Generous new grants from The Clark Foundation will allow researchers at SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station in Cooperstown to continue to monitor and study the presence of harmful algal blooms on Otsego Lake, just in time for the summer season.
Earlier this spring, The Clark Foundation Board of Directors approved a grant with two components to the State University at Oneonta Foundation: a grant of $100,000.00 payable over two years to the BFS for general support, and a grant of $85,000.00 payable over two years for intensive monitoring and testing of harmful algal blooms. These “blooms,” known as HABs, occur when colonies of algae and cyanobacteria grow out of control and produce toxins that can make people and animals very sick.
Otsego 2000, Otsego Land Trust and the Otsego County Conservation Association convened a stakeholders meeting on Tuesday, May 9 to coordinate a response to harmful algal blooms. More than 30 people attended, including environmental scientists and representatives from municipalities, non-governmental organizations, volunteer groups, and county agencies. The conference was facilitated by Dr. Gina L. Keel, professor of political science at SUNY Oneonta. Attendees had extensive table discussions on messaging content and media, and shared their activities and findings. The group reached a consensus on the need for a unified, large-scale media strategy to notify local residents and visitors about HAB safety and mitigation.
The SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station presented water testing proposals and a summary of current testing protocols. Oneonta Associate Professor and limnologist Kiyoko Yokota spoke briefly on the state of new HAB research.
SUPERIOR, WI—Kiyoko Yokota, certified lake manager and associate professor of biology at SUNY Oneonta, co-authored a report released last week that challenges current understandings of harmful algae blooms and may help communities better prepare for them. The results of studies led by scientist Dr. Kait Reinl, research coordinator at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve in Superior, Wisconsin, were published on February 17 in the scientific journal, “Limnology and Oceanography Letters.”
Cyanobacterial blooms, also known as harmful algal blooms, are an environmental and public health threat around the globe. Blooms can produce unpleasant tastes and odors, deplete oxygen in water, produce toxins that are harmful to people and animals, and impact water treatment systems. Researchers’ current understanding is that blooms occur largely when water temperatures are warm or hot, but there is evidence that blooms also occur in cold water, including under ice.
An unusual thing happened during this past weekend’s severe cold snap: Between 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday, Otsego Lake, the largest lake in Otsego County, froze over completely. With this week’s warmer weather forecast, it may well thaw again and, if it does, it will follow a somewhat disturbing trend that could spell trouble in the years ahead.
Records of ice cover on Otsego Lake have been kept since 1842 and, with the establishment of the SUNY Biological Field Station on the Lake in 1968, extensive research and record-keeping on all aspects of the health of the lake have been an invaluable resource.
LAKE ICE CLOSES: SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station Director Willard Harman confirmed Tuesday morning that Otsego Lake has frozen over. According to Dive Master Paul Lord, “I drove the length of the lake Saturday morning and it was frozen. It is unusual to see the lake freeze in one night. The lake was open Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. and frozen solid Saturday at 8 a.m.”
OTSEGO LAKE—Above, SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station Master Diver Trainer Paul H. Lord, SUNY Oneonta BFS Volunteer Diver and Diver Instructor David Turner, SUNY Oneonta graduate biology major Brandon Guerrero and SUNY Oneonta undergraduate biology major Kari Minissale smile after diving in Otsego Lake to retrieve the Springfield Landing no-wake zone buoy on Saturday, December 17.
Glimmerglass Lake (aka Otsego) faces its biggest ecological challenge since the last Ice Age in the form of harmful algae blooms, “HABs,” which can make lake water not only unpotable, but un-swimmable, un-skiable, un-rowable and unpopular. Fortunately, we have the A-Team on the job: The new incoming president of the North American Lake Management Society, none other than our own Dr. Kiyoko Yokota of SUNY Oneonta, and Mr. Doug Willies, who is going to lead the effort to get a DEC-approved HAB mitigation and remediation plan in place in order to organize and formalize the response. Kiyoko is a brilliant scientist whose specialty is quagga mussels, the little culprits that may be exacerbating the HABs, and Doug is a can-do organizer and a canny Scot who can pinch the life out of a penny or a quagga mussel. We couldn’t have a better team leaders to address the challenges of keeping Glimmerglass Lake from turning into Pea Soup Pond.
Chip Northrup Cooperstown
Editor’s Note: The Harmful Algal Bloom Action Team—a collaboration of water professionals, researchers, and educators from the national network of Water Resources Research Institutes, the North Central Region Water Network, and Cooperative Extensions from the 12 states in the North Central Region of the United States—is holding its third annual Harmful Algal Bloom Research Symposium on January 5 and 6, 2023. This virtual symposium is free. Visit the North Central Region Water Network’s website for more information. The symposium will include discussions about the latest harmful algal bloom research, examples of effective bloom management, and the latest technologies being used to tackle this global issue.
WESTFORD – This past summer, Otsego Lake and surrounding area water bodies saw an influx of harmful algal blooms, posing a threat to biodiversity, water potability and recreational activities. HABs, caused by an overabundance of Microcystis, a harmful strain of cyanobacteria, represent one of the biggest environmental threats to area water bodies since the introduction of zebra mussels, and more recently quagga mussels. The latter two species are biofouling agents that actually cause increased levels of Microcystis, as suggested by a long-term National Science Foundation study published last year. Luckily, one area ecology expert has proposed a way forward.
Proposition 1 passed last week. It authorizes state bond funds for environmental infrastructure—including $650 million for clean water projects. The Otsego Lake community should make a proposal to address harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the lake.
