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Researchers - Whitney King

Whitney KingKing_Whitney
Miselis Professor of Chemistry
Colby College

What problem/s are you working to solve?
We are working to to understand the impact of landscape and lake-ecosystem changes on the economic development of central Maine. We are using the Belgrade Lakes region as a model because it provides a unique laboratory to understand the complex dynamics between environmental, biogeochemical, and socio-economic systems.

In my part of the grant, we are investigating the internal cycling of phosphorus in the Belgrade Lakes and engineering solutions to reduce phosphorus inputs to the lake. Excess phosphorus “over-fertilizes” lakes, and in the worst cases, lakes become fouled with unchecked algae blooms that can harm fish and other aquatic life, interfere with recreation and affect property values.

What progress are you making toward solutions?
We are just about finished with the studies of internal phosphorus loading. The key findings show that lake depth plays a critical role in phosphorus release from the sediments. The sediment geochemistry (particularly aluminum concentrations) also plays an important role in phosphorus release. These data allow lake managers and stakeholders to understand the differences between the lakes and plan for remediation strategies based on a detailed understanding of lake systems.

How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
Our lakes are a $3 billion resource for Maine. Many of these lakes are experiencing declining water quality. The results in the Belgrades are directly extendable to provide solutions for other lakes.

Why did you decide to join SSI?
We have been working on the Belgrade Lakes as individual investigators for 20 years. This program allowed seven Colby faculty to form a truly interdisciplinary team to investigate the lakes.

What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
It has SIGNIFICANTLY improved collaboration between the departments of Chemistry, Biology, Environmental Studies, Geology, Economics, and the Science, Technology and Society Program at Colby, and great stakeholder groups. Our students and faculty have become very well connected with the people living around the lakes.

Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Tough choice: The top of Katahdin or on the tidal rivers around Boothbay Harbor.

What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Whitewater rafting the upper Kennebec on Friday and then launching a boat in Bath for a run down the lower Kennebec to the ocean on Saturday.

Mud season survival strategy?
Visit a maple sugar shack and prepare for turkey hunting season.

What sustains you?  
Good beer and getting outside as much as possible.

Additional information about Whitney and his team

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