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Friday, October 29, 2010


Sunday, October 31 - Intrepid lake enthusiasts, braving the elements for our last eco-cruise of the year, got a chance to view the remains of this mysterious creature, pulled up by students recently from the south end of Cayuga Lake. (Pictured to the right.) The jury is out, as to its origin or authenticity, but observers agreed, it matches the description of the fabled "Mays Point Mystery Fish", often sighted at the north end of our lake. FC crew plans to conduct research over the winter... our findings will be reviewed in 2011!

Lake Conditions were windy and raw, but a brief sampling stop on Sunday reviewed water temperatures hovering just above 50 deg. F. and clarity diminishing (from 7M on Friday to just over 4M on Sunday). Reduced clarity may be an indicator that Fall Turnover is beginning. We also continued to observe a very dense growth of plankton- primarily the diatoms fragillaria and asterionella- at depth below 10M.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mid-October on the Lake

Thanks to everyone who came out on October 10! Thanks also to Joe Simonis from Nelson Hairston's lab at Cornell, who came out to help identify plankton! We'll post a more complete update soon, but suffice to say, fall is progressing on the lake- and the most remarkable aspect is the clearing of the water.

This past Sunday, we observed 8.5 meter Secchi clarity- which corresponds to light penetrating roughly 25 meters into the lake- that's nearly 80 feet! At that depth, the water is not cooling off particularly rapidly, and we may yet witness a deep-water algae bloom this fall, now that sunlight is penetrating to depths where nutrients have been building up all summer.

We'll see how are fall bloom progresses, but in the meantime, enjoy our chrystal-clear lake!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Scientists have been studying Cayuga Lake for over 100 years. Come find out what's been learned!
  • Learn about the Renwick Field Station, the first "limnology lab" in North America, built right along the Inlet! (limnology is the study of fresh water lakes and wetlands)

  • Compare plants and animals collected during the cruise with those found in Cayuga waters over 100 years ago! (Using a 1903 Cayuga Lake plankton survey.)

Our featured guests for the day- Nelson Hairston, Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Environmental Science in Cornell's Dept. of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and lake ecology specialist Colleen Kearns. The weather will be fine - call today for reservations!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


We've spent the past few days with Wells College students on the lake, cruising from beautiful Aurora, New York. Its a treat to get up to the northern end of Cayuga Lake once in a while, and we've been rewarded with gorgeous conditions! The lake is looking pretty good, but the water is even warmer, with temperatures in the 70's down to 10 meters or more(!). We are also seeing light blooms of blue-green algae near the surface. These appear as greenish clouds, which review small particles upon closer inspection.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Last Day of Cayuga Explorers!

Today was the last day of camp. We did a full floating-classroom-lake-monitoring-event and did samples with the secchi disk, Van Dorn tubes, Ekman Dredge and Hydrolab. We found that the thermocline (rapid change in lake temperature) was at about 16 meters, and that that area had LOTS of plankton.

We hope to be adding a data tab to this website in the next few weeks to that you can all see all of the information that we're gathering--stay tuned! In the meantime, click on the photo or right HERE for more pictures of camp, and we hope to see everyone on the lake for an ECO-CRUISE!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cayuga Explorers: Day III

Today was our third day of summer camp, and it was a windy one. Our plan for the day was to use the Hydrolab (hi-tech water sampling equipment) that we borrowed to do a transect of the lake, but this proved very hard to do because it was so windy and cold.

We made a few stops with the Hydrolab and got some data at different depths. We also got bottom samples of the lake to see what was growing-- first we found plants, and then as we moved into deeper water, we found mud and zebra mussels. We also got a plankton sample from the surface, and found LOTS of algae growing in it. We're looking forwards to our last day of camp tomorrow! Here is a picture of yesterday's fish-seining fun at Myers Point.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cayuga Explorers: Day II

Today was our second day of camp and boy, were we busy!

We started out with some warm-up activities/brainteasers, and then went up to Myer's Point to do some seine-net fishing. We spent quite a while learning about how to use the seine net and putting our knew knowledge to the test in the water. We caught several kinds of bass, including large- and small-mouthed bass, and one small darter. On our way back from Myer's point, we stopped for a plankton sample.

We also still have aboard the zebra mussel overpopulation experiment we started yesterday. We took three jars full of water and added 50 zebra mussels to one, five to the next, and none to the last. It will be interesting to see whether the jars of water are clarified, but also whether the mussels survive in a jar that is a bit overpopulated. Here's a picture of our jars on day 1. (left jar has 50 mussels, middle jar has five, right jar has none)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cayuga Explorers Session Two!

