Finger Lakes Research Conference: Threats to the Finger Lakes
November 17, 2017

2017 Conference Program

WHEN: Friday, November 17, 2017, 8:30am – 5pm

WHERE: Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Scandling Center, Vandervort Room, 300 Pulteney St, Geneva, NY 14456

On Friday, November 17, 2017, the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges will host its annual research conference on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. This conference will provide an opportunity to learn about the research being conducted in and applicable to the Finger Lakes.


The poster session is an opportunity for attendees to learn about research and projects (active or proposed) pertaining to the Finger Lakes. The poster session is open to all registered attendees.


8:00 am - Registration and poster set-up

8:30-8:45 - Welcome and Overview
Lisa B. Cleckner, Director, Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

8:45-9:15 - Keuka Lake Fisheries Management, Brad E. Hammers, Aquatic Biologist, Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources, NYSDEC

9:15-9:45 - Pharmaceuticals and Microplastics in Cayuga Lake, Mathew Finnegan and Kathryn Sweeney, Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility

9:45-10:15 - An Unexpected Benefit of the Round Goby Invasion: the Salmonid Vitamin Pill? Matt Futia, Graduate Student, The College at Brockport, State University of New York

10:15-10:45 - Break

10:45-11:15 - Characterizing the Ecological Niche of Invasive Round Goby in Cayuga Lake, Suresh A. Sethi, Assistant Professor, Cornell University

11:15-11:45 - Nitellopsis obtusa in North America, Robin Sleith, PhD Candidate, The New York Botanical Garden

11:45-12:15 - Agricultural Programs to Protect Wayne County's Watersheds, Lindsey Gerstenslager, District Manager, Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District

12:15-1:00 - Lunch

1:00-1:30 - KEYNOTE: Honeoye HABs: Internal Waves, Internal Loading, and Infernal Cyanobacteria, Nelson G. Hairston, Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Environmental Science, Chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University

Nelson Hairston

Nelson G. Hairston, Jr. studies ecological and evolutionary responses of freshwater organisms to environmental change. His study systems range from close to home (Cayuga Lake, Onondaga Lake, Oneida Lake & Honeoye Lake, NY) to more distant (Lake Constance, Swiss Alps) and from large (Lake Ontario) to small (laboratory microcosms). Research in his laboratory has shown that populations can adapt genetically (microevolution) over very short time periods to changing environments, and that this evolution affects the outcomes of ecological interactions while those interactions are taking place.

In addition, he has discovered that the dormant eggs of lake organisms can survive for decades, and even centuries, in lake sediments and then hatch: a phenomenon that influences how lake ecosystems respond to environmental changes such as nutrient pollution and introductions of non-native fishes. Hairston received his BS degree (1971) in Zoology from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. (1977) in Zoology from the University of Washington where he studied with renowned limnologist W.T. Edmondson. He served as a faculty member at the University of Rhode Island (1977-1985) and has been on the faculty at Cornell since 1985. His research has been funded primarily by the U. S. National Science Foundation, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York Great Lakes Protection Fund, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. From these and other projects, he has published over 130 papers in the professional literature. At Cornell, he has served as Chair of the Faculty Technical Advisory Committee on Lake Source Cooling (uses hypolimnetic water from nearby Cayuga Lake as a cooling source for university central air conditioning), Chair of the university’s $6.5M Biogeochemistry and Biocomplexity Initiative (supported faculty hires, courses, and research), and Co-Chair of the University Task Force on Sustainability in the Age of Development (resulted in the formation of the campus-wide Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, with which he is a Faculty Fellow).

1:30-2:00 - Mercury Concentrations in Finger Lakes Food Webs, Roxanne Razavi, Assistant Professor, SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry

2:00-2:30 - Break

2:30-3:00 - Integrated Watershed Management Efforts to Reduce Nutrients to Canandaigua Lake, Kim McGarry, Watershed Program Technician, Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council

3:00-3:30 - Phyting a macro problem- invasive macro algae and phytes in the Finger Lakes, Hilary R. Mosher, Coordinator, Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

3:30-4:30 - Poster Session and Reception



Lisa Cleckner

Lisa B. Cleckner
Director, Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Phone: (315) 781-4381, E-mail:

Dr. Lisa B. Cleckner earned her PhD in environmental health sciences from the University of Michigan and worked as a post-doc and staff scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In these roles, Cleckner led a research group investigating mercury cycling in the Great Lakes and Everglades, and supervised a water chemistry laboratory. Subsequently, she earned an MBA from the Simon Graduate School of Business at the University of Rochester. Lisa was most recently assistant director of operations with the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems, in Syracuse, N.Y. There, she worked with academic institutions and industry partners on applied research and demonstration projects in water resources, clean and renewable energy, and indoor environmental quality. She was also a faculty member for a certificate of advanced study in Sustainable Enterprise at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, and a member of the leadership team of the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership.

