For Bethany Kharrazi ’21, “lake week” is perhaps the best part of her summer water quality research. One week each month, she and Professor of Environmental Studies John Halfman collect water quality data from each of the Finger Lakes to monitor nutrients (nitrate and phosphate levels) and other critical variables.
“I love being out on the water and the boat. It’s really nice to apply my knowledge from the classroom in a hands-on setting,” says Kharrazi, a geoscience major and English minor who has been working with Halfman on his ongoing 30-year project to study water quality in the region.
Lake week, which “involves heavy data collection,” Kharrazi says, is an essential part of the monitoring process. High nitrate and phosphate concentrations, typically caused by farm runoff and other sources, precipitate algal blooms and more recently, blue green algae blooms, “which are a public health concern. They contain harmful toxins, so it is important that we monitor it.”
This is her second summer interning with Halfman analyzing water quality in the Finger Lakes, where the fieldwork attracts community attention, with boaters often stopping to ask about their findings.
“We have people coming up to us asking how the water is doing and if there are any blooms,” Kharrazi says. “It’s nice to interact with the community and see how many people care about what we are doing.”
After collecting the water and conducting preliminary measurements, Kharrazi and Halfman filter the water in the lab and begin their analysis. Between her coursework and summer research, Kharrazi says the firsthand scientific experience under Halfman’s mentorship has helped her define her goals after graduation.
“When I first came to HWS, the idea of conducting research seemed so hard and daunting. Now that I had the opportunity to do it with a great professor, I can definitely see myself doing it for the rest of my life,” she says.