Today was our first day of this session of camp! We did some art, played some team-building activities, and working on some basic lake sampling. We found some interesting results--while the lake clarity (secchi depth) was only 1.25 meters near the mouth of the inlet, it was 4 meters farther up on the West shore. This might be because of a large concentration of some sort of plant matter (probably blowing onto the lake from on land somewhere) near the surface. It was a fun day, and tomorrow we're going to try to catch some fish with a seine net--I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Floating Classroom is on Facebook!!

If you want to get updates about interesting upcoming events or if you have ideas, questions and comments for us, you can have a look at our Facebook Page!

To find the page, search for "Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom" on Facebook or just click the link on the right-hand side of this blog. 

On the Facebook page, you can post questions or ideas for us to respond to, photos or thoughts from your trip on the Floating Classroom, or anything else you'd like us to see. We're still trying to work out all of the specifics for the page, so if you have any suggestions on that, feel free to post those too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eco-Cruise with Paula Bensadoun

Today we had a great Eco-Cruise/ Art Cruise with local artist Paula Bensadoun. There were many people on the boat, and many of them drew wonderful pictures of the lake plants, trees and clouds with the help of Ms. Bensadoun. We saw large "forests" mostly composed of eelgrass, and we also found Elodea (a native plant) and Eurasian Milfoil (an invasive species). The weather was beautiful, and it was a lot of fun!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cornell's RUSS

One of our "landmarks" in the lake is Cornell's RUSS (Remote Underwater Sampling Station)--a weather and water monitoring station on the lake. It provides up-to-date weather information about the lake, so if you're ever wondering how windy it is out there, or what the water temperature is, it's a great resource. The page with the updated information from the station is, and if you would like to learn more about the RUSS, you can visit their main page at

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Camp on the Lake!

Our second session of Cayuga Explorers Camp is happening next week, Tuesday-Friday. The camp leaves from East Shore Marina and is from 8:30-12:30 each day. It is for kids entering 5th grade and up. There are still spaces available!! Click here or contact the Ithaca Youth Bureau for more information.

During each day of camp, we will play team-building games, work on lake sampling and boating skills onboard the Floating Classroom, and do a variety of other activities, often including learning about the legends and history of our lake and working on nature illustration techniques. The camp provides a fun and exciting way to learn about our lake during the summer. Because each session is limited to 24 campers (they are usually smaller, between 12 and 15), we can get to know each kid's interests in the lake pretty well, so we can tailor what we do to what the kids would like to do. It will be a lot of fun, and I'm looking forwards to it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lansing Harborfest!

We did three short Eco-Cruises from Lansing's Harbor Festival today. Although it was windy we did some plankton samples, secchi disk tests and pH tests. We also got some plant samples (and almost lost a rake!).

For information on lake clarity, click here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ScienceCenter Camp!

We went out for two cruises with the kids from the Science Center Camp today. Since it was a bit of a rainy day, we talked a lot about acid rain and how it affects our lake-- and how we are protected by the limestone rocks around our lake. (The picture to the left is of Caroline putting strong acid on several different kinds of rocks to see what would happen). We found out that the pH of the rain was between 6 and 6.5, and that the pH of the lake was between 8 and 8.5. We also got several plankton samples which had many different kinds of zooplankton (tiny animals) in them, although not so many phytoplankton (tiny plants). When we took samples of plants, we found five different kinds in just a small area, including Milfoil and Elodea.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lansing Harborfest!

We're very excited to be a part of Lansing's Harbor festival this year, with four cruises on Saturday afternoon leaving from Myer's Point. For more information about the festival and a complete schedule, click here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Last day of camp, Last GIAC cruise

Today was the last day of the water wizards summer camp with youths from Dryden/Freeville and Newfield, and it was also our last program with the GIAC pre-teen green program. This Sunday, some of the youths from the GIAC program will join us for our eco-cruise, along with artist Louisa Sandvik.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Last Southside Cruise

In addition to our own camp today, we brought out a group of kids from the Southside Community Center Camp. It was a very hot day, but we still managed to get a lot done. We found that the secchi depth was 5 meters, meaning that light was going into the lake 15 meters, the farthest we've seen in several weeks. We also took plankton samples and did temperature and pH tests at many different depths. We hope to see many of the youths that we took out on the boat back again for one of our eco-cruises.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Flat Rock Rocks!

