Threatened by invasion

The R/V David Folger’s route home takes it north along the Hudson River and then through the Champlain Canal to Lake Champlain. On July 30, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy asked the State of New York to close the Champlain Canal immediately, to prevent the spiny water flea from reaching Lake Champlain. However, the State of New York has declined to close it, and it remains open while alternatives are under discussion.

The spiny water flea is a serious threat to the lake’s ecosystem.

The La Chute River enters Lake Champlain near Ticonderoga, New York. Lake George is the body of water on the far left.

We have been working with New York officials to determine what we need to do before we can pass through the Canal. Thanks to its design, the Folger does not carry ballast water, which is a common way that the invasive pest is transmitted to new areas. Today we learned that we are required to wash the decks and bilges thoroughly before we can come through the lock system into Lake Champlain. Given the timing, it has taken more than a week for this issue to be resolved.

Sadly, the Canal is not the only conduit for invasive species. The presence of the spiny water flea in Lake George was recently confirmed. Although Lake George is not connected to the Champlain Canal, it drains north into Lake Champlain through the La Chute River, a short watercourse.

Even if the Canal is closed, or an effective barrier can be devised to prevent the pest from migrating through the Canal, the spiny water flea has other options for invading.

A setback

Schematic of a CTD profiler, showing the layout of the rosette.

We’ve discovered that we won’t be able to install the knife gate mechanism for the ADCP (funded by our MRI grant) because the design of the new research vessel doesn’t have enough space for it. Without the knife gate, deploying and servicing the ADCP will be somewhat more difficult. We have asked NSF for permission to use these funds towards purchase of a Conductivity Temperature Depth (CTD) profiler/rosette system instead.

A CTD/rosette system in use on a research vessel. The unpainted steel cylinders in the carousel are used to collect water samples for analysis.

This piece of oceanographic equipment, like the other equipment purchased with the MRI funds, will further the use of technology for teaching undergraduates. If we are allowed to use the funds this way, we’ll need to make up the difference in cost. Middlebury College and a local foundation will help.

MRI grant awarded!

We’ve just been notified that our MRI proposal will be funded! This new NSF grant will be used to purchase the multibeam sonar and underway ADCP we requested last January. We worked very carefully with AAM and all of the equipment vendors to ensure that every expense related to purchasing, installing, and verifying this new equipment on the vessel could be provided through the MRI grant. No vessel contingency funds will be needed.

We are elated. This vessel will be capable of so much — the possibilities are really thrilling!

The R/V David Folger

Middlebury College’s Board of Trustees has officially adopted the R/V David Folger as the name for our research vessel. It’s named after the Geology professor who started the College’s Lake Studies program back in the early 1970s. His influence in research on Lake Champlain, already important and durable, will continue through our use of this facility named for him.

Daily conversations with AAM and Dave Weed continue, and things are moving along according to the revised schedule. Dave has visited AAM several times in the past two months. We’re in the final stages of completing the smart-lab technology design and integrating it with the wheelhouse navigation systems.

A logo that reflects the lake

In addition to their names and the official identifying information that all boats must display on the stern, most research vessels also have logos. Here’s a first look at the logo for the new research vessel:

The logo emphasizes that this vessel is built for lake research

We asked for a logo that highlights Lake Champlain’s most characteristic features, and College Communications has come up with a great design. It’s a view over the water to the west, with the sun going down behind the Adirondacks, which are reflected in the lake.

Our students will tell you, though, that the lake is rarely this calm!

A step closer

NSF has asked us to submit a Project Execution Plan for the proposal we submitted last year to build a new research vessel. At that time, they told us that we didn’t need to submit a plan, because we weren’t proposing to build a conventional bricks-and-mortar lab. Now they’ve changed their minds, which means that they are seriously considering funding this project! Thankfully, we’ve been exploring this project for so long that we’ve already figured out a lot of the details.

Email from NSF!

The National Science Foundation emailed me today to request a conference call this week about our ARI-R2 proposal! They want to include people from the Sponsored Research Office, the person who would be the project manager, and other administrators who might be needed if they decide to give us an award.

Funding for this project would mean the realization of a long-held dream. Tom (my husband, Tom Manley, who’s also on the Geology faculty at Middlebury) and I have been working for many years to find a way to replace the R/V Baldwin, the College’s current research vessel. But till now a solution hasn’t really been within reach. I wonder if we can hold our breath till the conference call?