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EPA scientists launch research vessel to monitor Lake Ontario

Testing algae and nutrient levels

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC-TV) - A hot day brings a lot of people to the beach, including scientists. Researchers with the US Environmental Protection Agency have been collecting water samples from the Great Lakes. Monday morning, Lake Ontario was on their list.  

Anchored at the Port of Rochester in Charlotte is the Lake Guardian, the largest research vessel operating on the Great Lakes. It's a floating laboratory. 

Aboard is lead marine technician Maxwell Morgan. Morgan's team is collecting water samples using a system called the Rosette. 

"It tests what the make up of the water is, the temperature, oxygen, nitrate levels, also the light that penetrates through. And where the plankton are living," Morgan said. 

Plankton are a microscopic group or organisms that large fish feed on, but they also produce algae and Environmental Scientists like Fred Luckey can use them to help gauge the water quality.

"Just with the algae building up on the beaches, which is a natural re-occurring algae. Some years it just grows more prolifically than others," Luckey said.

Luckey then questioned the quality of the aquatic food web. 

"Do we need to reduce the nutrient levels or will that impact the fisheries? Will there not be enough food for the fish? Or are there opportunities to reduce nutrients in certain ways that make the beaches better?"

Morgan says a healthy lake means a healthy fishing population, which is great for our local economy. 

"Very large part of local business here on the lake that brings people in that draws the catching eating of fish that you have on the lake  that you live on, " Morgan said. 

This research will last at least a year. The findings of this report will be available 2020.


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