Our Dryden and Newfield Water Wizards youths spent the morning at Flat Rock on Fall Creek and conducted an assessment of the aquatic invertebrates that live in the stream. Ecologists use the presence of sensitive and tolerant stream invertebrates to assess the health of the stream. Fish use them for food! Based on our assessment this morning, Fall Creek at Flat Rock is in EXCELLENT condition. We found 6 Orders of pollution sensitive insects, and this cool whirligig beetle larvae!
Long Live larry the Leech!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Water Wizzards Day 1

Today was the first day of Water Wizzards camp with middle schoolers from Dryden/Freeville and Newfield. It was a beautiful day on the lake, so after we got started at the farmers market we did many different kinds of lake sampling. Secchi depth was about 3.5 meters (so light penetration was about 11.5 meters). We found continuing small blooms of Microcystis (Pictured to the right.) This potentially blue-green algae can be harmful if it blooms (Lower picture), but it didn't seem to be causing any problems at this point. We're looking forwards to visiting Monkey Run tomorrow, and then we'll be back on the boat on Thursday and Friday... and we hope we don't see this!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Southside Camp Cruise #1

Another excellent outing with the kids from Southside Daycamp today-- this time on the lake!

We focused on getting to know the boat and learning how to use all of the equipment on board. We also worked on the experiment that we started with the GIAC group yesterday to see how quickly zebra mussels could clarify water. The water we put in the jar with the zebra mussels was almost totally clear today. We put in more turbid (cloudy) water, and we'll see whether the mussels can clarify that by tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

GIAC Pre-Teen Green Cruise #2

We had a great cruise this morning with the GIAC pre-teen green program. The weather was beautiful, everybody was willing to pitch in, and we found out some really interesting things about the lake!

We began the day by doing a depth profile near Cornell's RUSS Station. We found that the pH was very high, around 9.0, meaning that the water was very basic. We later confirmed this when we saw plants coated in a whitish crystalline substance called calcium carbonate, which begins to settle out of the water onto plants when the pH is about 9.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Today, we also joined GIAC's Pre-Teen Green youths for a hike up Six Mile Creek. At "Second Dam" we discussed the history of the City's water supply (which comes from Six Mile Creek). Nobody was very happy about the litter and beer cans we found strewn about the creek, so we decided to conduct an impromptu cleanup! These kids are ready to make a difference- thanks ya'll! (Let's keep it clean- people!)

Cayuga Explorers: Day 3

Yet another fun and hot day on the lake! We decided to work on some shallow water samples today. We pulled up several different kinds of plants from the west side of the lake, and we worked on drawing the plants to show what they looked like. We also pulled up some mud from the bottom of the lake and looked through it to figure out was living there. We found the fruits from curly-leafed pondweed as well as some insect larvae, mussels and amphipods (fresh-water shrimp). We also managed to fit in another quick swim at Myer's Point to cool off. Tomorrow will be our last day, although we encourage everybody to come out on our eco-cruise this weekend, which is designed to let the campers use the skills that they've learned this week.
Photo at the right: Explorers demonstrate the thermocline in Cayuga Lake! Cold blue-dyed water from deep in the lake is sinking to the bottom of our model water column. Warmer, sun warmed, water is floating at the top.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cayuga Explorers: Day 2

Another excellent but very warm day on the lake today! We made a model of the thermocline in a jar using warm and cold water, had a contest to see who could get an accurate deep-water (80 meters) sample from the lake the fastest (to be continued tomorrow...) and pulled up plants from the lake to study. We also stopped off at Myer's point to swim and cool down. We're looking forward to day 3 tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Cayuga Explorers" Summer Camp: Day 1

We had an excellent (although quite hot) first day of Cayuga Explorers summer camp today! We worked hard and had fun doing some basic lake sampling, including retrieving samples from different depths in the lake to find out where the thermocline (division between warm and cold water in the lake) was. We also took plankton samples and secchi disk (light penetration depth)readings. We found that light was going about 12 meters into the lake and that the thermocline was at a depth of 15-20 meters. More pix are available on our Picasa Album.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Thanks to everyone who attended, and to those to sent their regrets- for making our first "Friend of the Floating Classroom" meeting so enjoyable! We look forward to getting started with a great new community of people, and will soon be in touch! - The FC Committee.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Students from Belle Sherman’s 5th grade classes did a great job today, helping us collect information on water conditions today! We focused on two topics, in particular.

