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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall Mini-Sub Launch!

Cornell's Automated Underwater Vehicle (AUV) team successfully launched NOVA from the M/V Haendel during out October 4 eco-cruise. Our mission was to assess the maximum rooting depth for aquatic plants in the south end of the lake. We completed a transect on the west shore indicating that rooted plants have established themselves to a maximum depth of roughly 17 feet. We also collected some cool footage of Cornell's Lake Source Cooling outfall! Follow this link to see some stellar video footage.

Monday, September 28, 2009

One Wet Eco-Cruise!

Sept. 27 - We commend you hearty souls who joined us for a damp cruise on the lake! After half an inch of rain, this was a great opportunity to get a first-hand look at how various parts of the south shelf of Cayuga are impacted by a moderate storm. We stopped at six locations, starting at the inlet, working our way up the east shore with dominant flow of water, and returning along the west side.

Clarity in the inlet, of course was quite low, running just over 1 Meter. As we cruised east past Stewart Park and up the east shore, clarity slowly increased to about 5 meters at the edge of the shelf, where Rt. 34B moves away from the Lake. Water temperatures decreased from 17.5 C (63.5 F) in the inlet to about 15.0 C off of Willow Point, as inflowing runoff mixed with slightly colder water in the lake. Acidity (pH of 8-8.2) remained constant, and dissolved oxygen levels appeared to decrease significantly as we approached the East Shore.

The most interesting story was to be found as we moved out of the main flow, toward the sheltered west shore of the lake. Water temperatures and pH levels fell noticeably, suggesting the upwelling of cold, clear water from deep areas of the lake. Secchi clarity on the east shore approached 6 meters, and a temperature of 12.2C (about 54 F) was recorded. We haven't seen water this cold near the surface since early spring, but a quick glance at Cornell's RUSS station confirms that cold waters are somehow being pushed to the surface near the edge of Cayuga's south shelf. Fall has come to Cayuga Lake.

South Seneca on the Lake!

Thursday, September 24th - Fifth grade science enrichment students from South Seneca Central School were aboard the M/V Haendel for an afternoon of ecology on Cayuga Lake. Bill Foster was the lead instructor. There were four learning stations. Each one designed to help students understand the importance of monitoring changes and processes in the lake.

In the Pilot House of the boat, Captain Dave helped students to visually monitor lake conditions and position. We were located N 42 degrees 32.935 minutes latitude and W 76 degrees 35.177 minutes longitude. The air temperature was 70 degrees F and it was sunny. There were small waves on the lake. It was pretty calm. There weren’t many other boats out. They use GPS for water depth and precise latitude and longitude.

We used Secchi disks to see how deep the light penetrates the water. We lowered the black and white disks into the water on a rope one meter at a time and watched to see how far down you could still make it out. We could see it for about 4 to 4.5 meters. This is important because plants need light to grow.

At the plankton viewing stations, Caroline helped us use microscopes to look at the tiny zooplankton and phytoplankton that we caught in the plankton net. This was very cool! We found anabaena, asterionella naulpius, microcystis, amphipod, keratella, and water shrimp. The zooplankton looked like mini-monsters. The phytoplankton produces oxygen. Plankton is the base of every food chain in the lake.

With Mark, we collected water samples in a "mouse trap" (Van Dorne tube) from different depths. It was cool to see the way this gadget worked. We checked each sample for pH and temperature. We tested how deep the light can go with our Secchi disks and the light only penetrated about 12 to 15 feet, so after that the water got colder. We colored some of the colder water from a deep sample blue and put it in a long tube with water from closer to the surface. The cold water sank to the bottom of the tube. Heavier things sink, so we knew that the cold water is heavier than the warmer water.

This trip was awesome! It was fun to be out on the lake and we learned a lot about how light, temperature, and living things in the lake are connected.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What's That Mossy-Looking Stuff in the Lake?