Throughout her career, Cleckner has been involved in education and outreach activities targeted to a wide range of audiences including the public, students, businesses, and professional scientists. She has also successfully pursued grant funding totaling more than $3.5 million from federal, state, and non-profit organizations. Most of these proposals have been collaborative efforts engaging different constituencies such as faculty, research scientists, federal agencies, community organizations, and outreach groups.

Since joining the FLI, Dr. Cleckner has secured new funding for the development of initiatives in aquatic invasive species including the FLI’s recently launched Watercraft Steward Program, sustainable community development, a video baseline of the Finger Lakes ecosystems, water quality of green infrastructure installations, and trace metals and mercury in the Seneca Lake watershed. Lisa also has a faculty appointment in the Environmental Studies Department at HWS.

Brad E. Hammers

Brad E. Hammers
Aquatic Biologist, Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources, NYSDEC
Keuka Lake Fisheries Management

Abstract: Keuka Lake, the third largest by area of the Finger Lakes, supports an important recreational fishery consisting of both warmwater and coldwater species. The most recent data suggests that Keuka Lake is the 3rd most fished Finger Lake and 16th most fished waterbody in New York State. Anglers primarily target black bass and lake trout, although rainbow and brown trout and Atlantic salmon provide added diversity to angler catches. Forage base consists of alewives, rainbow smelt, slimy sculpin and Mysids. Management has traditionally focused on coldwater fishery. Recent survey results as well as angler reports suggest that fishery dynamics are changing in Keuka Lake. Forage base is experiencing significant changes and top predators as well as anglers are being impacted. Several factors including invasive Dreissenids, decreasing lake productivity, shifts in food web energy flow, predator abundance and recent winters may have resulted in these forage changes. Management practices need to focus on the current state of Keuka Lake and its fisheries. This includes exploring the reintroduction of native forage species.

Brad Hammers is an Aquatic Biologist with the NYS Dept of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in Avon, NY. Received an A.S. in Fish Culture and B.S. in Fish Management from Mansfield University and an M.S. in Fish Management from Mississippi State University. Worked for North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission dealing primarily with management of warmwater reservoirs and streams. Began working for DEC as Senior Aquatic Biologist in Region 8 in 1999. Since coming to the DEC, have managed fisheries in Hemlock, Canadice, Honeoye, and Canandaigua Lakes, along with trout streams in Chemung and Steuben Counties. Currently responsible for fisheries management activities in Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, and Yates Counties. This includes Seneca, Keuka, and Waneta-Lamoka Lakes and their tributaries, as well as the Chemung River. Also responsible for sea lamprey control activities in Seneca Lake and its tributaries.

Mathew Finnegan  Kathryn Sweeney

Mathew Finnegan and Kathryn Sweeney
Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility
Pharmaceuticals and Microplastics in Cayuga Lake

Abstract: Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and microplastics are increasingly becoming a well-recognized environmental concern. Studies have shown that they are largely uncaptured in waste processing and their nature and concentration once released to the environment are vastly unknown and difficult to quantify. The Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility (IAWWTF) is dedicated to measuring the distribution and severity of PPCP and microplastic pollution around Ithaca, NY, and exploring avenues of remediation. Within the IAWWTF, water and biosolids at various stages of treatment were analyzed for PPCP concentration to determine the effects of wastewater treatment on PPCP concentration. The IAWWTF is currently researching the application of electroactive attached biofilm growth as a method of destroying PPCPs within the treatment process. The IAWWTF is also partnering with researchers at Ithaca College to quantify the extent of microplastic pollution in Cayuga Lake, as well as determine the chemical identity of common plastics pollutants. To collect samples, a net is towed along the surface of the water at three different locations on the southern end of Cayuga Lake. Collected zooplankton are photographed to monitor the entrance of microplastics into the food chain. After digesting the biological material in the sample with hydrogen peroxide, microplastics are counted and identified using fluorescence microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. The IAWWTF is actively working to improve identification of microplastic signatures, as well as working to detect more emerging contaminants in the Ithaca area.