First, we scouted locations for this Sunday's Eco-cruise, when Cornell's mini-sub will create video surveys of underwater plant communities. Mr Van Slyke’s class took samples of lake plants near the west shore, and Mr. Field’s class collected samples from the East Shore. Both sample sites revealed curly-leafed pondweed (Potemageton crispus), Northern Eurasion Milfoil, Naiads and Elodea. Some of the Pondweed plants were already over 6 feet tall! Living in association with these plants, we found small crustaceans called amphipods, and also many caddis fly larvae, rolled up in protective leaf sheathes. We decided that the east shore would be our first priority for a video survey. Additionally, based on our Secchi disk readings, which only 3 M on the East shore, we decided that plants may start to be sunlight-limited (I.e. not enough sunlight to grow) at depths over 9M (about 30 feet). We’ll try to verify that on Sunday (June 20).
For a full report, check out the "cruise log" page!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Friday, May 7 - 6th Graders from Dewitt Middle School (Ithaca, NY) helped us launch the 2010 season today! In fact, the first class of the day was rewarded with a sunny and mild lake cruise. Later classes experienced spring on Cayuga, as the wind picked up and the sun took the afternoon off. Despite deteriorating conditions, intrepid students successfully constructed a complete mid-lake temperature profile. The water temperature in the first ten meters was measured at 7.8C (about 46F) and dropped to a wintery 6.4C (43.4F) between 17 about 23 meters. This slight surface warming is a sure sign of spring, and our Secchi disk measurements (6 Meters, avg.) confirmed that sunlight is penetrating about 18 meters into the lake.

Plankton samples indicated that, although the water is still cold, spring is progressing, perhaps even ahead of last year. Diatoms such as asterionella are very numerous, and calanoid copepods and several rotifers are feeding on them. Zebra mussel larval stages (called “veligers”) were also observed.
Surprisingly a number of bosmina were recorded by students and verified by instructors. Bosmina are a native zooplankton in Cayuga, but they are showing up early this year!

We’d like to thank the 6th graders from Dewitt who made it onto the lake with us- you did a great job, and remember: you are all part of an ongoing student-science project to determine the nature of our lake! For those who could not attend, we hope we’ll see you and your families on the lake soon for a make-up eco-cruise! We’d love to have pictures, too!
Sampling Location: N42deg, 33.315' W76deg, 35.248'

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Spring Community Eco-Cruises are scheduled (departing from the Ithaca Farmers Market dock):
  • May 16 - "Water Week" Celebration! Join us for a survey of spring conditions- water temperature and quality, early season plankton populations and plant densities. Hands-on fun for all ages! 11:00 am & 1:00pm departures.
  • May 23 - Cornell's Student Engineers will launch Tachyon, a brand new, student-designed and built, mini-sub from the deck of the Haendel. Video footage of what's down there! 2:00pm - 4:00pm.
  • June 13 - "Spring on Cayuga" family art & science cruise. 2:00-4:00pm
  • June 26 (Juneteenth) - details soon!
  • June 27 - Citizen Lake Monitoring Cruise with Community Science Institute! Learn about volunteer monitoring opportunities in the Ithaca area, and the 4H youth group, "4H2O". Three hour cruise, 2:00-5:00pm.
  • July 11 - Our regular Sunday afternoon Community Eco-Cruise schedule begins (running through October). All cruises 4:00pm - 6:00pm, unless otherwise noted.
  • Stay tuned for details on our NEW Thursday afternoon eco-cruise program!
The "Community Eco-Cruise" mission is to provide lake access and education opportunities for everyone. These eco-cruises are family-friendly, but are intended to enhance adult, as well as youth, understanding of our lake system.
Program Fees: The Floating Classroom is supported by local organizations and individuals. In order to stretch that support as far as it can go, we are introducing eco-cruise fees this year. We hope you will consider them to be an investment in our community-supported program.
One Hour Eco-Cruise: $12 Adult, $10 Senior, $5 Child (5-12 yrs)
Two-Hour Eco-Cruise: $18 Adult, $16 Senior, $12 Child
Special Events may be free.
Free/Reduced Price Vouchers: Our mission is to serve EVERYONE, regardless of ability to pay. Cruise vouchers are available this year thru neighborhood organizations. Contact, or call (607) 697-0166 for information.
Donations: Donations are always accepted, and will help make it possible for more people to enjoy and learn about our lake! Ask any crew member how you can make a donation, or contact us via Email.
Look for a complete schedule of public programs on the lake soon!

It's Your Lake - Get to Know It!