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Lilly Center Studies Have County-Wide Impact

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The Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams is making a splash during the summer of 2018. With two new lake-related studies underway, the Lilly Center is focused on providing science-based recommendations to the county, from Beaver Dam to Wawasee. The first study is about boats and the second is about zebra mussels.

Currently, the largest threat to the lakes in Kosciusko County is excess nutrients. The nutrients cause an over-abundance of weeds and algae, including blue-green algae, which can be harmful to people and pets. Too often nutrients come from residential areas, agricultural land and construction sites. The Lilly Center, partner organizations and other local agencies put consistent effort into reducing the output from these external sources.

But internal loading, when nutrients come from within the lake itself, is often overlooked. After the bottom sediment in a lake is stirred up, nutrients get re-suspended in the water. This can lead to algae blooms and other negative impacts. In their brand-new 2018 summer study, the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams team is observing and quantifying how boats might contribute to internal loading, and what impact that may have.

Research team member holds a zebra mussel sampler.

Hayden, one of the Lilly Center’s summer research team members, holds a zebra mussel sampler. The four tiers of rough plastic are ideal locations for zebra mussels to colonize.

In early May, 2018, the Lilly Center research team gathered their equipment and launched several boats in Lake Wawasee, Indiana’s largest natural lake. Over the course of a week, the nine-member team focused on measuring the effects of boating activity on 29 testing sites with muck, sand or marl bottom sediments. The sites also spanned five different water depths, ranging from three-to-15 feet. Personal watercraft, standard pontoon, inboard/outboard runabout, center mount inboard and V-Drive wakeboard/wakesurf boat types were used.

“So what will happen to all the data we gathered? It will be organized, analyzed and summarized,” said Dr. Nate Bosch, director of the Lilly Center. “Accurate results require time, but in the end, county residents and visitors will have science-based recommendations for responsible boating activity,” Dr. Bosch added.

The second summer study focuses on the local impact of zebra mussels. Throughout the summer, the Lilly Center’s research team will conduct a survey of this invasive species in 14 of the county’s major lakes, including the Tippecanoe chain, Wawasee and Winona lakes. Zebra mussels are colonizers; thousands of mussels can occupy a single square meter. Using specially designed samplers, the research team will monitor zebra mussel populations over the summer months. The tiered samplers are made from rough, durable plastic and provide the perfect habitat for zebra mussels to colonize.

The mussels are also classified as “filter feeders,” meaning they filter algae out of the lake water. Unfortunately, they prefer to eat only good kinds of algae (those that make up the bottom of the food chain that eventually feed larger fish), giving a competitive advantage to the bad kinds of algae (the blue-green algae, which can produce harmful toxins). The findings of the Lilly Center’s study will help establish data for zebra mussel populations in the lakes and quantify their impact.

The team works in a boat.

The research team samples Lake Wawasee, gathering initial data for the Lilly Center’s summer boating study.

“At the Lilly Center, we’re driven to protect the waterways in Kosciusko County, and we want to empower you to join us,” said Dr. Bosch. “Excellent scientific research leads to effective science-based recommendations.” From over a decade of research, education and collaboration, the Lilly Center knows that small lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on the health and beauty of the lakes. “Cleaner lakes begin with all of us,” Dr. Bosch added.

To stay aware of the latest research, like the Lilly Center’s Facebook page and sign up for monthly e-newsletters at lakes.grace.edu. For more information, call 574-372-5100, ext. 6445.

Tagged With: 2018 Archives, Academics, Career Preparation, Connected Community, Education, Lakes and Streams, School of Arts & Sciences, Science, Service