Professor of Geoscience John Halfman recently participated in the day-long workshop, “Owasco Lake … OWN IT” at Cayuga Community College. Halfman’s role was to describe the current condition of the lake, which he monitored in 2011 and has studied for a number of years.
An article about the conference in The Citizen notes: “Halfman, a professor of geoscience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, said an overload of nutrients – especially phosphate -contributes to the lake’s algae problem. Caused by agricultural, urban and atmospheric runoff, Halfman said extreme nutrient levels effect both the lake’s water quality and the creatures that call it home.”
Halfman joined the HWS faculty in 1994 after teaching earth science and civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame. He received his B.S. from the University of Miami magna cum laude, his M.S. from the University of Minnesota and his Ph.D. from Duke University. Halfman has been researching large lakes since the 1980s, the Finger Lakes since the early 1990s, and has done research on Lake Superior and the East African Rift Lake. His research on the Finger Lakes includes the collection of limnological and hydrogeochemical data to investigate records of environmental change, the hydrogeochemical impact of zebra mussels, the source and fate of non-point source pollutants within these watersheds and water quality variability between watersheds. In addition to being active in research, Halfman is also the founder, science coordinator and active member of the Finger Lakes Institute.
The full article follows.
Lake advocates taking stock
Samantha House • The Citizen March 4, 2012
AUBURN – When Owasco Lake started to look a bit green, people noticed.
When jagged-edged Asian clams invaded the lake, scientists worried the clams would displace native species and alter the food chain. And when residents learned the detrimental effects of the runoff spilling into their lake, many decided it was time to act.
At Saturday’s “Owasco Lake … OWN IT” conference at Cayuga Community College, experts aimed to arm concerned residents with the facts needed to take informed action. The two-part, day-long workshop consisted of a morning full of detailed lectures and an optional afternoon of invasive species training.
Armed with coffee and cookies, about 50 attendees of all ages and persuasions – teachers, politicians, scientists and lakeside residents – settled into the Irene Bisgrove Theater’s cushioned seats for the speakers’ session. After event MC Robert Brower made introductions and David Carr described the role science plays in forming public policy, John Halfman detailed the current state of Owasco Lake.
Halfman, a professor of geoscience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, said an overload of nutrients – especially phosphate -contributes to the lake’s algae problem. Caused by agricultural, urban and atmospheric runoff, Halfman said extreme nutrient levels effect both the lake’s water quality and the creatures that call it home.
To find ways to reduce nutrient loading, Halfman spent the past six years studying Owasco Lake in an attempt to pinpoint where and when nutrients enter the lake.
“If you can really control phosphorus and where it comes from, you can limit algae growth,” he explained. “You turn off that nutrient supply, then you have a chance to clean up the lake.”
Although he identified the Dutch Hollow Creek area as the place where most nutrients enter, Halfman said phosphate loading takes place everywhere.
“If it’s coming from everywhere, then everyone has to do their part to bring it down,” he said.
To help reduce runoff, Halfman said nutrient fluxes must be monitored, agrarians must implement best management practices and watershed protection legislation must be increased.
Barry Evans, a research associate at Penn State, also emphasized the importance of monitoring nutrients, displaying how data simulators can help explore ways to reduce phosphorus. If nutrient levels continue to rise, Evans said Owasco Lake could turn eutrophic, making it a perfect breeding ground for algae.
“It’s obvious that if you reach the tipping point, if you keep on loading, it’s going to be a slow decline,” he said. “It doesn’t just happen over night.”
Steve Penningroth, of Ithaca’s Community Science Institute, explained how citizen scientists can help clean up the lake by collecting water samples.
“Our mission is to empower citizens to become stewards of their local environment by participating in monitoring programs,” he said.
Judy Wright, of the American Farmland Trust, concluded the session by sharing farmers’ perspectives. Wright said that although farmers are aware fertilizer and manure runoff contribute to nutrient loading, preventative measures aren’t always economical. In order to clean up the lake, Wright said farmers and nonfarmers must find common ground by working together.
“We need to think about how we can coordinate conservation projects across the watershed to have a maximum impact,” she said.
Although Brower agreed all parties must cooperate, he said workshops like “Owasco Lake … OWN IT” are important starts.
“Conferences like this get transformed into public policy,” he said. “We have an opportunity to make enormous progress.”
Staff writer Samantha House can be reached at 282-2282 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at Citizen_House.
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