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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thanks for a Great Year!

Our season on the lake has come to a close just a little early. On Tuesday, the Haendel hit something large and damaged both port and starboard props. Coulda been Ol' Greenie- we didn't see a thing!

With the snow falling today, perhaps the season ended just at the right time- we'll be back on April 1, 2012 with new things to offer on Cayuga Lake. In the meantime, check out our Finger Lakes Trout in the Classroom blog and look for important Cayuga Lake info on our Facebook site.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

HYDRILLA RESPONSE - A Summary at Year-End

Floating Classroom crewmembers Jordan Stark & Bill Foster discovered the invasive species, Hydrilla verticillata, in the Cayuga Inlet on August 4, 2011. The discovery led to the rapid development of a multi-agency task force, a temporary closure of the Inlet and an herbicide application during October- all intended to slow the establishment of this aggressive plant, and keep it from invading the lake. Work will continue this winter; the NYS Canal Corporation will lower lake levels slightly more than usual, in an effort to freeze-out exposed hydrilla root systems.

Thanks to the help of many volunteers and agencies, an extensive survey was initiated over the course of the fall to determine the extent of occurrance of hydrilla in and around the Cayuga Inlet. It remains unclear at this point whether hydrilla has established itself in the main body of the Lake, however a number of small specimens were found by Floating Classroom participants in the southwest corner of the lake (Hogs Hole).

Its going to take a community-wide effort to contain this plant, and to keep it from spreading from Ithaca to the entire Great Lakes basin. Regardless of what we find in the spring of 2012, we know that the removal or control of hydrilla is a challenge that will require a community-wide effort for some years to come. Here is what you can do to help:

  1. Take advantage of workshops and spring Floating Classroom cruises and learn to identify this plant! The more eyes "on" then better!

  2. Stay up-to-date on plans being prepared by the Task Force. Your input will be valuable! Click on the hydrilla image or go to for up-to-date info!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Yup, with the help of 13 eco-cruisers, we collected a number of plant samples from the southwest corner of Cayuga and found NO hydrilla! The Floating Classroom will be working ot supplement ongoing survey work on the lake this fall, so look for coming opportunities to help out!

Lake Status: Lots of debris in the south end of the lake still, and the water is quite turbid. Out in deeper water, however, things are more typical of the season. Water clarity is increasing slightly (3.5 to 4 meters).

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Floating Classroom instructors Jordan and Bill made an incidental discovery of what looked like a non-native relative of Elodea canadensis while preparing for programs on August 16. We sent work to Bob Johnson at Cornell, a regional expert, who later confirmed the plant as Hydrilla verticillata, and extremely invasive species that has not been observed in upstate New York until now.

Take-home message: IT PAYS TO KEEP TO KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN. We are not experts in aquatic invasive species, but we are familiar enough with the lake to know when something looks odd. That's all it takes! Here is what you need to know.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Environmental Appreciation Days cruise

The Floating Classroom was happy to host kids participating in the Environmental Appreciation Days camp on Monday. We had a great time riding the waves as we cruised from Ithaca to Taughannock State Park! During the cruise, we explored our perceptions of what a healthy lake might look like and how to share these ideas with our community. We also talked about some of the projects being conducted by high school interns on the lake this summer. The group also completed a full lake profile using a Hydrolab remote sensor provided by the City of Ithaca to measure water temperatures, chemistry and chlorophyll levels.

Things are looking good on on the lake right now. Temperatures are in the mid-70s down to 15 meters. Our thermocline was detected between 17 and 20 meters where the temperature whent from roughly 68 degrees F. to 50. Sunlight penetration was estimated to be 11 meters and chlorophyll levels, which are an indicator of photosynthetic algae where highest between 5 and ten meters. Check out our Facebook page for comments, more pictures, and observation from the camp!