For anyone who observed somewhat billowy green clouds in water on the south shelf of Cayuga between Sept. 13 and 20. Our sources Cornell's Lab of Evolutionary Biology & Ecology tell us it was likely a filamentous green algae called Mougeotia. Over the course of the week, it settled out of the open water and literally covered the bottom of the lake along the west shore in particular. Kind of looked like an aquatic version of spanish moss hanging from the larger plants.

<- blanketing larger plants... seen up-close ->

According to researcher Colleen Kearns, "Filamentous blooms, along with fall blooming diatoms, are part of seasonal algal succession-right on cue for this time of year." Our understanding is that this bloom will dissappear over the coming week; we'll be looking for it this coming Sunday!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Art & Science on Cayuga!

Special Thanks to today's eco-cruise feature guest- Camille Doucet. We had a great time practicing out nature illustration techniques, as we focused on live specimens fresh from the lake- Coontail, Elodea & even some zooplankton!

Along with artistic endeavors, we did our weekly clarity tracking (Secchi Disk tests) of deep water areas near the south end of the lake. It looks like our end of the lake is still going through an especially productive phase. Clarity is running at about 2 meters- its lowest point for the year. Samples reveal that a tiny diatom (photsynthetic plant) called Fragilaria (pictured here) is still densely populating the water. You could call this an algal bloom.

Expect a change in the coming week, however, as the plankton population in the lake adjusts itself. Some of our younger visitors noted numerous copepod larva (nauplia) in our plankton net samples, and they are like responding to the availability of food. We'll see what happens....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Water Wizards Updates...

Thanks to our Water Wizards crews from Caroline, Danby, Ithaca, Trumansburg and Newfield! You were all fantastic. We'll have photos and program reports up soon (We promise!).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cayuga Explorers Summer Program!

We are now accepting registrations for our CAYUGA EXPLORERS summer youth program, scheduled for Tuesday, August 25-Friday, August 28! To learn more, click here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Catch Cornell's Mini-Sub in Action!

Today, we hosted Cornell's Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Team on the lake, during our afternoon eco-cruise. Water was a littlcluody due to windy conditions, but we have our first video footage - click here for video and images!

The deployment of the 2009 competition vihicle "Nova" was a success, despite some pretty rippin' north winds peaking at 20mph. Thanks to Capt. Rod for a steady hand! With water temperatures approaching 70 degrees F. down to 15 feet or so, summer vegetation is booming on the lake at this point. We took a variety of plant samples, and it was interesting to note that, while the aquatic macrophyte (rooted plant) community near the east shore and Stewart Park was dominated by species such as Eurasion Water Milfoil and slender pondweed. On the other hand, once we settled over slight deeper waters (~15 ft.) on the west shore of the lake, we recover dense growth dominated by declining curly-leafed pondweed and elodea. Can't wait to see the video!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Spiny Water Fleas!

Today, students from the Hillside Center helped us conduct a lake profile just north of Taughannock State Park. They did a great job, and we observed a swarm of millions of spiny water fleas for the first time this year! These tiny, invasive, creatures can really clog up fishing gear... they also are feared to be at the heart of very serious ecological changes taking place in the Great Lakes Basin. We need to learn more about their impact on Cayuga.
We also observe quite a few paramecium in 5-10 meters of water off the west shore. Here's what they looked like...

Can Invasive Mussels Change Cayuga?

We saw a fair number of mussel larvae (called "veligers") in our plankton samples during June, and we have been looking at zebra and quagga mussel colonies around the lake this month. Click on the photo to check out a cool video to learn a little about how invasive mussels might result in increased algae growth and deposition along shorelines!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Art on Cayuga!

Many thanks to everyone who filled the M/V Haendel to the gunnels for our first-ever art cruise on Cayuga Lake! With the help of artist Camille Doucet, we have taken a much closer, more careful look at the plants and animals that call Cayuga home. Check back for pictures and perhaps a few illustrations of Potemageton crispus (curly pondweed), Eurasion water milfoil and more in a few days!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

BJM & Dryden Kids Together on the Lake

Thanks to the Village At Ithaca, Ithaca Friends of Pete Seeger, and the Town of Dryden, 20 students participating in after-school programs at BJM and Dryden Elementary schools completed a three-week "Water Wizards" program on Tuesday. We had an awesome time getting to know each other, checking out what's growing on the bottom of the lake, testing the waters and learning a little about our Lake's history. With help from Pamela Goddard, we even learned a traditional ballad, "Strike the Bell" to see us through our day's work!

