Summer Research at the FLI

The Finger Lakes Institute is gearing up for a busy summer research season!

We have three exciting new projects starting this month. Find out more about them below and stay tuned for updates from our new summer student researchers.

1. Cayuga Lake Project

Figure 1. Nearshore Cladophora on the north end of Cayuga Lake, August 2015. Photo credit: Lisa Cleckner.

In brief:
Where? North end of Cayuga Lake
What? Nearshore water quality and benthic algae production
Collaborators? Cayuga Lake Watershed Network
Funding Agency? New York Sea Grant

Project summary:
Beach fouling by decaying benthic algae is one of the most important nearshore water quality issues facing the Great Lakes region. Two species of benthic algae, Cladophora and Spirogyra, largely make up decaying algal mats that accumulate on beaches throughout the Great Lakes basin. The accumulation of these species on beaches presents both a public health and economic problem. Mats have been associated with nearshore anoxia, elevated counts of Escherichia coli, and severe odor issues.  In the Finger Lakes of the Lake Ontario basin, residents have recently reported the presence of benthic algae and Cladophora (Figure 1) in nearshore areas resulting in beach fouling, odors, and interference with recreational activities including swimming and boating to the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network and government agencies including the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, County Health Departments, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts. This project involves a water quality monitoring program that works with citizen scientists on Cayuga Lake to determine levels and sources of nutrients and bacteria to the nearshore area. Nearshore water quality data will be combined with bacterial source tracking to identify the source of bacteria (human versus animal) to the nearshore. (Official project title: Demonstration project for mitigating nearshore algal production and nutrients.)

2. FluoroProbe Project

Figure 2. The Finger Lakes Institute recently acquired a FluoroProbe (bbe Moldaenke, GmbH) that measures the presence of algae by class, including green algae, blue-green algae/cyanobacteria, diatoms/dinoflagellates, and cryptophytes. Photo credit: bbe moldaenke.

In brief:
Where? Honeoye and Canandaigua Lakes.
What? Nearshore water quality and algal community composition.
Collaborators? John Halfman, Geoscience and FLI, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Terry and Dorothy Gronwall, Honeoye Lake Watershed Task Force; Kevin Olvany, Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council.
Funding Agency? New York State Water Resources Institute.

Project summary:
This project aims to characterize algal assemblages throughout a summer season in two representative systems of the Finger Lakes and the water chemistry conditions before, during, and after successive algal blooms to assess what factors are associated with a given assemblage. This project will test for differences in algal class assemblages in the nearshore and offshore habitats of lakes, and within oligotrophic and eutrophic systems. Advanced sensor technology will be purchased and employed for in situ measurements of chlorophyll differentiated by algal class. Specifically, a FluoroProbe spectro-fluorometer (bbe moldaenke, GmbH, Figure 2) will be used to differentiate four major phytoplankton groups (green algae, diatoms/dinoflagellates, cryptophytes, and cyanobacteria) in the water column in pelagic and nearshore areas. (Official project title: Water quality and algal community dynamics in the Finger Lakes).

3. Nitrogen Project

Figure 3. The continuous-flow, intact sediment core incubation system will be used this summer on Honeoye Lake sediments to assess nitrogen transformations and nutrient fluxes from and into sediments. Photo credit: Silvia Newell.

In brief:
Where? Honeoye Lake.
What?  Role of nitrogen in the occurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs)
Collaborators? Mark McCarthy and Silvia Newell, Wright State University; Terry and Dorothy Gronwall, Honeoye Lake Watershed Task Force
Funding Agency? Ontario County Water Resources Council

Project summary:
Freshwater systems are generally thought to be phosphorus limited, and current management practices aim to curb harmful algal blooms (HABs) via phosphorus control strategies. However, despite phosphorus controls, HABs continue to proliferate. Research shows cyanobacteria growth is higher with the addition of both phosphorus and nitrogen compared to either nutrient alone. Furthermore, HAB genera such as Microcystis cannot fix nitrogen, and are highly competitive for ammonium (NH4+). Yet, the overwhelming majority of nitrogen measurements in lakes focus on NO3-, the least bioavailable form of nitrogen.

This project will quantify the most bioavailable form of nitrogen, NH4+, to assess the availability of this essential growth factor to cyanobacteria causing HABs. Additionally, this project will address the urgent need to measure the natural removal rate (i.e., denitrification) versus N recycling (i.e., converting organic matter to NH4+) to understand the source of NH4+ to cyanobacteria in Honeoye Lake using lab controlled sediment flux experiments (Figure 3). (Official project title: A preliminary study of the role of nitrogen in harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Finger Lakes.


Phone: (315) 781-4390



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