Bin Zhu, Ph.D., research scientist at the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, will conduct research on aquatic plants in Keuka Lake this summer with funding support from the Yates County Soil & Water Conservation District, the Keuka Lake Association and the Finger Lakes – Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance.
“I am excited to expand this research in the Finger Lakes to meet the specific needs of regional partners who must address the growing prevalence of aquatic plants, especially invasive species.” Zhu says. In the past two summers, he has investigated aquatic plant communities including Eurasian water milfoil and curly-leaf pondweed in five eastern Finger Lakes from Otisco Lake to Seneca Lake. The research in Keuka Lake will provide more critical information about current distribution, composition, and abundance of native and invasive aquatic plants in the Finger Lakes. “Too many aquatic plants can degrade water quality and invasive plants can out-compete native species and impede recreation.”
For the Keuka Lake project, Zhu will conduct a two-day survey of aquatic plants using rake sampling at 30 to 40 sites on the lake to compare the current composition and abundance of aquatic plant communities with historical data. “Changes in aquatic plant communities can reflect water quality changes in lakes,” he explains, noting the last systematic studies referencing aquatic plants in Keuka Lake was between two and three decades ago. “Therefore, it is necessary to conduct aquatic plant research right now.” Zhu’s findings will be provided in a report following the completion of the survey.
District Manager James Balyszak states, “The updated survey will provide more current information for the District and other stakeholders concerned about the health of Keuka Lake to better address water quality priorities. Right now, we only have the outdated survey, making it difficult to plan for new lake and watershed priorities.” Zhu received $3,000 funding support. In-kind assistance will also be provided by the Institute, the District and Keuka Lake Association volunteers to support the planned research.
Since joining the Finger Lakes Institute’s staff in 2006, Zhu has received more than $150,000 in research grants from various agencies including the New York State Great Lakes Protection Fund small and large grants programs, Independent College Fund– Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, New York State, Skaneateles Lake Milfoil Eradication Corporation and Syracuse University, and county agencies such as Ontario County Water Resources Council.
The Finger Lakes Institute, a signature program of Hobart and William Smith Colleges since 2004, conducts environmental research on the 11 Finger Lakes of central and western New York State along with outreach and education about the Finger Lakes environment. Keuka Lake is one of eight lakes studied annually since 2005.