Jefferson Project to Paint Winter Picture of Lake George

Amanda May Metzger
December 21, 2014
LAKE GEORGE — Researchers are finishing deployment of sensors — gifts that keep on giving through the winter — to transmit realtime data about Lake George and its tributaries as part of The Jefferson Project at Lake George.

Sensor deployment is the current focus of the multi­million dollar project, a collaboration between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM and The Fund for Lake George. The project launched in June 2013 with two high­tech survey vessels and then aircraft that collected precise measurements of depth and contours around the 32­ mile lake and its watershed. The result was the first high­tech 3­D computer model of Lake George and the world’s most detailed underwater survey that depicts the bottom of the lake. A new data visualization laboratory — powered by two IBM supercomputers — was unveiled in October in a new building at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing. The new lab allows scientists to monitor data on a giant nine­panel monitoring screen.
Now the focus at the institute is on deploying the sensors to collect information about weather, stormwater runoff, water circulation and more that will be reviewed by scientists at the lab. Next month, The Fund for Lake George plans to unveil a new meeting space called The Fund’s Center for Lake George where organizations, municipalities and schools can convene to learn about the findings and hear presentations on what they can do to protect lake quality. A date for an open house for the center will be announced. The new center, located in the building behind the Fund’s main office on Route 9, includes similar visualization
technology to the institute’s new lab with a large wall monitor and IBM­powered server for the proprietary software. Carl Heilman II donated large­scale photographs of Lake George for the room.

The Fund’s Water Quality Outreach Coordinator Corrina Parnapy said the new meeting space provides a way for the Fund to relay the messages of what scientists find through The Jefferson Project to the public. That includes the ability show someone, with computer models, how salt or faulty septic systems are affecting the lake in their specific area. A recent 30­year study showed stark variations between the northern and more ­developed southern basin on nitrogen and phosphorus levels. The phosphorus levels vary by 41 percent between the basins while nitrogen levels are 17 percent higher in the southern basin. Phosphorus levels remained stable since 2009.

That is only deep water. Near shore, where we’re seeing excessive algal growth and aquatic plants taking off like crazy, we are experiencing flushes of excessive nutrients,” she said. Salt is another targeted threat, with an estimated 8,000 metric tons unloaded on the watershed each year. Parnapy will have presentations prepared that last 15 minutes and others that are longer and go in depth on specific lake threats and actions people can take to stop them. She said anyone who wants to schedule one can contact the Fund.

We can say this is what happens when you put salt on your property or your neighbor’s property, or you have a faulty septic system or your build a new building. By involving the public, we create a ring of education and a ring of protection around Lake George,” Parnapy said. “By understanding the past, present and with the modeling software the future, we’ll be able to protect Lake George for future generations.”

Sensory development

In the fall, researchers deployed two yellow buoys equipped with solar panels around the lake called vertical profilers. Each contains a weather station and a winch inside that continuously lowers and raises a large blue cylindrical device with sensor prongs to measure pH levels, algae, dissolved oxygen, temperature and other characteristics at every depth of the lake.

Those were brought in for the winter, but a number of stream sensors collecting tributary data are and were still being placed as of Friday, said Darrin Fresh Water Institute Director Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer.

The water is pumped through the sensors, which is contained within a small shack almost like a doghouse. Those are heated and will remain in all winter,” Nierzwicki-Bauer said.

Three acoustic doppler current profiling (called ADCP) sensors just came in and are being deployed on the bottom of the lake. They will provide information for developing the 3D circulation models for looking at the movement of the water in Lake George.

A couple of them will be deployed on the bottom mounts where basically, the sensor itself, if you imagine it sitting at the bottom of the lake, it shoots upward and collects information of water flow,” she said.

Ultimately there will be more of them, but now it’s a race to get them in the water before the winter break and more snow and ice accumulates.

This is at least a good start in terms of being able to get information,” Nierzwicki-Bauer said. “A circulation model for the lake in general is going to helpful.”

A circulation model has several applications, including understanding how invasive species are transported and the movement of salt and de-icing agents coming into the lake.


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