Monday, August 8, 2011


The Floating Classroom joinsCooperative Extension 4-H, Cornell Plantations, the Lab of Ornithology and our regional State Parks in offering a fantastic, one-week camp opportunity for kids, ages 12-14! Participants will spend each day at a different location, taking part in hands-on, fun activities and explorations, and learning how they can play a role in community-led resource protection. For a complete schedule & signup info, go to

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Over the past weeks, we've been wondering if there would be a "bloom" of the blue-green algae anabaena in Cayuga Lake. With unusually warm surface water temperatures and an abundance of nutrients left over from spring rains, the stage was set. This type of algae has caused recent beach closures around New York due to its potential to produce neurotoxins. The picture to the right was recently taken at Oneida Lake.

With help from eco-cruise participants, GIAC's Summer Conservation Corps, and youths from Danby, Ithaca, Trumansburg, Dryden & Lansing, we collected frequent samples and noted a mild anabaena bloom! Over the past week, however, Cayuga's surface waters have been teeming with zooplankton, which have almost completely consumed the problematic algae!

At this point, it looks like Cayuga Lake is resilient enough to stay healthy, even during an especially hot, dry summer. That's good news! If you'd like to learn more about the ecology of Cayuga Lake, check out our "Cruise Prep" pages for more on lake sampling and collected data!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


The MV Haendel will be at the Ithaca Farmers' Market on Friday July 29 for the Artists' Market! Stop by to view some water-related art, including "A Year in the Life of Six Mile Creek" OR take an art-cruise (4-5pm) or a sunset cruise (7-9pm) Call for reservations!

Lots of spring rain and a warm summer are setting the stage for significant algae blooms in lakes throughout the northeast. Cayuga is no exception! During recent cruises, we've recorded the presence of dense plankton populations and the arrival of the cyanobacteria anaebaena (pictured here) and microcystis. Help keep an eye on the state of Cayuga Lake during our July 28 eco-cruise (4-6pm) and other upcoming events!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eventful Week on the Lake!

Our crew completed a fun week on Cayuga Lake to kick off the summer, starting off with help from the GIAC Summer Conservation Corps, who complete their first round of water monitoring. On Thursday, we hosted the ScienCenter for out first collaborative eco-cruise! A boat-full of families experimented with bouyancy and explored the relationship between water temperatures and water density in Cayuga - way cool!

Finally, on Sunday, our eco-cruisers participated in the North American Secchi Dip-in, a great citizen-science experiment, designed to help people across the continent gather information about their lakes. Cayuga's water clarity, as measured by Secchi disk readings, is running at about 2 meters (as of July 10). This is pretty murky for Cayuga and may have a profound impact on the lake as the summer unfolds. We'll see....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

5TH Graders from Cayuga Heights Elementary joined us today and did an excellent job of helping us investigate the recent algal bloom on Cayuga Lake. Only a few days ago, the densely-packed algae, Dinobryon, was coloring our water samples a bright green. This is no longer the case, as dinobryon is now almost completely absent! Rotifers have been taking advantage of the abundant food supply and grazing heavily- their population has soared. We got our first look of the year at mature colonies of conochilis, pictured at right.

The 5th grade also starred in a YNN News Feature - excellent work everyone. Check it out by clicking on this image -

