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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....