There have been numerous successful outreach programs. The Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, has extensive citizen education programs on ecosystem processes. Researchers at the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have worked with the staff of a museum to develop interactive programs on lake biology. Researchers at Wisconsin's Trout Lake Station have participated regularly in a regional lake fair and provided people with introductions to the range of aquatic organisms that occur in their region and to the features of natural systems that are monitored routinely. Trout Lake personnel also provide summer field walks of wetlands in the region through an effort coordinated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Many members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations and the National Association of Marine Laboratories routinely offer programs that attract a wide general audience.
Citizen-based water quality monitoring programs are a rapidly growing phenomenon in many parts of the country. Academic limnologists can play useful roles as advise to such groups, helping them to select useful and practical measurement variables to ensure proper collection of high-quality data and to interpret and understand the data they are collecting. In some cases, citizen monitoring is done by school-age children under the supervision of high school science instructors. In other cases, the monitoring is done by homeowners on lakes. For example, a citizen-based program to monitor the Secchi disk transparency of lakes was started in Minnesota more than 20 years ago by Joseph Shapiro, a limnologist at the University of Minnesota, and this program has provided the state's pollution control agency with long-term data on trends in water clarity for a large number of lakes. A similar national program called the "Great Secchi Disk Dip-In" is being developed by Robert Carlson, a professor of limnology at Kent State University in Ohio.
Limnologists should increase their efforts to participate in such public outreach programs to increase general citizen awareness of the importance of inland aquatic ecosystems. Outreach activities traditionally have been an important function of land-grant universities. All too often, however, outreach activities are regarded by faculty as something to be done only by extension agents or specialists, who typically are associated with colleges of agriculture.
In limnology, traditional boundaries between basic and applied research are inappropriate. Basic understanding of how aquatic systems function is essential for devising realistic management plans. Consequently,