Matthew Finegan is an intern at the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility (IAWWTF), where he participates in research on removal strategies for emerging contaminants in the wastewater stream and microplastic pollution dispersal in Cayuga Lake. Finegan is a recent graduate from Ithaca College where he researched the effects of the anti-diabetic drug metformin on the epidermal club cell investment in fathead minnows. While at Ithaca College, Finegan participated in water sampling in the Ithaca area in partnership with the USGS, the IAWWTF, and researchers at Cornell University to measure the concentration of emerging contaminants in the natural environment and in the wastewater stream.

Kathryn graduated Wells College in 2015 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and has since been able to experience several aspects of ecology through various employment opportunities such as the Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and Clearwater Fish Hatchery in Idaho. In February 2017, she joined the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility as their Laboratory Technician. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, upcycling rummage, and spending time with family.

Matt Futia

Matt Futia
The College at Brockport, State University of New York
An unexpected benefit of the round goby invasion: the salmonid vitamin pill?

My name is Matt Futia and I am currently a graduate student focusing on fish nutrition and trophic interactions under Dr. Jacques Rinchard at The College at Brockport. For my thesis project, I am evaluating the extent and impacts of a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency on salmon and trout from Lake Ontario and using fatty acids to determine how diet is involved in the deficiency. As a graduate student, I have also assisted with similar studies in multiple Finger Lakes, mainly focusing on Cayuga Lake.

Suresh A. Sethi

Suresh A. Sethi
Assistant Professor, Cornell University
Characterizing the ecological niche of invasive round goby in Cayuga Lake

Suresh A. Sethi is an Assistant Professor in fishery and aquatic sciences in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, and is the Assistant Unit Leader of the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. With experience in commercial fisheries and quantitative methods, Suresh works at the interface between ecology and socioeconomic systems to address management problems for fisheries and aquatic natural resources.

Robin Sleith

Robin Sleith
The New York Botanical Garden
Nitellopsis obtusa in North America

Abstract: The charophytic green alga Nitellopsis obtusa (Characeae) was first reported in the New World in the St. Lawrence River, NY, U.S.A. in 1978. Since that time, N. obtusa has been widely reported from inland lakes throughout northern Indiana, Michigan, and western New York, with isolated locations in Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin U.S.A., as well as Ontario and Québec, Canada. Nitellopsis obtusa has been identified as a threat to native ecosystems and recreational activities and is listed as an aggressive invasive species by the United States Geological Survey. The vector(s) by which N. obtusa was transported to North America and distributed across the landscape remain unknown. In 2015 and 2016, 740 water bodies were surveyed for N. obtusa across New York and New England. Results from this work suggested that N. obtusa is primarily moved via recreational boating. However, in other states, birds have been hypothesized to transport N. obtusa. Organellar genome sequencing and Genotyping by Sequencing (GBS) methods use next-generation sequencing to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from across a genome. The quantity and distribution of SNPs generated by these methods are ideal to address population level questions of movement into and distribution across the landscape. Analysis of mitochondrial and plastid genomes identified variation between populations in Asia, Europe, and North America. However, little variation was detected among North American organellar genomes, indicating that clonal spread of a single introduced population is possible. Results from GBS data revealed a complicated pattern of spread across North America and suggests that increased sampling from within the invaded range is needed to better understand the spread of N. obtusa.

Wehr, J. D., Fordham University, New York, U.S.A.,; Karol, K. G., The New York Botanical Garden, New York, U.S.A.,

Robin Sleith earned his B.S. at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont, studying the invasive tree pathogen that causes beech bark disease. He began working with Dr. Kenneth Karol at the New York Botanical Garden as a research technician in 2010 and began his Ph.D. there in 2013. He is broadly interested in freshwater green algae, biodiversity and conservation.

Lindsey Gerstenslager
District Manager, Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District

Roxanne Razavi

Roxanne Razavi
Assistant Professor, SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry
Mercury concentrations in Finger Lakes food webs

Abstract: Mercury (Hg) contamination of fish is a global concern due to the deleterious health effects it poses to humans and wildlife. This study was conducted to assess Hg concentrations in biota of the Finger Lakes (New York, USA), a region where fisheries are an important economic driver but where no comprehensive assessment of food web Hg dynamics in lakes and streams has been completed to date. This region is of interest for the study of Hg accumulation in biota because the dominant land cover in this region is agriculture, which can affect lake trophic status and thus the bioavailability of methyl Hg (MeHg). There is also a point source of Hg in the region from an active coal-fired power plant. The study objectives were 1) to determine if fish Hg concentrations were of concern to human and fish-consuming wildlife, 2) to assess differences in Hg accumulation among lakes and determine predictors of fish Hg concentrations, 3) to evaluate the predictive power of lower trophic level MeHg concentrations on fish Hg concentrations, and 4) to evaluate the influence of DOC and land cover on observed biota Hg accumulation patterns.

