Tag Archives: Nature

Update from the MLRC Staff – Fall 2017

– Written by Brenda Fekete and Logan Parker with photographs by Logan Parker

Smoke on the water, darker mornings, the appearance of colored leaves and the extra layer of clothes during our early morning boat rides suggests that a change in seasons is just around the corner… although last week’s summer temperatures caught us by surprise!

We had a wonderful group of nine Colby interns this year. Their work on the lakes, in the lab, in the MLRC Gallery and at Camp Tracy was very much appreciated. All of their efforts in collecting weekly secchi disk transparencies, Insitu water profiles for temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH, phytoplankton analysis and biweekly nutrient (grab) sampling on all seven lakes allowed us to watch the well- mixed spring profiles turn into the stable, stratified summer patterns that still are being recorded to date.   Anoxia in Great Pond, upper Long Pond, Salmon and Messalonskee (Oakland) was observed about two weeks earlier than last year and continues to exist. East Pond has struggled with several blooms this year, but Salmon Lake has not. Gloeotrichia and metaphyton observations on Great Pond and Long Pond appear to similar that of 2016. Summer research intern, Clara Lawry, joined us on the water and created a series of videos detailing some of the tools utilized by the research team this summer.

35606911961_b2506f5fd9_zThe cooler, wetter weather pattern has made sampling a lot easier than the drought conditions we experienced in 2016! Logan and I will continue to sample each of the seven lakes until fall turnover in November. We will also start the sediment sampling process next week. We plan to continue to work on the shoreline mapping with the Colby drone pilots. They have worked out a lot of the kinks and are flying as often as weather and schedules permit.

35895409872_04a5fdfe06_zThe HOBO sensors used to monitor temperature and light at a one meter depth at each of the Gloeotrichia observation points were removed last week. This data, combined with the volunteer data, will be valuable to Gloeotrichia studies at Bates and Colby Colleges. Our Colby team collected measurements on all seven lakes this year and we expanded our monitoring sites on Great Pond and Long Pond. Thank you, again, to the Belgrade Lakes Association and all of our volunteers that continue to help us with this very important project! P.S: we would love to add more observation sites next season… please do spread the word!

The pressure transducers were removed from The Serpentine last month for data collection. They are recharged, redeployed and will remain in The Serpentine until November. The FlowCamVS will remain at the MLRC lab and will be used for phytoplankton analysis by the WQI team and several Colby courses.  Please come by and see the awesome pictures! We will continue to post the weekly secchi measurements, temperature and dissolved oxygen data on the interactive map, and the present and past data on our Water Quality Data page. Please continue to contact us if you have any questions, concerns or comments about the data.

Thank you, again, to all of our wonderful volunteers that have escorted the WQI team to the sampling sites throughout the summer! We will miss all of our volunteers that have headed home for the season, but sure look forward to seeing you all next summer! As for the brave, hearty folks that continue to take us out in the cooler weather, we so appreciate your help and could not complete the fall sampling without you!

35766225281_6ba2edc0e0_zOur summer lecture series has wrapped up after a very successful season of lectures, workshops, and events. We are grateful to the many authors, guest lecturers, and collaborators who made the summer programming such a success. Special thanks to the Belgrade Lakes Association for generously sponsoring many of this year’s events. Although our summer programming has come to a close, there is still plenty of reasons to keep an eye on our Events page. We are continuing to offer programs and workshops at the MLRC throughout the fall and winter. Upcoming events include lectures presented by the Belgrade Historical Society, an advanced bee-keeping workshop, ArcGIS training courses, and village-wide events such as Harvest Fest and Holiday Stroll.

It was a busy, productive and wonderful summer. Enjoy the beautiful Maine fall! Believe it or not, we are already gearing up for winter sampling…

A special aside: Wishing Logan and Hallee all of the best on their wedding this October!

Update from the Lake Science Manager – Spring 2017

– Written by Brenda Fekete with photographs by Logan Parker

Wow! Is it really May already? It seems like we were just out cutting holes in the ice to collect winter water profiles. Watching the ice go out at the end of April and listening to the sound of loons on the lakes always reminds us that spring is here and it is time to get sampling! With the recent windy and wet weather and a few boat issues behind us, Logan and I have been sampling on all seven lakes. So far the profiles show typical spring mixing with lots of dissolved oxygen and cold water right to the bottom of the lakes. It is so great to back out on the water!

