41 sensor-carrying platforms, said Kolar. As of January 2016,
they had deployed 20. Vertical profilers monitor water temperature, chlorophyll, and dissolved organic matter. Weather
stations track humidity, barometric pressure, and wind velocity.
Tributary stations record information from water entering the
lake via streams. And acoustic Doppler current profilers, or
ADCPs, measure lake currents.
Scientists around the globe have their eyes on the Jefferson
Project, hoping its results may be applicable to lakes in other
states and countries.
One of the project’s most recent platforms is a Lake George
tour boat, the steam-propelled paddlewheeler Minne-Ha-Ha,
which now carries an extra passenger: an ADCP mounted on
the ship’s hull. “The mobile ADCP measures currents at different
locations and different times of day as the Minne makes its
circuit,” said Mike Kelly, an engineer at IBM who’s taking part in
the research. “The information we obtain will be fed into water
circulation and other models, helping us understand things like
how long road salt stays in the lake.”
phosphorus-containing fertilizer and detergent. “One pound of
phosphorus can produce up to 500 pounds of wet algae,” said
Walt Lender, executive director of the LGA.
Invaders on the Shore
Eurasian watermilfoil. The name strikes fear into the hearts of
boaters, marina owners, swimmers, and fishers around the lake
for its ability to crowd out native plants, foul boat propellers,
and smother swimming areas. It was discovered in Lake George
in 1985, and spread quickly.
Last year, divers working for the Lake George Park Commission
(LGPC), which has teamed with the LGA and the Fund for Lake
George to fight invasive species in the lake, hand-harvested some
111,000 pounds of Eurasian watermilfoil. That’s more than the
weight of three full-sized school buses. As a result, the number of
lake sites needing attention is down from about 225 to 150, said
Dave Wick, executive director of the LGPC.
But there are other invasives to worry about. On a warm late
August afternoon, Wick zoomed in on an LGPC boat to pick me
up at a dock near Lake George Village, and we headed for Boon
Bay on the lake’s west side. There, we lowered the boat’s ladder
and jumped into the water with sieves to sift sand for Asian
clams. The clams, first found in the lake five years ago, thrive in
shallow waters with sandy bottoms. Most of Lake George is too
deep for the clams, which are limited to the lake’s edge.
Wick brought up a sieve filled with the invasive clams. The
LGPC and other organizations have tried to eradicate Asian
clams by covering them with plastic mats weighed down with
sandbags and rebar. “That’s worked, but only so well,” said Wick.
The hope is that a native aquatic worm with a taste for Asian
clams will offer new answers. Researchers at the DFWI are studying
the worm, known as Chaetogaster. It works its way into the mantle
cavity of an adult clam, said Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, director
of the DFWI. “These worms have been found in Asian clams in
some places in the lake, but not in others,” said Nierzwicki-Bauer.
She’s now comparing clams with and without worms to determine
whether Chaetogaster could be used as a biological control.
The LGPC, with the help of the LGA and the Fund for Lake
George, is spearheading a mandatory Lake George invasive
species boat-inspection program. Boat owners trailering their
vessels to the lake must stop at one of several inspection points
for clearance. The boats are carefully checked from stem to stern
for evidence of invaders. The program has become a model for
others around the country.
At Boon Bay, we climbed back into the LGPC boat and
were soon on our way south toward Lake George Village. As
we arrived, the first signs of sunset appeared. A mile offshore,
a floating Jefferson Project platform, its solar panels giving the
appearance of all-seeing eyes, kept watch over a darkening bay.
A high-tech guard on duty to protect the Queen.
Cheryl Lyn Dybas, a fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers, covers
the natural world for National Geographic, Ocean Geographic, National Wildlife, Yankee,
and many other publications. She dedicates this article to her parents, Elizabeth and
the late Joseph Dybas of Lake George, who have loved the lake so well.
Phosphorus: Too Much of a Good Thing
Salt isn’t the only thing that’s polluting Lake George. Excess
phosphorus leaking from rusting septic systems, aging sewage-treatment plants, lawn fertilizer, and household detergent, said
Short, are fueling growth of the lake’s phytoplankton. The microscopic algae – which clump together to form green or brown
slicks when they reach very high numbers – have increased in
the lake by as much as 33 percent over the past four decades.
Rainbow smelt, introduced into the lake in the early twentieth
century, are complicating the picture. The fish feast on microscopic floating animals called zooplankton. If zooplankton are
removed from the water, phytoplankton reproduce very quickly,
often resulting in large, visible “blooms.” When these plant
plankton ultimately die, they sink to the lake’s depths, where
they create oxygen-deprived dead zones.
Jefferson Project researchers are tracking how phosphorus
makes its way into the lake from tributary streams and brooks.
While the scientists seek answers, the Fund for Lake George,
the Lake George Association (LGA), and other organizations
are educating lakeshore landowners about the importance of
keeping septic systems in good working order, and not using