Data Project Planned For Summer In Lake

CHAUTAUQUA — A pilot program courtesy of the Lake Erie Center for Fresh Water and Human Health and funded in part by the Chautauqua Lake Partnership will attempt to further explore the complexities of phosphorus loading and harmful algal blooms in Chautauqua Lake this summer.

The program, slated to begin this June, will feature two biosensor buoys that will float in lake waters and collect data related to the genesis of harmful algal blooms, namely the amount of phosphorus content that leads to the creation of cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae.

While the locations of these sensors are tentative, the idea, according to Lake Erie Center leader and Bowling Green State University professor Dr. George Bullerjahn, is that one sensor each will be placed in the north and south basins of Chautauqua Lake. Then, Bullerjahn said, both sensors could be placed in the south basin for further monitoring as he said the problems of algal blooms are more profuse there.

Bullerjahn spoke about his decades of scientific work in microbiology, specifically in relation to aquatic algae and bacteria, during another lecture of the Turner Series focused on Chautauqua Lake issues. Host Greg Peterson also interviewed Doug Neckers, a chemistry adviser for the CLP and retired Bowling Green State University professor.

“Here’s a world-class scientist who’s willing to help us here,” Neckers said of Bullerjahn.

The plan, Bullerjahn explained, is for the sensor project to collect objective results of phosphorus content and algae levels in attempts to provide helpful information to those who maintain Chautauqua Lake and eventually the communities around Lake Erie.

“I’m hoping here because the lake is relatively small that with the approach of scientific (work) to study the problems, that we’ll, No. 1, find out what we can do to remediate (harmful algal blooms), and No. 2, we’ll find out something that maybe somebody else can use in their remediation,” Neckers said.

Bullerjahn hopes that a full study will happen in 2020 with up to six phosphorus sensors and two nitrogen sensors. If this year’s summer project goes well, Bullerjahn envisions Chautauqua Lake becoming crucial to the Lake Erie Center’s mission statement to further understand harmful algae and assist other parties in treating fresh water bodies affected with it.

The CLP donated $50,000 this year to the newly formed Lake Erie Center in order to allocate the biosensors for this year’s phosphorus readings. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is funding the Lake Erie Center $5.2 million over a five-year period as well.

“The problems that are coming here,” Neckers said, “are the problems that we’ve seen in Lake Erie for quite a while.”

To begin addressing such problems, one of Bullerjahn’s graduate students will be working on the biosensor project this summer. Neckers said he hopes this project becomes a “show starter” in addressing harmful algal blooms throughout Chautauqua Lake.

The main objectives of the project will be to understand the environmental drivers that lead to the creation of different algal bloom types, to identify the toxic types through an understanding of genetics and to assess through biosensor technology the amounts of nutrients feeding these types of blooms.

Sensors themselves work by taking in water while floating. A color reaction then reveals the amount of phosphorus in the water sample, and that process can lead to a further understanding of harmful algal blooms, Bullerjahn explained.

“That can inform management strategies down the road,” said Bullerjahn, who noted the project might be able to pinpoint phosphorus “hot spots,” making dredging the lake in certain areas a more viable solution. “Problems of this scale in Chautauqua Lake do have solutions.”

Follow Eric Zavinski at twitter.com/EZavinski

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