Release Date: June 18, 2002
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Great Lakes and its tributaries are a classroom for 10 students enrolled in the Great Lakes Summer Institute being hosted this month through June 25 by the University at Buffalo and Buffalo State College.
Working alongside researchers from UB's Great Lakes Program and the Great Lakes Center at Buffalo State, the students are testing water quality in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and in the Buffalo and Niagara rivers, which flow into the Erie and Ontario lakes, respectively.
The students are from UB, Buffalo State, SUNY Fredonia, and Ryerson University of Toronto --member institutions of the New York Great Lakes Research Consortium, headquartered at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Another student is a physical/environmental scientist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Their work will contribute to ongoing research on the ecological health of the Great Lakes, and the students will earn college credit for their participation.
Aboard the research vessel Aquarius on Lake Ontario during the first two days of the institute, the students sampled sediment and measured water temperature near the Niagara River Bar region, located near the point where the Niagara River empties into the lake.
"The Niagara River accounts for more than 80 percent of the inflow into Lake Ontario," explains Joseph Atkinson, UB professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering and director of the Great Lakes Program. "It's important to understand the river's water quality because it plays such a dominant role in the development of the lake."
This week, the students are embarking on the Buffalo River. Their findings will aid a new study of sewer and watershed runoff in a section of the river labeled an "area of concern" by the U.S.-Canadian International Joint Commission, which monitors the quality of waters that lie along or flow across the two nations.
To be undertaken in the fall by UB and Buffalo State, the study is funded by a $125,000 grant from the Great Lakes National Program Office of the EPA.
"Contaminants from past industrial activity have lodged in sediment beds within the river," Atkinson says. "We'll investigate what harm might occur to the river and lake if these contaminants are disrupted by boat travel or weather."
According to Atkinson, the students' field research is supplemented by classroom lectures on environmental chemistry, water-quality modeling and source pollution.