University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Winter Emerging Midges, Early Warning Indicators for Climate Change? A River Atlas Feature

Winter Sampling for Midges at the Root River, Fillmore County, MinnesotaRiver Life’s River Atlas is a project that we use to spatially tell the story of the river, its people, and its places.  On this atlas, we put points that we think are interesting or important and our best content is submitted by colleagues from other programs. That’s always far more interesting than what we can come up with on our own.

One particular point on our River Atlas that we’ve always found compelling is the one authored by Dr. Alyssa Anderson, then of the Chironomid Research Group here at the University of Minnesota.  She describes, unflinchingly, the heroic measures that she and her colleagues go to to study chironomids, the winter-hardy midges that are essential winter food to our beloved trout, and may be proverbial canaries in the coal mine when it comes to climate change in the region.

Click on the point in the River Atlas below to enjoy, or visit the River Atlas page on the website to explore the rest of our content.

View the comprehensive map, full-screen or view a searchable map, expanded view.

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  1. Colm BarryAugust 12, 2014 at 7:32 am

    What I don’t quite get is: what exactly to you is climate change in this respect? That the climate changes no one would dispute although I once knew an executive who prided himself on not even owning an overcoat as he could walk into the garage in his house, drive to work to his own private already climatized executive parking spot in the executive’s garage at work, take the elevator and never be exposed to heat or snow anytime he commuted. I’m sure he’s either dead or seriously ill by now as change of climate and weather as well as night and day is what our bodies need to function. But back to the midges: seeing we had a hiatus of almost twenty years in global warming (and if the surplus heat went into the deep oceans – then at least it also is not in that part of that particular river?), what exactly are the “canaries” a proxy measure of in terms of climate change? Please don’t get me wrong, I am no camp and have no axe to grind but try to understand. But more and more frequently in this loaded discussion people are throwing verbiage around whereby “this and that” is a sign of “this and that”. To me this sounds a bit scientifically devoid of meaning.

  2. Joanne RichardsonAugust 13, 2014 at 11:05 amAuthor

    Colm, thank you for your comment! You bring up a very important question about the ways that we use language, and the pervasiveness of a phrase; in this case, the use of the phrase “canary in the coal mine” to reference the midge’s potential role as an indicator species in climate change.

    We are posting again soon on the topic of climate change, please do keep in touch as this discussion evolves.

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