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 19 Eco-Cruise with Cornell's AUV!
We had a packed boat for this past Sunday's cruise- thanks to everyone who helped make the first mini-sub luanch of the 2011 season a success! The student-designed Automated Underwater Vehicle, "Drekar", navigated two transects in the lake, generating video plant surveys and basic water quality data. (Video links on the way!) This was the team's first test outside of Teagle Pool at Cornell, and they did great.
In support of the mini-sub based surveys, we also conducted Secchi clarity and plankton tests. After a fairly extreme spring season, we are seeing clarity measurements returning to a "typical" range for the south end of Cayuga Lake, with 2.5 meters of clarity on the east side, near E. Shore marina, and 4 meter clarity along the west shore. This increasing clarity corresponds to a decline in phyto-plankton concentrations that have recently been blooming (see earlier trip reports). Thanks to everyone who participated!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Dewitt 6th Graders conducted a total of nine hours of sampling on Cayuga between June 13 & 14, and made some important observations. First, we are seeing the end of our first algae bloom on Cayuga- for the last week, water clarity has been reduced by the presence of the yellow-green algae DINOBRYON at incredibly high concentrations (pictured). As this particular species declines, we are seeing increase clarity (now averaging 4 meters) and more bio-diversity in the plankton community. Summer, warm-water species are moving in!Lake water temperatures have also stabilized somewhat, after a very fast warming period. Its early, but our Dewitt teams collected data to suggest that a thermocline is already established in Cayuga between 20 and 25 meters down. At this point, the water rapidly cools from about 62 Deg. F. to 48 F. That's a big change! Nice work, Dewitt! (Full report available under trip reports.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spring-Back in Full Swing!

Temporary Trip Reports for May 27 & May 31 -
Thanks to students from Newfield's 7th grade and from Beverly J Martin Elementary, we have been able to track some amazing events on Cayuga over the past few days!

The continuing rain storms have resulted in a tremendous flow of water into the lake this spring, and recent warm weather has heated all this water quite quickly. Near-surface temperatures in the south end of the lake rose almost 5 degrees F. in a single day last week, and are now approaching 70 degrees F!

Accompanying the warming water and continuing inflow of nutrients from storm runoff is a burgeoning community of green algae species and rotifers. Samples collected from areas around the south end of the lake and well into deep waters are literally teaming with life, and our Secchi disk readings are showing reduced clarity. Once the sediment settles out, the phytoplankton are limiting water clarity to less than 3 Meters in many locations. Pictures coing soon!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


7th Grade students from Boynton Middle School joined us on the lake today and yesterday (May 24&25) and found that the Spring Clear-Water phase has apparently begun two weeks early on Cayuga Lake this year! The clear-water period marks the point at which rapidly growing plankton populations outgrow nutrient loading, causing a temporary population crash. The resultant lack of plankton in the water causes Secchi disk clarity to rebound from about 3M to well over 5M for a period of days.

Over the past five years, the clear-water phase has jumped around a bit, but appears to be happening earlier, which could signal an impact from global climate change. However, the jury is out. Over such a short time-period, natural variations in weather cannot be ruled out. We'll see what the real story is, but it will take more years of study!

Boynton students noted quite a bit of change on the lake over two days. Sub-surface temperatures rose dramatically in parts of the south shelf, and water clarity continued to decline over most of the south end of the lake, being reduced to 1.5M near East Shore Sailing club! Pictures coming soon!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


7th grade students from Chad Devoe's Life Sciences classes traveled to Myers Point Park in Lansing to assess conditions on the lake and in Salmon Creek on May 19 & 20.

Students enjoyed two dramatic days on the lake, observing water quality and burgeoning populations of lake plankton. The plankton were so numerous that they have reduced water clarity to 3 meters! During prior springs, water clarity at this point in May has averaged over 5 meters. Spring is ahead of schedule!

Classes also used
modified Izaak Walton League stream surveys and collected macro-invertebrate samples to assess stream health. All classes found Salmon Creek to score in the "good" to "excellent" range.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

After a week of lake-closures due to high water, the MV Haendel opened the 2011 season on May! With the help of Prof. Kelly Wessel's ecology students from TC3, we've begun our spring lake survey. We've found quite a bit is happening already this spring. With tremendous inflows of warmer water over the past weeks, green algae and many other organisms at the base of the food web are getting an unusually early start. Warm is a relative term, of course, as the main body of lake is just now approaching 50 Deg. F!

We'll continue to track spring developments on the lake this Sunday, May 15, during our 2:30-4:30pm public eco-cruise! One-hour narrated lake tours will also be available at 11:00am and 12:30pm. Call us at 607-697-0166 to make a reservation or learn more about Water Week and other upcoming events.

See you on the Lake!