Birders spend their time in nature, surrounded by nature. Many of us get interested in dragonflies, or butterflies, or wild flowers. Most become passionate advocates for habitat protection and conservation. Yesterday, we learned about protecting a very special habitat, Lake Champlain.
We went out on the UVM research vessel Melosira
to learn about biological, chemical and physical measurements made by limnologists (people who study inland waters).
Maeve tried her hand at steering the boat - while we were still docked!
While Captain Steve motored out into the lake, Kris and Amelia from the Rubenstein Science Lab told the group about the geology and formation of Lake Champlain and its extensive watershed.
The boat stopped and everyone on board used instruments for various measurements.
The CTD measures conductivity, temperature and depth - and costs $20,000!
Readings from the CTD were fed into a computer program and graphed. The lake temperature was about 72-74 degrees for the first fifty feet down, then precipitously dropped to 42 degrees.
Here's a much less high-tech tool. This little girl was gathering water samples so we could all look at plankton under microscopes.
The cruise was part of the Rubenstein Lab's outreach program, one of three public outings this summer.
The many children aboard were serious and focused on the scientific tasks.
Even the adults were enthusiastic!
Other public outreach initiatives include classes at ECHO and local schools, providing hands-on learning about the lake to students and their teachers.
Scientists at the Lab also meet with fishermen, officials at marinas and water treatment plants, and people who own lakeshore property to encourage responsible boating and run-off management. One recent success was a change in filters at the Burlington water treatment facility that resulted in an immediate decrease in the quantity of microfibers reaching the lake.
We didn't spend a whole morning without noticing birds! Here's a mallard-domestic duck hybrid seen along the waterfront.
Here's just a little bit of the vast amount of information we learned from Kris, Amelia and Steve on the cruise.
Lake Champlain is the sixth biggest lake in the United States, after the five Great Lakes.
Vermont's own Great Lake is 120 miles long and 12 miles across at the widest point. The depth reaches 400' deep near the Charlotte-to-Essex ferry route, at the site of an ancient tectonic slip. Most of the lake is much more shallow, and problems with water quality are greater in the shallowest areas such as Missisquoi Bay, Malletts Bay and St. Albans Bay.
Lake Champlain has a much higher ratio of adjacent land to water than the five Great Lakes, so it receives a greater amount of run-off from surrounding mountains, cities, suburbs, forests and farmlands.
Kris noted that agriculture often gets the blame for lake pollution but in reality, acre for acre, urban areas put more algae-feeding nutrients into the lake than farms. Vermont has much more agricultural land than urban land, though, so the aggregate effect is higher for farmland.
The Lake Champlain Land Trusts web site also offers more information about Lake Champlain.