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With Support from High School Students and Citizen Scientists, LGA Monitors Health of Lake’s Tributaries

With Support from High School Students and Citizen Scientists, LGA Monitors Health of Lake’s Tributaries April 2, 2020
Students catching inverterbrae in West Brook as part of the LGA’s stream education program .

An outdoor education area operated by the Lake George Association at Lake George Village’s Recreation Center center will be ready for students learning about stream ecology once classes resume. 

Using a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and with the approval of the Village’s Board of Trustees, the LGA constructed an outdoor classroom, complete with benches and a teaching table, which it installed near West Brook.

 “Teaching outdoors is a great opportunity to engage the students,” said Lindsey Kenna, the LGA’s Environmental Educator. “The benches and teaching table near West provide a perfect environment for students to learn about the Lake George watershed.”

The LGA has been bringing students to the property to study the health of streams for more than a decade. 

Conducted for roughly 1,500 students per year, the classes teach the students to assess stream habitat conditions as well as to catch, identify and quantify the macro-invertebrates whose presence is an indication of stream health.

The class site is a five-minute walk down a trail from the recreation center parking lot and is often paired with the LGA’s on-the-water Floating Classroom program, enabling the LGA to provide land and water-based education through one field trip.

“Fifty-five percent of the water in Lake George comes from streams, so the lake’s water quality depends heavily on how healthy the streams are,” said Kristen Wilde, the LGA’s Education Director. “The stream monitoring program is an important opportunity to teach young people about the importance of healthy streams to the water quality of Lake George.” 

Walt Lender, the LGA’s Executive Director,  said, “With everything that is going on currently, we are holding out hope for spring education. We are all looking forward to having our students back out in the watershed.”

“We hope, until then, that everyone stays safe, stays well, and participates in social distancing. We all know that Lake George is a four-season destination, for both education and recreation,” said Lender. 

Education Program Boosted by $7,214 Grant

The stream monitoring program received an additional boost from the Lake Champlain Basin Program as recently as March.

According to Pat Dowd, the LGA’s communications director, the organization has been awarded a $7,214 grant to support its educational programs about Lake George’s tribitaries. 

West Brook is one of the largest tributaries feeding the lake, and the half-mile distance between the outdoor education area and the lake “reinforces the lesson that what happens in the streams and in the watershed around the streams influences the water quality,” said Kristen Wilde.

Wilde continued,  “Our goal is to impart the students with the knowledge that even if they can’t see the lake from where they are, their actions on land can still influence the lake.”

The Lake George Association works with watershed schools each school year so that one full grade from each district in the watershed takes part in the program. Any other weeks are filled by interested schools or community groups.

The program is offered as an educational companion to the LGA’s EPA-award-winning Floating Classroom program. Schools traditionally come to Lake George and participate in both, getting a full-day lesson for the students.

Lake’s Tributaries Remain Healthy

The LGA also conducts a watershed-wide stream assessment program for citizen scientists. 

 “Regular stream monitoring helps to detect changes in the quality of the water over time,” said LGA Education Director Kristen Wilde, an environmental scientist. “It’s our way of efficiently using resources to determine water quality here as well as assist the state in its efforts to determine the overall quality of water sources in the state.”

Wilde is the local coordinator for the Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators (WAVE) program, a citizen-based water quality assessment program developed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Its purpose is to train and enable citizen scientists to collect biological data that can be used to assess the water quality of wadeable streams in New York State.

WAVE is one way to monitor the conditions of the streams that feed Lake George – which accounts for 55 percent of the water entering the Lake.

The citizen scientists collect samples of aquatic life in the streams, and the LGA staff identifies whether the samples are “pollution tolerant” or not. The number and types of aquatic life sampled also determine whether the stream is potentially impaired – something that has not been found in the streams in the Lake George watershed. If a stream is designated as potentially impaired, a follow-up study is planned to more certainly determine the problem.

“The biological samples from our citizen scientists and staff are collected here at the LGA office and then are sent to New York State scientists for review,” said Wilde. “The LGA provides the volunteers with the training and the materials they need to successfully sample the streams and understand the protocol.”

“Our goal is for our staff and citizen scientists to sample as many streams that feed Lake George as we can each year,” said Walt Lender.  “Coordinating the WAVE program here in the Lake George watershed is part of our commitment to protect the Lake’s water quality through scientific monitoring that leads to actionable results.”

As part of their training, citizen scientists develop an assessment of both the potential for recreational use (water clarity, presence of plankton, trash, etc.) and the condition of the habitat (status of the channel, depositing of sediment, velocity and depth combinations, etc.) in order to provide the LGA and the state with as much information as possible about the conditions.

According to the data collected and reviewed by New York State in 2019, healthy streams continue to feed Lake George. 

2020 will be the sixth year that the LGA has been a formal part of the New York state program. To volunteer, contact the LGA.