The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type




Degree Name

Biological Sciences - Ecology and Natural Resources: M.S.




College of Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Matthew Julius

Second Advisor

Matthew Davis

Third Advisor

Tracy Ore

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Ecology, Drawdown, Limnology, Wild Rice, Water Quality


In this masters thesis, my work is focused on a lake located north of St. Cloud in Rice, Minnesota called Little Rock Lake. Here, I have exercised the idea of testing a model of wild rice growth in its correct ecological conditions. These conditions were soil type, water depth, day length, and nutrient level. Obtaining growth of wild rice according to these parameters required adjustments to the system’s nutrient imbalance. Little Rock Lake, like any shallow lake, suffers from severe eutrophication in their system which has changed the dynamics of their lake. Overloads of phosphorus in a water body change the water chemistry in terms of which algal groups are able to grow. In 2007, Little Rock Lake experienced an extreme blue-green algae bloom which produced microcystin toxins that posed an acute health risk to resident of the lake and individuals living downstream. In efforts to improve the water quality, tax payers of Little Rock Lake worked with the Minnesota DNR to perform a drawdown. The drawdown was a novel mitigation strategy to promote remediation and establish long term sustainability in a shallow lake ecosystem. Wild rice was utilized in the phosphorus removal process as well, provided by the Mille Lacs Band Indigenous group. Rice populations were found growing naturally in Little Rock Lake for many years prior to enriched nutrient levels dominating the system. Wild Rice is known for its ability to absorb large amounts of nutrients from bodies of water and it also serves as a phosphorus sink through waterfowl consumption and removal outside the water column through their fecal matter. Wild rice establishment in Little Rock Lake is influenced by a physical barrier, not a chemical obstacle. Varying substrates and water depths are effecting wild rice growth in ideal planting locations. Little Rock Lake experienced water level fluctuations of nearly 3 feet throughout the growing season in 2022. Although severe depth changes affect the reestablishment of wild rice in the system, utilizing other plant species to maintain high water quality is advised. Plant species that grow in a variety of depths is recommended for future restoration efforts in Little Rock Lake.


I would like to thank the Mille Lacs Band Indigenous group for the seed donation for this study. I would also like to thank my professors for the guidance and support they have provided throughout my years at St. Cloud State University. I want to thank my advisor, Dr. Matthew Julius, for providing insight, professionalism, and motivation to my career as well as my thesis work. Dr. Julius has made a tremendous impact on my knowledge in the biological field and I idolize his passion for bettering the grasp of science in future biologists at SCSU. I want to thank a few of my colleagues for helping me with portions of my thesis work; James Latske, Dylan Hakes, and Mariah Simones. The Minnesota DNR played a large role in this study as well, specifically Eric Atlena, for providing knowledge of Little Rock Lake and the surrounding watershed. Lastly, I want to thank my parents, Don Olinger and Matt & Shelley Beckman, and my siblings, Cale and Mara Olinger, for all their support throughout my education. Thank you to everyone who has helped guide and support me throughout this incredible journey and I am excited to see where my career in the biological field takes me!



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