Our samples confirmed much of what we learning during Sunday's cruise. Water temperatures are in the mid-60s below the surface and early-spring diatoms have all but disappeared. We did have the first spotting, however, of the dreaded Eurasion Water Milfoil, pulled from 12 feet of water in the middle of the south shelf!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spring On Cayuga!

Our thanks to everyone who came out for our Sunday, June 14 Eco-Cruise. Beautiful afternoon to think about spring on the lake, huh? Cayuga has been slow to warm up this year, and the succession of tiny (planktonic) plants and animals living in the water, as well as larger plant communities on the bottom, have responded accordingly. Here's what we observed:

Our first stop was off of the southwest shore, in 6 meters of water. Water clarity was running about 2.8 meters- a little less clear than last week, but not much. Not surprisingly, we collected samples of two species of aquatic plants growing from the bottom- native coontail, and non-native curly pondweed. The pondweed, in particular, is an early grower, and appeared to be about 1 meter tall.

Our second stop was out in the middle of the lake, where we found slightly better clarity - about 3.4 Meters. Clarity has been running 5-6 meters in recent weeks, so this is a little murkier than I might have expected; perhaps attributable to recent heavy rains. We measured temperatures in the mid-60s several meters below the surface for the first time this year, however, and green algae are responding with faster growth rates. Things are finally starting to pop! Tim Phillips conducted a full-depth temperature profile sample with Cornell's SCAMP unit- results are to the right: The plot indicates decreasing temperature as it moves to the left; note the rapid change between 5 and 10 meters.

Finally, we hit the southeast corner of the lake, near the East Shore Marina. Conditions were similar to other locations, but a quick aquatic plant dredge brought us a dense growth of curly pondweed (pictured to the right.), running over 2 meters tall. I would expect to see this plant breaking the surface in the next week or so! It will begin to fragment around July 4, and mats will float around the surface of the lake and disperse over the following week. Click on this photo to see more images of plants found in Cayuga Lake.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cruising from Aurora - June 3

After a day on the lake with classes from Waterloo Middle School, the Maxwell Academy & the Frontenac School, the crew grabbed a tasty dinner at the Fargo and headed back to the boat for an evening eco-cruise with 20 residents of Aurora and the surrounding area.

We shared thoughts on the health of the lake and continued our study of seasonal events on the lake by conducting basic sampling to follow up on the day's student findings. One thing that seems a little unusual this year is the continuing domination of cold-water organisms far into the spring. During 2007 & 2008, the cold water diatom asterionella (pictures in postings below) declined in late May as the water warmed, but this year it is persisting. Unusual, but not unheard of... We also caught our first glimpse of zebra mussel veligers today. These are the larval stage of one of our most significant Cayuga Lake invaders, and indicate the arrival of a new generation.

Special thanks go to our cruise collaborators- the United Ministry of Aurora and the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network. Newly appointed Cayuga Lake Steward Hilary Lambert joined us to facilitate a discussion about community and individual opportunities to work on behalf of the Lake. We will need everyone's help to keep serving every community around the lake in the coming years!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

DeWitt Middle School

May 5, 2009
Time(s): 10 AM – 2:45 PM
We sailed from:
Sampling Site: Taughannock State Park
Latitude: 42o 33.36’ Longitude: 76o 34.00’

Field Conditions:
Air temperature: 50 degrees F
Weather: overcast
Lake Conditions: calm to small waves, ripples
Lake Activity Level: low

Secchi Disk Measurement(s): 7 - 8 (meters)
Plankton Observations:
a. Organisms observed: diatoms, calanoid copepods
b. Most numerous organisms: diatoms

