A Summer at the Finger Lakes Institute – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

A Summer at the Finger Lakes Institute

This summer, Christie Eldredge ’10 worked at the Finger Lakes Institute with Sheila Myers, education outreach coordinator, educating local students and teachers about the Finger Lakes region. One of Eldredge’s major projects was to organize a week-long program focusing on scientific inquiry for high school students participating in the Syracuse area Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) program hosted by LeMoyne College.

The students were given background information about Onondaga Lake and Seneca Lake and introduced to the methods and tools used to test water quality and plankton. They then read more in-depth short essays written by Eldredge about water quality and organisms of interest to them.

Onondaga Lake and Seneca Lake are opposites in almost every aspect. Onondaga is a shallow lake located next to a major city, Syracuse.  It is eutrophic (having excess nutrients that may be harmful to its ecosystem), and is just starting to recover from a long history of pollution. Fifty miles to the west, Seneca Lake has a few large towns located on its shores, is so deep (more than 650 meters) that the U.S. Navy uses it to test submarines, and is mesotrophic (having medium levels of nutrients). 

The contrast between the two lakes and the lack of previous comparisons between them leaves many unanswered questions about their differences. Each group of students created a hypothesis about a disparity between Onondaga Lake and Seneca Lake. Then, to test their hypothesis each group created methods and collected data on the two lakes. Afterward, the groups analyzed their data and reached a conclusion about their hypothesis. Lastly, each group created a poster and presented their findings at a reception at LeMoyne College.