A Major Milestone for Lake George: First Comprehensive Mapping of Lake Bed Completed
According to Eric Siy, executive director of the Fund for Lake George, the mapping of the bottom of Lake George has been completed. Substructure Hydrographic Surveys, a company from Portsmouth. N.H. hired by Jefferson Project partners The Fund, IBM and Rennselaer, just completed an extensive analysis of the entire lake bed.
Bill Jenkins, chief of survey for Substructure, said the vessel used for mapping is the only one in the world equipped with the software capable of completing a project of this scope. “As far as acquisition goes and data collection, we are complete,” Jenkins said. “It is a huge accomplishment.
Tom Reis, pilot of “Mintaka” (one of two vessels used in the project), said about 1,000 hours were spent on preparation of each vessel and over 1,000 hours were spent on the actual survey. “We traveled approximately 9,000 miles going back and forth and up and down the lake,” he said. “At times a crew of up to 10 people was involved in the mapping project.”
Reis said the real reason behind the mapping effort is to create a circulation model to determine the most effective means of combating aquatic invasive species (AIS). “You’re going to have a hydrologic model from the laser work that we have done in the watershed, so that will give you the run-off component. Then you’ll have the weather monitoring, which is very critical to see how the wind-driven currents affect the circulation of the lake.”
Reis said the next phase of the project will be the placement of monitors that will observe the chemistry and the currents throughout the water column in specific locations. “For example, when you figure out when the spawning periods of the Asian Clam are, you can map those with the current and see where the distribution of the juveniles is going to be,” he said. “All of these things are intertwined in this habitat mapping effort.”
According to Jenkins, the next step will be delivering the acquired data to IBM. “They’ll do what they do…they’ll develop circulation models along with processing all of the data,” he said.
Siy said that completing the survey starts the beginning of a multi-year project. “The purpose of the Jefferson Project is to preserve the health of Lake George,” he said. “Before today we have looked through the narrow lens of water chemistry. That has been the program at Darrin Fresh Water. What we’re doing with the Jefferson Project is developing a wide-angle view of the physics, the chemistry and the biology. So, we are getting a composite picture of what’s happening on and in the water from which we can better treat these problems by understanding what’s really going on,” he said.
Siy went on to say that we don’t know enough about the lake at this juncture to make informed decisions about how to tackle something as challenging as an Asian Clam. “We know how to smother adults. But what do we do with the juveniles that are drifting through the water column?”
Siy said the new technology will show how the clams move, where they settle and where they re-populate. “It’ll be a revolutionary step forward in tackling this issue that no one has really figured out how to solve,” he said.
Reis said the data collected will be used to create models which will allow scientist to dig further into the problem. Siy said creating the models is a three-year implementation plan. “IBM currently has two dozen engineers, modelers and meteorologists from all over the world working on this. That’s what’s so exciting,” he said.
Siy said IBM has the capability of predictive analytics so through the models the scientists are not just looking at real time. “They’re actually looking into the future. So, what if the salt levels we are seeing continues to rise on its current path? What does it do to the ecology of the food chain? Now we can understand that before it happens and make corrections,” he said.
Reis said a visualization center will be set up at Darrin Fresh Water Institute where a 9-foot by 13-foot wall will display real-time activity. “It’s not just a pretty picture. It is not just breath-taking science. It is naturally creating the means to better protect this resource for the long haul because we’ll know so much more about it,” Siy said.
Siy quoted one of the scientists as saying “we are going to understand this lake from physics to fish, which will lead to lasting protection.” Siy said a new understanding of Lake George will provide a fighting chance of protecting it and keeping the lake the way it is now.
Siy said the Jefferson Project began as a partnership between the Fund and a long-standing relationship with the Darrin Freshwater Institute. “IBM came onboard because this is part of their smarter planet strategy,” Siy said. “We want to create a system of understanding that provides a basis for smart decision-making. That’s what this is all about. This is the way of informing environmental groups, local officials, businesses and homeowners and providing a deeper understanding for everybody of what this lake is and where it’s headed,” he said.