Discipline: Ecology Environmental and Earth Sciences
Subcategory: Environmental Engineering
Alexander Vega - Yuba College
It has been well documented that multiple lakes in the Syracuse, NY region have been greatly polluted through anthropogenic means. Lakes such as Green Lake, Onondaga Lake, Seneca Lake, and Honeoye Lake have been polluted with any heavy metals and nutrients, such as iron, and phosphorus. This is significant because phosphorus will contribute to algae growth (Sterner) and iron is the limiting nutrient for phytoplankton growth. This is an issue because it can potentially lead to harmful algal blooms, which can effectively suffocate the life in otherwise healthy lake ecosystems.
The water samples from the lakes in question were collected from a research vessel, with a pump being dropped to specific depths of the water column. The water was placed into one-liter, acid-washed glass bottles to ensure the water sample is extremely pure. The bottles were then taken to an analytical chemistry lab to be analyzed with IC, TN, THg, DOC, DOM, and ICPMS instruments. Water was transferred from the main glass bottle into a small acid-washed beaker, then specific containers for the instruments, to keep the original container’s water quality pure. All data was subject to strict quality control measures, and placed into a master dataset.
The results of data showed Onondaga Lake was extremely high in iron concentration in relation to Seneca, Honeoye, and Green Lake. Onondaga Lake shared similar values for top and bottom depths, at around 14 mol/L. Then next highest concentration was Honeoye Lake, which measured approximate 3 mol/L. The data also showed the concentration of nutrient sum (Phosphorus and Nitrogen) on bottom depth of Onondaga Lake, 275 umol/L, was nearly double the concentration of the lake surface, which measured at approximately 160 umol/L.
Ultimately, the high concentration of iron in Onondaga Lake isn’t surprising, considering it?s been greatly polluted for decades. It can be a major issue because phytoplankton can only grow as big as iron will take them, seeing how it’s the limiting nutrient and may control total biomass (Chang). In contrast to the high iron of Onondaga lake in comparison to the others, the total sum of nutrients data currently looks acceptable for lake health. If the concentration on top and bottom switched, there could be major issues with algal blooms on the lake surface. While the concentration is higher on the bottom, the lake will be less likely to be saturated by algae. This research is very valuable with great potential, because it may predict future algal blooms and allow us to stop them in advance. This research may help preserve countless lake ecosystems that have been devastated by toxic algal blooms, because we can measure when a lake may be approaching a concentration of iron, or other nutrients, that’s conducive to algal growth.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): LSAMP ; National Science Foundation
Faculty Advisor: Mario Montesdeoca, Mmontesd@syr.edu
Role: I did every part of the research I mentioned in my abstract.