Story of the Lake by Emily Odegard

Story of the Lake

Block Printing

Emily Odegard, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

In Collaboration with Dr. Samantha Kaplan, Department of Geography and Geology, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Story of the Lake interprets how scientists take soil samples from the bottom of lakes and determine how the surrounding environment and climate have affected the lake over time.

Odegard initially chose to explore block printing because the layers of the printing process reminded her of the layers in the soil of Dr. Samantha Kaplan’s work. The layers presented on the storybook page aren’t necessarily what scientists see in every sample they take, but the art represents important factors that determine the history of the lake. We first see pebbles at the top throughout the layers on this block print. We then go into a sand-like soil texture, followed by blown-up visuals of pollen molecules often found in the samples. Afterward, we see tree rings, depicting how professionals also examine lifeforms surrounding the lake to illustrate their understanding. In the bottom layer, we see diatoms – a type of microalgae commonly found in samples. 

On the binding we see a column of colors overlapping each other, and this is linked to the tube scientists use to collect the initial soil samples. Near the center of a page, a colored line represents a layer of ash left from a forest fire. Similarly, we see a fossil and a diatom highlighted at the top and bottom of the page. This piece is presented in three variations to represent the diversity between samples taken and the various stories they convey.


Emily Odegard, originally from River Falls, WI, is an incoming BFA Musical Theatre and a freshman BA Arts Management major with a minor in media studies at UW Stevens Point. Throughout high school, Emily explored using new sources of media to express herself and fell in love with the art of block printing. Emily was ecstatic to expand her skill while working with a water professional and is incredibly grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

ABOUT THE Water Partner

Dr. Samantha Kaplan is a professor in the Department of Geography and Geology at UW Stevens Point. Her research sits at the intersection of geology, ecology, and climate change. Dr. Kaplan uses lakes and wetland ecosystems in Wisconsin and elsewhere to decipher environmental change in the past and as a tool for understanding how lakes and their surrounding environments may change in the future. Lakes are like books that can tell stories of the past. The types and abundance of pollen, algae (diatoms), and other organic and inorganic matter found in the sediments can indicate past temperatures, precipitation, and vegetation patterns. Sediment grain size, composition, and geochemistry can infer changes in lake level, erosion, and nutrient inputs. Together these natural archives reveal the climate and human-related factors influencing our ecosystems through time.