The Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges this semester hosted the annual Finger Lakes Research Conference, bringing together experts from New York and Canada in the fields of water resources, invasive species and contaminants. The 2015 Research Conference served as a platform for researchers to share their findings with the public, natural resource managers and others on what is being done locally and across the state to address environmental issues of importance to the region.
“This year’s conference was a great success as we hosted a number of state and regional experts on water quality issues affecting the health of our Finger Lakes,” says FLI Director Lisa Cleckner. “Connecting the scientific community with decision makers and watershed managers is a hallmark of the annual conference.”
The conference was organized by Cleckner, along with Hilary Mosher, coordinator for the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, and Roxanne Razavi, FLI’s post-doctoral research scientist.
“Participants learned about a variety of aquatic research taking place within and surrounding the Finger Lakes while posters were more general and included topics such as using goats to manage invasive species and community engagement topics,” Mosher says.
This year’s keynote speaker was Todd Walter, director of the Water Resources Institute at Cornell University. Walter’s discussed agricultural non-point source pollution in the Finger Lakes, a topic pertinent for those across the region who are advocating for research and control of non-point source pollution in the Finger Lakes and beyond.
The impact of invasive species was a focal point for many researchers who participated in the conference. Kimberly Schulz, associate professor in the department of environmental and forest biology at State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, documented the effects of an invasive zooplankton in the food webs of the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes. Brian Weidel, a research fishery biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), highlighted the need for further research on biological invasion in the Finger Lakes in his presentation on the connection between the Dreissena mussels and the round goby in Lake Ontario.
Cathy McGlynn, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, discussed the newly adopted aquatic invasive species management plan. Robert Johnson, plant expert with Cornell University, offered an update on the research and management currently being conducted on Cayuga Lake to eradicate Hydrilla verticillata, and a new infestation identified in Monroe County. Doug Wilcox, Empire Innovation Professor of wetland science at the College at Brockport, provided an overview of the wetland restoration project conducted in the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area of Lake Ontario.
In addition, HWS Professor of Geoscience and Environmental Studies John Halfman provided an update on long-term data and research on nutrients and other water quality parameters in the Finger Lakes, providing insight into the state of the Finger Lakes and a long-term record of changes across many lakes.
Clifford Kraft, associate professor of fisheries and aquatic sciences in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, documented ecosystem disruptions caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, while Karen Riva-Murray, biologist with the USGS New York Water Science Center, discussed mercury bioaccumulation in streams across New York State.
Razavi provided an overview of an FLI research project assessing mercury dynamics and aquatic food webs of the Finger Lakes that began in 2015 and is funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority; and Jeff Ridal, executive director and chief research scientist for the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences in Canada, discussed the institute’s role in protecting ecosystems and engaging with stakeholders.
“This conference is so important for giving the Finger Lakes research, management, education and citizen science communities a chance to share their findings,” Razavi says. “Such communication is vital to our understanding of Finger Lakes ecosystems so we can continue to have clean water and healthy fisheries.”