This year’s team includes nine Colby students. We are pleased to have two students returning from last year’s efforts, and welcome seven new students to the crew. Besides the water quality sampling and data analysis efforts that are so fundamental to our research initiative, one student will be working with Matthew Leahey on an educational program at Camp Tracy on McGrath Pond, and one will be working with Fluid Imaging on the new “CyanoCam”, a FlowCam that is optimized for Cyanobacteria analysis. Please stop us when you see us on the water. We would love to introduce ourselves!

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We knew we were sampling in the right spot on Great Pond when our buoy popped up when we opened the hatch!

We are often out on the water by 8 am. As in the past two seasons, we plan to continue our weekly secchi measurements, Insitu water profiles to include temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH analysis, and surface water samples for plankton analysis on all seven lakes. Grab samples for nutrient and elemental analysis will be taken every two meters on a biweekly basis. We be collecting spring sediment samples and plan to get another round of sediment samples in the fall.

 

In addition to the CyanoCam, new additions to the MLRC wet lab will be equipment to include ChlorophyllA (to compliment our FlowCam work) and color (to compliment our water sample analyses).

The various tanks in the MLRC Gallery and in the Wet Lab are still populated with wildlife collected in the watershed. In addition to the native warm water fish and mudpuppies, Logan has begun working on a new macro-invertebrate tank. He’s collected dragonfly and mayfly nymphs from Mill Stream that will be reared to adulthood and released back outside.

We are currently working with two licensed Colby drone pilots to design protocol that would allow us to update the shoreline maps for each of the seven lakes (last completed in 2011). A second experiment will be to use the drones to locate and assess the movement of metaphyton, and possibly cyanobacteria blooms in late summer. Perfected, this would be a very useful tool to monitor harmful algae blooms (HAB) on our lakes.

The Colby summer interns and our valuable volunteers will continue to monitor Gloeotrichia in all of the lakes, and we are looking forward to becoming involved in the EPA CyanoMonitoring program this year. This program will allow the Belgrade Watershed to be involved in a nationwide CyanoMonitoring effort! We would love to recruit a few more volunteers in the north and south basin of Long Pond and in the North Bay area of Great Pond. If interested, please contact Logan Parker. Please stay tuned for more information about Gloeotrichia monitoring training sessions.

After a bit of a cleanup and redesign, Goldie will be deployed on May 22. Real time data is displayed and explained on the Goldie website.

One of our early spring 2016 projects was to place a Water Quality Test Site buoy at each of the DEP sampling sites on all seven lakes. These buoys required a state permit. Placed at the deepest parts of the lakes, these buoys allow our teams to sample at the exact same site every time on every lake. This results in more consistent data collected from the deepest holes of the lake, thus increasing the accuracy of our results. If you want to know where the deepest part of your lake is … come visit the WQ buoy. However, when visiting, please do not attach your boat to the buoys. Pulling on the buoys will cause the buoys to move from their desired DEP locations. We are currently checking and repositioning the buoys because of movement due to the winter ice.

I would like to, again, thank all of our wonderful volunteers that escorted our students to the sampling sites last season. The students truly enjoy your company and appreciate your help in the sampling process. We would love to ask for your help again during the heavy June through August sampling season. We also welcome any new volunteers that would like to join in the fun!

The weekly secchi measurements, temperature and dissolved oxygen data is presented on the online interactive map. You can also find the present and past weekly data on the MLRC website. Logan has been working all winter to develop a dynamic display that will represent each of the seven lakes in the Belgrade Watershed. This interactive kiosk will function as a library documenting all of the conservation and research efforts in the watershed. Come by this summer to check out this and other updates we’ve made to the Maine Lakes Resource Center gallery over the winter.

If you have any questions or comments about the Belgrade Watershed Water Quality Initiative, please do not hesitate to contact me.

“Pulling together we can save our lakes!”

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Scenes from winter sampling. We trekked out on every lake in the watershed to collect samples and winter water profiles.

 

 

“Cold-blooded”: Winter Survival of our Amphibians and Reptiles

Written by Logan Parker, Director of Programming and Assistant Lake Science Manager

Those of us who remain in New England throughout the winter know all too well the struggle to stay warm. For me, a typical January day begins with pulling on many layers of clothing, driving to Belgrade Lakes in the tropical microclimate of my heated vehicle, and dashing from the car into the comfort of the climate-controlled Maine Lakes Resource Center. All through the day, I eat a variety of foods that keep my metabolism fueled and my internal temperature controls operational. My evenings are often spent studying in an armchair beside the wood stove. Both modern technology and my own biology have made it so that I can endure winter in such a climate. Without either, I’m in real peril up here in a short amount of time.