Between May – October 2015, zooplankton and benthos were sampled monthly in five of the Finger Lakes (Honeoye, Canandaigua, Seneca, Cayuga, and Owasco Lakes). Fish were sampled once over the summer and species targeted from all trophic levels. Two species of stream fish (Blacknose Dace, Rhinichthys atratulus, and Creek Chub, Semotilus atromaculatus) were collected in three tributaries of each lake. Benthic macroinvertebrates representing various feeding groups and periphyton were collected for MeHg determination. Samples for water quality and dissolved organic carbon were also taken in both lakes and streams.

Results for top predatory fish, including Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush), Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides), and Walleye (Sander vitreus) showed significant differences among lakes and concentrations above consumption guidelines (300 ng/g wet weight). No clear pattern among lakes was evident in lower trophic level fishes such as Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) and Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) but concentrations were low. Zooplankton MeHg concentrations varied significantly among months within a lake and among months across all lakes. In a model of fish Hg concentrations, which included lake morphometry, land cover, water chemistry variables, and lower trophic MeHg concentrations, no clear predictor was found. This suggests that food web structure plays an important role in determining differences in Hg bioaccumulation to top predators like Lake Trout in the Finger Lakes.

Dr. Razavi (Ph.D., Queen’s University, Canada) is an environmental toxicologist, with expertise in ecotoxicology and limnology. A major focus of her work is quantifying the fate of mercury in aquatic food webs. She was previously a Postdoctoral Researcher at the FLI and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University, and currently is an Assistant Professor at SUNY-ESF. She has published on mercury bioavailability from contaminated sediments in a Great Lakes Area of Concern on the St. Lawrence River (Canada) and mercury bioaccumulation in reservoir fishes of eastern China. Her recent work focuses on mercury transfer in food webs of the Finger Lakes and their tributaries. She also has ongoing research on invasive species and food web mercury transfer, the role of nitrogen in harmful algal blooms, and water quality and phytoplankton species composition. At the FLI, Dr. Razavi had an active role in education and outreach activities, including maintaining a monthly aquatic seminar series and giving talks to lake associations, high schools, and the general public.

Kim McGarry
Watershed Program Technician, Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council
Integrated watershed management efforts to reduce nutrients to Canandaigua Lake

Abstract: The Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council utilizes an integrated approach to protect our natural capital and reduce nutrients to the lake, including research, restoration, open space protection, education, and regulation. Our actions are guided by the 2014 Watershed Management Plan and have evolved to address new threats like invasive species and harmful algae blooms. We will highlight recent efforts to protect the lake, including wetland creation and restoration in the Sucker Brook subwatershed, developing a model onsite wastewater treatment system law for watershed municipalities, and assessing smaller streams and gullies for increased resiliency to high intensity storm events.

Kim McGarry is the Watershed Program Technician for the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council. She has been working for the Watershed Council since 2013.

Hilary R. Mosher

Hilary R. Mosher
Coordinator, Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management
Phyting a macro problem- invasive macro algae and phytes in the Finger Lakes

Hilary Mosher is the Coordinator for the Finger Lakes-Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management at the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. In this role, she works with state and local governments, NGOs, academic institutions, citizens, and others to manage invasive species programs for seventeen counties comprising the Finger Lakes region in NY. Over the last few years, she and her colleagues have been awarded over $2 million in new funding for invasive species projects targeting education, outreach, and control efforts.

Previously, Mosher worked in the Department of Environmental Science and Biology at the College at Brockport teaching and assisting with field instruction in courses including Environmental Science, Limnology, Fish and Marine Biology in locations such as the Great Lakes, Bahamas, and Ecuador. She continues to co-teach the Psychology of Sustainability, an asynchronous online course during intersessions.

Hilary holds a BS in Environmental Science from SUNY Plattsburgh; an MS in Biological Sciences and a Master’s in Public Administration, both from the College at Brockport. She serves on the Board of Directors for a small number of non-profits in the community and enjoys participating in volunteer activities such as beach and park cleanups with her family.


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300 Pulteney Street
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