Water Characteristics:
Depth Temp. pH
0 44.7 8.0
3 43.9 7.5
5 44.3 8.0
7 44.3 8.5
20 42.9 8.0
30 44.6 8.0
50 42.4 8.0

Dewitt Middle School Trip Report

Name of School/Group: DeWitt Middle SchoolDate: May 1, 2009
Time(s): midday
We sailed from:
Sampling Site: Taughannock State Park Latitude: 42o 33.36’ Longitude: 76o 34.00’

Field Conditions:
Air temperature: 51 - 61 degrees F
Weather: overcast
Lake Conditions: calm
Lake Activity Level: low

Secchi Disk Measurement(s): 8 (meters) (average)
Plankton Observations:
a. Organisms observed: diatoms, calanoid copepods
b. Most numerous organisms: diatoms

Water Characteristics:
Depth Temp. pH
0 44.7 8.0
3 43.9 7.5
5 44.3 8.0
7 44.3 8.5
20 42.9 8.0
30 44.6 8.0
50 42.4 8.0

Lansing High School Trip Report

May 11 & 12: We collected data on many aspects of the lake's environment including depth, water clarity, temperature, and types of organisms in the water. Measurements were taken in the middle of the lake, just North of Meyer's park, at 42° 32.125' North latitude, 76° 33.723' West longitude. On May 11, conditions were calm and sunny; On May 12th, conditions were overcast and windy. Lake surface on both days was relatively calm with a few small waves and ripples.
The average air temperature recorded was 54.8 degrees, with a range between 46 and 64 degrees at different times in the day. Water pH and temperature samples were taken at varying depths, some as deep as 75 meters below the surface. Listed below is a range of temperatures and pH readings at various depths:
Depth(m) - Temperature(F) - pH
1 - 46 - 8
5 - 47 - 8
20 - 46 - 8.5
30 - 47 - 8
40 - 43 - 8.50
45 - 43 - 8
75 - 42 - ** = no reading

Secchi disks, the devices used to read light penetration through the water, indicated an average visual depth of 4.78 meters, with reading ranging from 4.25 to 6 meters. These readings categorized Cayuga lake as Mesotrophic. Actual sunlight penetration depths are closer to twice the visual depth.

Plankton samples were also collected. Samples were taken from depths ranging fromhalf a meter to 20 meters, with an average sample depth of 9.3 meters. Most samples were collected at 8 meters. At 10 meters, samples collected contained lots of plankton and algae, coloring the water green. Samples at depths shallower than five or deeper than 10 were mostly clear, containing very little life. The most common types of phytoplankton found were Diatoms, small plankton that resemble snowflakes. The most common types of zooplankton were Calanoids, which look like very tiny fish with feelers.
Posted by Mrs. Stone at 2:17 PM

Monday, June 1, 2009

Enfield 5th Grade Trip Report

Date: May 29, 2009
We sailed from: Taughannock Park, at 9:30 and 11:30am
Sampling Site: Half way between Taughannock and Myers Point, in 280 feet of water!
Field Conditions:
Air temperature: 58-60 degrees F
Weather: Clearing, but cloudy after morning rain.

Lake Conditions: Calm, light waves with a south breeze building
Secchi Disk Measurement(s): 3.5-5.5 (meters)

Plankton Observations: Asterionella, a photosynthetic diatom, were the most numerous plankton on the water. However, some green- round volvox and long filaments were also present. We learned that, as the water warms, these types of algae will grow faster. We also saw lots of very small animals called rotifers, which eat the diatoms and green algae, and a few copepods.

Water Observations: We tested the temperature of the water a many depths and found that it gets colder as you go deeper. The surface temperature was 52 degrees F. but is quickly went down to about 47 degrees at 5 meters. Below that, it got even colder from 15 to 20 meters deep. This is probably because this is the lowest point where sun light can get to warm the water. While our Secchi disk readings were only about 5 meters on average, classes earlier in the week had readings as deep as 8 meters, which indicated that light could penetrate to at least 16 meters- twice the Secchi disk reading. Maybe the wind and rain from the day before increased the cloudiness of the water a little bit.

