Thursday, October 12, 2023

SCALE-ing up

paddlers on a lake

Last week I joined Phil Snyder of the Ausable River Association and Leigh Walrath, a retired Adirondack Park Agency water specialist, as they navigated Moss Lake, collecting water samples, measuring temperature and oxygen levels and searching for macroinvertebrates under rocks and logs.

The water and biological samples are among the first collected for what could be the largest scientific survey of Adirondack lakes since the 1980s. A consortium of researchers across the state are working together on the Survey of Climate and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems (SCALE). The survey aims to examine the health and state of Adirondack lakes and better understand how climate change is affecting them.

Snyder and Walrath visited eight lakes this summer and again this fall to iron out the details of the survey’s field work before the project is ramped up to potentially hundreds more lakes. The field days included about six hours of work from a canoe, visiting multiple sites and collecting a variety of samples and data.

Researchers plan to employ traditional methods and new ones. One approach includes pulling 16 water samples around the lake to use environmental DNA techniques to estimate the types of species present. Another method will use isotopic indicators found in everything from algae to macroinvertebrates and minnows to trace energy transfers across the lake’s food chain.

In coming seasons, more field teams will likely be hired and trained to carry out the data collection. The survey’s lead scientists are still working out the specific list of lakes to study and the details of field protocols.

The lakes will be looked at on varied levels of intensity, with some visited once during a survey while others are examined multiple times. Strategies like pulling sediment cores will be employed on a small number of waterbodies, while temperature profiles and other standard data will be taken across numerous lakes.

I’m finishing this up from Lake George, where the annual salt summit hosted by the Lake George Association is about to begin. We are expecting to hear from DEC and DOT officials, though not agency leaders, about next steps to advance the salt reduction recommendations outlined in the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force report released last month. Check our website for a full report.

Pictured above: Phil Snyder of the Ausable River Association and Leigh Walrath, a retired Adirondack Park Agency water specialist, as they navigated Moss Lake. Photo by Zach Matson

This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

One Response

  1. John Davis says:

    Great review of what’s needed to protect our ADK’S. Be ,our guests at RapShaw,Williams Island.

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