How Healthy are Seneca Lake’s Stream Ecosystems? – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

How Healthy are Seneca Lake’s Stream Ecosystems?

Two William Smith students are studying five streams along the western shore of Seneca Lake to understand how landuse patterns influence water quality and aquatic diversity.

July 12, 2002 GENEVA, N.Y. – Two William Smith students are studying the health of stream ecosystems that feed Seneca Lake this summer as part of the Hobart and William Smith summer research programs. Claire MacNamara and Jennifer Hamblett are working with Professor Jim Ryan of the Colleges biology department to monitor the water quality and ecosystem diversity of five streams along the western shore of Seneca Lake–Kashong Creek, Keuka Outlet, Plum Point Creek, Big Stream, and Glen Creek in Watkins Glen State Park. The students plan to present their research at one of three national meetings during the academic year and are preparing two manuscripts for publication in scientific journals.

The team is using biological indicator species as a measure of ecosystem health following guidelines set out by the Environmental Protection Agency. The primary goal of the research is to understand how landuse patterns influence water quality and aquatic diversity. In addition, the team is collecting biological data that will be used, in conjunction with the water chemistry data collected by Professor John Halfman’s research students, to build a model of the Seneca Lake ecosystem.

“One of the most important questions we hope to answer is how watersheds dominated by agricultural landuse patterns differ from those that are surrounded by more natural vegetation,” said Ryan. “Runoff containing excess fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides can significantly alter the stream ecosystem, resulting in dramatic changes in the aquatic insect communities, which play a vital role in recycling energy in stream ecosystems.”

Seneca Lake is the largest of central New York’s Finger Lakes; it is 57 kilometers long, and has a maximum depth of approximately 200 meters.

Seneca Lake supplies grade “AA” drinking water to more than 70,000 people, and brings in an estimated $100 million in tourism and recreational benefits to the area annually. The lake and its watersheds are also subject to a variety of stresses, including herbicide and pesticide runoff, excess nitrates from fertilizers, and increasing development along its shores.

Claire MacNamara, a junior from Red Hook, N.Y., has declared a major in biology and a minor in Latin American studies. She plans to study abroad in South America next spring. On campus she is a member of the women’s rugby team as well as the intramural softball league. She is a student athletic trainer and involved with the Peers Educating Peers (PEP) program. She was selected as a member of the William Smith Laurel Society, an honor society for juniors, and was named a Helen Heath Scholar for her academic achievements. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in medicine, with a focus in either pediatrics or rural health care. MacNamara is the daughter of Mark (Hobart Class of 1972) and Marty (William Smith Class of 1972) MacNamara.

Jennifer Hamblett, a senior from Gilmanton, N.H., is a biology major and a women’s studies minor. Outside of the classroom, Hamblett devotes her time as the chair of the Women’s Collective and Women’s Resource Center, a support center for William Smith students, and is co-chair of the Colleges’ Folk Festival committee. She is a member of Hai Timiai, the William Smith senior honor society. After graduation in the May, Hamblett hopes to combine her interests in health and women’s studies and pursue a career in international and domestic public health. Hamblett is the daughter of Robert Bruce Hamblett and Ms. Catherine Hamblett.

Ryan came to Hobart and William Smith in 1987 after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts and M.S. degree from the University of Michigan. His research has taken him to Ecuador, Trinidad, Madagascar, Ghana, and most recently to Uganda.

The students working with Ryan are funded by a grant from the Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program and the Perkin Fund. The Biology Department has a long history of student/faculty research, and many of these projects have resulted in scientific publications co-written by Hobart and William Smith students.


Download a large photo of Claire MacNamara.

Download a large photo of Jennifer Hamblett.