What Was Cool? The water that came our of Taughannock Creek was very cloudy, and we could see it flowing into the lake. The lake water was so clear during our morning cruise that we could actually see a wall of cloudy water from the Creek below the surface. Captain Stephanie positioned our boat right over the line between Creek water and lake water, and we measured the clarity on boat sides of the boat. 8 meters on the starboard and only 1 meter on the port! We talked about which water offered a better habitat for trout or for smaller fish and decided the edge of both habitats might be a great place to go fishing!

We also measured the acidity of the water on the pH Scale, and found that Cayuga Lake had a pH of 7.3 today. It is not acid because the pH is above 7, which is neutral. The limestone that Emily the Park Naturalist showed us protects our lake from acid rain by neutralizing the acid- remember all those bubbled when the acid touched the limestone?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Aquatic Plant Survey Cruises - Take One!

In honor of Ithaca's Water Week celebration on May 9, we took three cruises onto Cayuga Lake, culminating in the first deployment of Cornell's student-designed remote-operation mini-sub, Triton (Pictured at right), from the M/V Haendel!
This was the first of three opportunities this seasaon to record on video the plant community growing from the bottom of the lake. We'll add new images soon from this exciting event... so check back in a week!
Click on the image here to navigate to the Cornell AUV Team's website.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Special Thanks to the Friends of Pete (Seeger)!

Our Thanks to all the folks who came out to celebrate Pete Seeger's 90th birthday at Stewart Park on Sunday, May 3. It was a beautiful afternoon full of good food, children on the playground and beautiful music ringing out from the shores of Cayuga Lake! A particular shout-out goes to Pamela Goddard and Jim Harper, who made it all possible.

Your $200 in donations will help us make sure that people from every part of our community will have access to Cayuga Lake, and confidence that they have something to contribute to the community dialog on Cayuga Lake, our common resource. We think Pete will approve!

-Bill F.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Windy Earth Sunday!

Thanks to all who braved the elements on a sunny but surprisingly chilly and blustery day on Cayuga Lake! With a few minor hitches, our 2009 "shakedown" cruises were a success!

Our early afternoon cruise focused on conditions near the southwest corner of the lake, while our 3:00pm cruise featured a trip into deeper waters. The combined results fro both trips:

Water clarity, as measured by Secchi Disk:
Cayuga Inlet - 1.5 M
Cayuga Lake, SW Cornel (4 meters of water) - >4.0 M
Central Cayuga Lake - 6.5 M

Water Temperature, near the surface was 48 Deg. F.
** Stay tuned for results from Cornell's SCAMP remoted sensor, demonstrated by Tim Phillips!
Biological Notes: The water is beginning to show signs of warming,and planktonic species are observable. Photosynthetic diatoms such as Astrionella, and Copepod zooplankton were identified by our participants.

We also collected samples of material from the bottom of the lake during our first cruise. At a depth of about 4 M (12 feet), aquatic plants, including coontail, were showing signs of spring growth

Additionally, our sample was swimming with small shrimp-like amphipods. It was interesting to note that a second lake-bottom sample, from roughly 7 M revealed very little, other than fine silt and sediment.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Welcome to our new "under construction" blogsite!

Come aboard to stay up to date on Cayuga Lake- the Floating Classroom crew will be providing cruise highlights and offering notes of interest during the 2009 cruise season. We will depend on students and volunteers to submit class trip and eco-cruise reports, links to important information sources, and more.

Our 2009 public cruise season begins with Ithaca's Earth Sunday celebration at Ithaca Farmers' Market. The Floating Classroom vessel with be on-hand at the market between noon and 5:00pm, with free (donations gladly accepted!) cruises departing at 1:00pm nad 3:00pm. Check out Tiohero Tours for scheduling information.

See You On The Lake!
Bill F.