Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-10-2017

Major Department or Program



Pat Spencer


The environmental history of lake ecosystems in the United States is broadly defined by a slow increase in contamination triggered by the Industrial Revolution and urbanization beginning around 1850, a sharper increase around 1950, and a general decrease following environmental legislation in the 1970s. This study examined sediment cores taken from three Wisconsin lakes spanning a range of human influence: Sparkling Lake (relatively pristine), Shadow Lake (remediated), and Lake Monona (impacted). Sediment cores were analyzed for heavy metal concentrations using X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) as well as for correlations with organic and calcareous content using loss on ignition (LOI). Sparkling Lake experienced the least amount of change in metal concentrations above background levels, while Shadow Lake and Lake Monona showed greater increases in concentrations toward the top of their cores as the result of higher human impacts in their watersheds. Additionally, Lake Monona displayed spikes in copper and arsenic concentrations resulting from a weed removal program by the Madison Public Health Department as well as increases in lead concentrations caused by cars and industry. These concentrations and relative trends are generally supported by previous, similar studies. The heavy metal concentrations of the cores reaffirm the impact humans have on lake ecosystems and help to construct a more complete picture of the lakes’ health.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Metals -- Environmental aspects -- Wisconsin, Sediments (Geology) -- Heavy metal content, Heavy metals -- Environmental aspects, Lake ecology, Vilas County (Wis.) -- Sparkling Lake, Waupaca County (Wis.), Lake Monona (Wis.), X-ray spectroscopy -- X-ray fluorescence, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2017 -- Geology Department

Permanent URL

Document Type

Public Accessible Thesis

Terms of Use

NOTE: .pdf file used instead of .pdf/a because of figure problems.

Included in

Geology Commons



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).