Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Students Create Documentary on Blue-Green Algae
The HWS Update
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Students Create Documentary on Blue-Green Algae

GUAs part of “Introduction to Social Documentary,” students wrote, filmed, edited and produced an original documentary in conjunction with the Year of Water initiative. Through interviews with community members, “Blooms” tells the story of how sectors of the Geneva community – including nonprofits, government, citizen action groups, businesses and others – have come together to confront the issue of blue-green algae in Seneca Lake.

The course was taught by Instructor of Media and Society and Ph.D. candidate in the Visual and Culture Studies program at the University of Rochester Jiangtao “Harry” Gu ’13.

The 30-minute production includes interviews with Director of the Finger Lakes Institute Lisa Cleckner, Professor of Environmental Science John Halfman, Water Resource Technician and a Certified Crop Advisor for Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District Tucker Kautz, owner of Hansen Farms Eric Hansen, conservationist at Ontario Water and Soil Conservationist District Tucker Kautz, Town of Geneva Councilman Robert McCarthy and Town of Geneva Supervisor Mark Venuti.

“What I enjoyed most about this project was working collectively in a small class environment to make one final product that tells a story about our community and is a call to action,” says Julia Hagopian ’20 during a Q&A session held after the screening of the documentary on Dec. 6 in the Fish Screening Room.

The film identifies nutrient runoff from farms as a significant factor contributing to the growth of algal blooms in Seneca Lake, and interviews McCarthy, Venuti and Hansen to determine what steps are being taken to mitigate runoff. In 2017, the Town of Geneva board initiated the “Lake Friendly Farm” award, celebrating farms that are reducing agricultural water draining into the lake. As the first honorary recipient, Hansen addressed the successful practices that his farm has used.

“Many farms surrounding the Finger Lakes have followed Hansen Farms’ lead causing a reduction in contaminated water runoff,” says Israel Oyedapo ’20 in the documentary voiceover. “As the algae continue to bloom in the lakes, community collaboration in Geneva is also blooming. The success of Hansen Farms has produced efficient and beneficial collaboration between farms and governmental agencies.”

Drone footage for the documentary was completed by Adam Farid ’20 and music was composed by Maxwell Harris ’21. Additional collaborators as script writers, interviewers, community outreach and more include Mahamadou Bala ’21, Juliana Bruno ’21, Axel Forsgren ‘20, Julia Hagopian ’20, Linh Nguyen ’21 and Josh Walker ’20.