria dominate, and dissolved oxygen is removed from the aquatic habitat. In addition, any animal or human in the surroundings may further be affected by biotoxins, or harmful poisons produced by certain bacteria.
Overfishing and invasive species were additionally impactful topics, especially when considering the degradation of marine food chains when humans directly or indirectly impact an organism's main food source.
Unsurprisingly, climate change also came up during several instances throughout the course. I was especially unsettled when I learned that a lake I had visited in 2014 had closed due to high water temperatures and the die-off of millions of golden jellyfish. This unique lake, known as Jellyfish Lake in Palau, Micronesia was home to approximately 5 million jellyfish before 2016. In 2016, an El Nino occured, causing the jellyfish to stress and die. The population dropped to 630,000, and the lake was closed. Fortunately, the jellyfish population is a resilient one, and their numbers are slowly beginning to rise again.
Overall, this course further impressed upon me the interconnectedness of systems and the multide of ways in which we, as humans, can alter our environment.