Rocking gently on a boat in Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay, undoing the latch for the acoustic doppler current profiler, setting the instrument upright to dip just below the water’s surface, and opening the laptop to watch the information scroll across the screen in real-time is a common experience for Andy Kasun.
Kasun started at the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation as a student researcher but has since become a full-time technician after graduating as well as the go-to person for any question a new Burke Center student might have.
Two years ago, in the summer of 2018, Kasun and Associate Director Matt Hudson began a project to record the hydrodynamics of the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior.
They use an acoustic doppler current profiler which emits sound waves similar to sonar to measure the speed and direction of suspected particulates in water currents.
The project, which concluded this year with an informational video, will be used by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program as well as the DNR to better understand the movement of water in the bay as well as the causes and effects of said movement.
He has also been heavily involved with a project to monitor the Penokee Lakes which was established to help predict the outcome of a proposed mine in the Penokee Hills. The monitoring efforts have since expanded into an effort to create a larger state database of lake management.
Now, after five years of doing valuable research at the Burke Center, Kasun will be moving on to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth in the water resource science program this fall. “Because of the essentially graduate-level thought, responsibility, and networking, I was a lot more confident in applying to grad school and thinking about a thesis project.”
Hudson has been able to see Kasun grow throughout his time there. He remarks, “While many students have made a positive impact on the Burke Center over the years, Andy stands out as a true example of what we hope our programs can do to launch Northland College students to the next level in their career development.”
Kasun was one of the first student researchers hired by the center, joining the team just before it was officially launched.
“I came to Northland intending to study geology, and working at the Burke center pointed me towards how the water sculpted the geology and sediment that I had already been studying,” he said.
Kasun experienced the Burke Center as most new students do, with long summer days standing in a cool stream tracking the flow with one of many instruments or in a boat on one of northern Wisconsin’s many small lakes to collect samples, but mostly looking to older and more experienced students to show him the ropes.
He remembers the first time he took water samples from one of the many lakes the Burke Center monitors. He and a colleague went to Lake Owen. “It’s like a forty-five-minute drive down there and then we got all our gear in the boat and launched and realized that we didn’t have the boat keys,” recalls Kasun.
A few mishaps later and they finally got the boat back out of the water. They drove back to try and grab the keys without anyone noticing. “We weren’t able to confuse Hudson though who just chuckled at us and handed us the keys.”
Kasun still regards Lake Owen as one of his favorite lakes to visit because of its smaller size and pristine beauty.
Soon, Kasun went from newbie to experienced researcher to the newer students, training them in collecting data and entering it onto the computers, making sure to also laugh off the inevitable mishaps along the way.
For his senior capstone project, Kasun decided to study the geomorphology of North Fish Creek, specifically during large flood events, bringing together both his background in geology as well as his experience in water science from the Burke Center.
He was awarded the top prize by the American Geophysical Union for this independent research when he presented his work in the Virtual Poster Showcase in the spring of 2018.
The summer of 2018 is when Kasun began his research on the hydrodynamics of Chequamegon Bay, which has culminated into two years of profiling the bay’s currents and compiling that data into several graphs and animations which shows just exactly how the water moves and which factors, such as the wind, determine its movement.
Everyone at the Burke Center has been positively impacted by Kasun in the years he worked there. Hudson says, “I want to thank Andy for all his positive contributions to the Burke Center, his hard work, and his leadership in helping us become a better place for Northland College students to learn and grow.”