Studying Lakes Ontario and Seneca for Nutrients and Mussels – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Studying Lakes Ontario and Seneca for Nutrients and Mussels

The high salt level in Seneca Lake (compared with the other Finger Lakes), the impact by zebra mussels on the calcium concentration of Lake Ontario, and the impact of non-point source pollutants like fertilizers on Seneca Lake are being studied this summer by Hobart and William Smith geoscience students.

July 1, 2002 GENEVA, N.Y.—One Hobart and two William Smith students are studying the nutrient levels in Seneca Lake and zebra mussels in Lake Ontario as part of the Colleges' summer research programs. The three students plan to present their research at the next Geological Society of America meeting in the fall.

The group, working with Professor of Geoscience and Director of Environmental Studies John Halfman, is monitoring Seneca Lake and its streams' chemical make-up: dissolved oxygen, chloride, alkalinity, total suspended solids, calcium and total hardness, conductivity, pH, discharge and temperature, as well as chlorophyll and plankton. The group is exploring possible causes for differing nutrient levels. The Lake Ontario study is an effort spearheaded by benthic ecologist Dawn Dittman of the U.S. Geological Survey, Eastern Basin Ecosystems Branch, Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science in Cortland. Halfman's part of the study is investigating the sedimentological controls on the last remaining locations for Diporeia.

“The Seneca Lake study continues my routine monitoring of the lake and streams to initiate a long-term study on the lake to assess the impact of the zebra mussel on the limnology, ecology, and hydrogeochemistry of the lake and to assess the flux of major anions and cations to the lake,” said Halfman. “The study addresses, among other things, why Seneca Lake is much saltier than the other Finger Lakes, and will determine the impact by zebra mussels on the calcium concentration, and the impact of non-point source pollutants like fertilizers (nitrates and phosphates) from agricultural land on the lake/watershed.”

Sophomore Cathy Caiazza of Rochester, N.Y., is observing the sodium and other ion hydrogeochemistry of Seneca Lake, to learn why Seneca Lake has higher chloride concentrations than the other Finger Lakes. Caiazza is majoring in both geoscience and chemistry, and has a minor in education. After earning her bachelor's degree, she plans to complete a master's degree in education at the Colleges and teach high school earth science. At William Smith she has performed in Koshare, a student-run dance organization, helped to build floating docks in Pochahontas State Park, Va. in the Alternative Spring Break Program, organized a cleanup of a section of the interstate-390 highway, and participated in the Colleges' Day of Service. This year she will be a SIB leader at Orientation, a mentor for the First Year Advantage course, as well as a teacher assistant for the chemistry department. Caiazza is the daughter of Mr. Vincenzo and Mrs. Mirta Caiazza.

Senior Rob Stewart of Middlebury, Vt., is examining nutrient loading and nutrient hydrogeochemistry of Seneca Lake. His work follows the work of Lindsey Bowser ’02, who investigated the source and fate of nitrates. He is also studying the levels of phosphate and silica, both in the lake itself and in the stream inlets and outlets that add and remove these nutrients. Stewart is a geoscience major, and has minors in mathematics and environmental science. He plans to attend graduate school in a few years. At Hobart he participates in intramural basketball and softball. Stewart is the son of Jamie and Joanne Stewart.

Junior Ann Walker from Liverpool, N.Y., is studying the sediment character in Lake Ontario and how it relates to the invasion and rise of the zebra and quagga mussels and the decline in the Diporeia populations, the latter an important part of the food chain for the fish in the lake. Zebra and quagga mussels are displacing Diporeia from the food chain, and by displacing the Diporeia, the mussels are destroying the lake trout fisheries in the lake. The mussel invasion in Lake Ontario is about five years ahead of Seneca Lake and provides a potential future scenario for Seneca Lake. Walker is the daughter of Ms. Deborah Long and Mr. Richard Walker.

Halfman came to Hobart and William Smith in 1994 after teaching in the department of earth sciences and in the department of civil engineering and geological sciences at the University of Notre Dame. He holds a B.S. from Miami, an M.S. from Minnesota, and a Ph.D. from Duke University. Halfman is on the Board of Directors of the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, a citizen watchdog group, and is on the Oversight and the Educational Committees of the Seneca Lake Area Partners in Five Counties, a watershed management and protection alliance.

The Hobart and William Smith geoscience department encourages students to involve themselves in research projects and paper presentations beyond the HWS campus. Many class and independent study projects result in presentations at national meetings and/or publications in national and international journals. The department prides itself in providing the opportunity for students to become part of the international geological community and for them to experience possible career paths.

Hobart for men and William Smith for women—private, liberal arts and science institutions with a combined enrollment of 1,800—have an ambitious geology curriculum designed for students with a wide variety of interests and needs, ranging from an introduction to a strong preparation for a career in geology. Hobart and William Smith are located in Geneva, in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

# # #

Download a large picture of Cathy Caiazza.

Download a large picture of Rob Stewart.

Download a large picture of Ann Walker.