Monitoring Minnesota's changing lakes

Minnesota's designated sentinel lakes

Minnesota's designated sentinel lakes.

The Sentinel Lakes Program is an intensive, long-term lake ecosystem monitoring program created to detect and understand the physical, chemical and biological changes occurring in Minnesota's lakes.

Along with our partners, we monitor the water quality, aquatic plants, phytoplankton, zooplankton and several aspects of the fisheries community.

Ultimately, the data gathered from monitoring will be used to help us understand and develop management approaches that can mitigate or minimize impacts caused by large-scale stressors such as climate change, land use patterns, shoreline development and invasive species.

Explore the sentinel lakes

Quick facts

  • 25 lakes across a gradient of geographic locations, trophic levels, and ecoregions.
  • Collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and other organizations.
  • Lakes are divided into two different tiers. Each tier has a different monitoring regime.
  • Metrics monitored include weather, water temperature, water levels, water quality, zooplankton, phytoplankton, aquatic plants and fish.

Primary goals

  • Identify important biological, physical and chemical trends in Minnesota lakes and monitor these trends over time.
  • Identify the mechanisms behind the trends that are being observed and monitored.
  • Identify management solutions to ensure the long-term sustainability of Minnesota's lakes given the presence of large and small-scale ecological disturbances facing these iconic ecosystems.

Additional goals

  • Compile, process and standardize collected data.
  • Provide collected data to outside collaborators for additional research.
  • Continually evaluate methods to collect data in the most accurate, efficient and timely manner.
  • Evaluate which metrics provide the most useful information for detecting change in lakes.
  • Innovate new ways to collect, process and analyze data.


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