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Sustaining Our Lakes – Research Update

SSI researchers at Colby College report progress in several areas that will help inform economic development and efforts to address water quality issues in the Belgrade Lakes Watershed, and other regions as well. Recent findings include:

Lake water quality continues to decline
SSI team leader and Colby chemistry professor Whitney King has found that water quality is slowly declining in the 7 interconnected Belgrade Lakes. His team is working to define the magnitude of the problem and find ways to prevent this decline from accelerating.

Lakes region population and economy are changing
A new report by Colby economics professor Michael Donihue reveals significant shifts in the 13-town region, including a decline in the year-round population and a rise in second homes. These and other findings will aid local and regional stakeholders in planning for sustainable economic development. The report is part of the team’s ongoing research to determine the lake system’s economic value to the region.

Identifying and evaluating parameters that influence shoreline biodiversity
Colby team members Cathy Bevier, associate professor of biology, and Russell Cole, Oak Professor of Biological Sciences, have identified parameters that influence shoreline biodiversity, and are evaluating their importance using established practices. This work will help determine whether or not improving shoreline quality could help restore native riparian and littoral biodiversity in local lakes. Findings will be based on data collected from 72 sites on three Belgrade area lakes (East Pond, North Pond, and Great Pond).

The researchers also made significant progress in education and outreach efforts in collaboration with community partners, including the Maine Lakes Resource Center. More than 500 7th and 8th graders visited the Center and collected sediment and water samples in research that is linked to K-12 curricula in area schools. Colby student team members volunteered as educators at the Center and completed the documentary “A Sense of Place” with team member James Fleming, Colby professor of science, technology and society.

Over the next year, the Colby team will continue to investigate ways to help reverse declining water quality in the Belgrades. Philip Nyhus, associate professor of environmental studies, will study best practices for making voluntary programs to protect water quality more responsive to landowners’ needs. At the request of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the team also will evaluate the effectiveness of shorefront rain gardens in preventing phosphorous and other pollution from washing into lakes.

Sustaining Our Lakes – Research Summary