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Researchers are looking for shoreline dock owners around Lake George to participate in an algae study, which could help identify where excess nutrients are coming from that degrade water quality.

The Jefferson Project, a water-quality mapping and monitoring system created by IBM Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and The Fund for Lake George, is running the study.

While researchers have been examining the algae on Lake George for nearly four decades, last year the Jefferson Project initiated a shallow algae survey; now it’s expanding that work with this new project.

Researchers hope to get 50 sampling sites around the lake. Participants will be given a 6-inch by 6-inch clay tile to leave underwater at the edge of their docks. The idea is to let algae grow on the tiles over the course of the month.

Then, researchers will approach each participating dock by boat and collect the tiles to monitor how much algae is growing in that area.

“Many shoreline residents tell us that they’ve seen an increase in algae in the shallow waters over the last two decades,” said Rick Relyea, director of the Jefferson Project and a professor at Rensselaer, in a news release. “The Jefferson Project wants to bring science to this issue by monitoring shallow-water algae. Algae is an indicator of nutrients, so areas of increased algae typically signal large influxes of nutrients into the lake, either from natural or human sources. Once these areas are identified, the Lake George community can decide how they wish to respond.”

Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky said the goal is to get the tiles distributed all around the lake, including in undisturbed areas. They hope to have the tiles distributed in June and begin collecting in them July, continuing monthly until early fall.

“We thought that this was a good first kind of stab at getting a handle on how much algae is growing,” Navitsky added.

For example, the study could help identify where there are issues with municipal wastewater treatment plants, septic systems, stormwater runoff and other variables.

“By placing tiles around the shoreline and measuring the amount of algae growing on the tiles each month during the summer, we will have much better resolution of where algal growth is the highest, which is an excellent indicator of where nutrients entering the lake along the shoreline are the highest,” Reylea said, in an email to The Post-Star. “That, in turn, helps us identify where human activities may be causing excess nutrients to come into the lake.”

Those interested in participating should go to the Jefferson Project’s homepage at jeffersonproject.rpi.edu, and click on “Volunteer for the Algal Survey.” Some volunteers may not be chosen, according to a news release, if there are already a number of participants in a certain area.

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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