The funding proposal should come from the Village, the townships and the county. The proposal should be crafted by the lake stakeholders and experts—led by the Biological Field Station.
HABs can be reduced by better watershed management and in-lake remediation. As of last week, state funds may be available to support our effort to keep Glimmerglass Lake from turning into Pea Soup Pond.
The Otsego Lake and SUNY Oneonta communities worked together to protect property, life, and the environment around Otsego Lake on Saturday, November 5.
Saturday morning had me concerned about whether the autumn no-wake zone buoy Buoyfest would be a success or would be only the first day of a multiple day effort to retrieve our NWZBs. Winds were strong enough to cause concern, and we had lost the services of four divers, who we had planned to work with us, in the 24 hours prior to the event.
Health and other good reasons prevented those four divers from participating. The preparation work provided on Friday by Otsego Lake Association members Bill Richtsmeier, Mickie Richtsmeier, Doug Willies and Peter Regan facilitated an early departure. The focus and experience of graduate students Sarah Coney and Brian Hefferon provided core successes which inspired our SUNY Oneonta undergraduate students and recent graduates, Liv Bartik, Alan Brault, Zach Lebid, and Katlin Mancusi, to see the work through to completion.
The OLA Board of Directors was well represented, providing essential tender services: Wayne Bunn, Peter Regan and Kiyoko Yokota. Chuck Hascup masterfully employed his barge to support our work. I am grateful to all.
The last two NWZBs, at Springfield Landing and Lake Front, will be retrieved and swapped for spar buoys, as is our tradition, on the weekend prior to Christmas Eve. That typically involves breaking through thin ice along the shoreline to reach those buoys, but the shallow depths involved encourage a lighthearted attitude about this December work.
Paul H. Lord SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station Divemaster and Instructor
The Biological Field Station (BFS) collected samples for total microcystin analysis around Otsego Lake yesterday, 12 September 2022. Results for each location are below. We provide these results for informational purposes and to aid in decision-making; these results represent a snapshot in time. Bloom conditions are known to change quickly.
HAB conditions were evident at 6 of the 7 locations visited; community members reported HAB conditions at points along the West shoreline north of Three Mile Point, in the North end, and Hyde Bay. When visible accumulations are present on the shoreline or the water surface, caution is warranted. A link to DOH guidance is below. The cyanobacteria causing the bloom is called Microcystis aeruginosa.
To put these concentrations into context, according to the Department of Health Regulated Swimming Beaches are closed based on visual indication of a bloom and re-opened after the bloom has dissipated (visual assessment) and the total microcystin concentration is less than 4 ug/L in a sample collected the following day. Link to Dept. of Health Bloom Response and Regulated Beaches page
Dr Willard Harman of the Biological Field Station understands the biodynamics of toxic slime (“blue green algae”) and he knows what can be done to mitigate their blooms — which may become chronic if left unaddressed — in which case lake water would become non-potable, fish would die, and people would get sick. The Biological Field Station is going to come up with plans to attempt to address the problem —before Glimmerglass Lake becomes Pea Soup Pond.
Other watersheds have had this problem, other watersheds have addressed the problem, other watersheds have solved the problem. We are fortunate that we have Dr. Harman and the Biological Field Station to attempt to keep the glimmer in Glimmerglass without mercilessly maligning mussels.
The summer of 2022 will be remembered as the year our beloved Lake Otsego first suffered a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB).
The conditions which allow a HAB to occur are known. This column reviews Village of Cooperstown public beaches, boat launch sites and most importantly, Village drinking water.
The SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station (BFS) has monitored lake conditions for decades. This summer, when Glimmerglass State Park first noted an algae bloom on July 27 and closed, BFS began twice weekly testing at locations around the lake. The results of those tests are on their website — suny.oneonta.edu/biological-field-station.
Recently, we at The Freeman’s Journal have become aware that some of our readers, and others who may not be our readers, still have questions about the toxic algae blooms that of late have been creeping up on us from the depths and edges of our beloved Otsego Lake. So here goes an effort to get it right.
According to NOAA, whose satellites, along with those of the EPA, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, are picking up images of them, these blooms have been found in 2,300 lakes in the contiguous U.S., and in another 5,000 bodies of water in Alaska.
The algae, often — but not strictly — of a blue-green color, is cyanobacteria, which grows naturally in fresh water, though it also also been spotted, although less frequently, in brackish and salt water. The bacteria can also be red, neon or brown, and when it dies it exudes a rotten smell. When the water is warm, stagnant and nutrient-rich, as it presently is here, the algae can burst into blooms, which is what we are seeing along the shores of the Lake. The blooms can, and do, produce a toxin, called cyanotoxin, which can enter the mouth, nose and eyes, or be inhaled with water vapor. They can also keep blooming into the early fall, until the temperature drops.
Jane Forbes Clark, President of The Fernleigh Foundation, announced today that The Board of Directors has approved a $9,695 grant to SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station (BFS) to do twice a week testing on Otsego Lake to better monitor the effect of the recent Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs).
“It is important that science and data drive our decisions about the impact of the HABs,” said Miss Clark. “There is not a local organization better equipped to do that than the Biological Field Station.”
Dr. Willard “Bill” Harman, CLM, Distinguished Service Professor, Rufus J. Thayer Otsego Lake Research Chair, and Director, SUNY Oneonta BFS, explained that “the HABs typically start in deeper waters, deriving nutrients from the bottom muds, which have been deposited there annually for as long as the lake has been in existence, then visible blooms sometimes rise to the surface.