There are some animals, however, which get by with much less. Enter the ectothermic reptiles and amphibians: the “cold-blooded” inhabitants of our watershed. Unlike endotherms, such as you and me, these ectotherms are largely dependent on environmental sources of heat to regulate their body temperatures. They have neither dense fur nor insulating feathers and lack the appendages to fly to more favorable conditions. No, our resident frogs, snakes, turtles, and salamanders must endure the Maine winter by deploying a different set of adaptations.

The Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)  is perhaps the least popular ectotherm in the watershed due to its aggressive behavior when encountered on land (although in water these turtles are quite meek and skittish). These large turtles have a long history of ambushing prey in the marsh, streams, and lakes of North America dating back some 60-100 million years (Coulter, 1999).  To survive the rigors of winter, these turtles retreat to below the water’s surface to spend the season hibernating under ice in shallow marsh areas, stream inlets, and under submerged trees (Ultsch, 2006). Snapping turtles will enter this mud-mired hibernation state alone or sometimes in the company of other turtles. These turtles, which typically breathe air, are anoxia-tolerant in winter- meaning they can survive several months underwater in even poorly oxygenated lakes (Ulsch, 2006). They are suspected of being capable of absorbing oxygen through folds of their pharynx that are exposed to water (Ultsch, 2006).

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A Common Snapping Turtle immobile beneath the winter ice. (Photo courtesy of Cliff Fairweather.

Unlike the snapping turtle, a number of native frog species survive the coldest months on dry land. Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus), Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), and Gray Treefrogs (Hyla versicolor) spend the winter near the soil surface under leaf litter, tree roots, and woody debris (Davis, 1999). This means these animals are exposed to a more dynamic array of freezing conditions. What is a native ectotherm to do? Why, freeze of course! Extreme conditions call for some equally extreme survival measures. To survive undergoing a freeze, these frogs reduce the water content of their organs and accumulate either glucose or glycerol (depending on the species) as a “cryoprotectant”, a substance that prevents cell damage during freezing (Layne et al. 2001). As much as 80% of the frog’s body will freeze during particularly cold spells.

Snakes lack the anoxia and freeze tolerance of the preceding species and so deploy a different set of adaptations to persevere through months of freezing conditions. The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is the most widespread reptile in the region and stays active sometimes well into November (Haskins, 1999). When the winds shift and snows begin to fall, these snakes head for crevices, rock walls, and old foundations to pass the winter singly or en masse, sometimes by the thousands (Shine et al. 2003). By retreating below the frost line, these snakes are able to avoid potentially lethal low temperatures at the soil’s surface (Shine et al. 2003). These animals remain in the hibernaculum until spring when they emerge, mate, and disperse.

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A “ball” of Common Garter Snakes mating outside their winter dens.

Through a variety of physiological and behavioral tactics, our watershed’s native ectotherms endure the harshest part of the year. As with all of the various life forms that inhabit our watershed, proper habitat must be fostered if they are to flourish here. Each of us can contribute to the success of these animals by preserving wild spaces and propagating habitat on our own land. Furthermore, the lakes, streams, and vernal pools in our watershed are of vital importance to wildlife. The needs of the biotic community must be maintained when considering the management of this resource.

References:

Coulter, M. W. (1999). Common Snapping Turtle. Maine Amphibians and Reptiles. University of Maine Press. Orono, Maine, USA.

Davis, S. L. (1999). Gray Treefrog. Maine Amphibians and Reptiles. University of Maine Press. Orono, Maine, USA.

Haskins, J. J. (1999). Common Garter Snake. Maine Amphibians and Reptiles. University of Maine Press. Orono, Maine, USA.

Layne, J. R. & Jones, A. L. (2001). Freeze Tolerance in the Gray Treefrog: Cryoprotectant Mobilization and Organ Dehydration. Journal of Experimental Zoology. 290: 1-5. 

Shine, R. & Mason, R. T. (2003). Patterns of mortality in a cold-climate population of garter snakes. Ecography. 12 (2): 81-86.

Ultsch, G. R. (2006). The ecology of overwintering among turtleswhere turtles overwinter and its consequences. Biological Reviews. 83 (3): 339-367.