By the Tri-State Watershed Alliance
| What started out as an unseasonably cool, early September morning turned out to be a beautiful day on Put-In-Bay, Gibraltar Island, and Lake Erie in Ohio. On September 8, 2017, the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District hosted a “Day at the Lake” to learn about programs and projects happening in the Western Lake Erie Basin run by The Ohio State University’s (OSU) Stone Laboratory. Before dawn, a group of 27 people boarded a bus in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a road trip to Catawba Island, Ohio, where we took a chilly, choppy, 15-minute ferry ride across Lake Erie to Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island. We then took a tram to OSU’s/Stone Laboratory’s Aquatic Visitor’s Center where we were picked up by two fishing trawlers for a short trip across the bay to Gibraltar Island. There we heard a presentation from Dr. Chris Winslow, Stone Laboratory Director, on the economic and environmental importance of Lake Erie and the health issues it faces, particularly those related to harmful algal blooms. He told us how nutrients that find their way into Lake Erie tributaries, such as the rivers of northeast
Indiana and northwest Ohio, play a major role in algae formation. Afterward, we were given a tour of other buildings on tiny Gibraltar Island, including the Jay Cooke Mansion, a high Victorian Italianate structure completed in 1865. Several lucky OSU students and Stone Lab staff live on this island from April to October conducting a variety of research experiments.
After eating lunch in the Gibraltar Island dining hall, with a spectacular view of Lake Erie, we boarded the fishing trawlers once again for an afternoon of observing Stone Laboratory’s daily scientific work that helps determine Lake Erie’s viability. We tested the lake’s temperature and oxygen levels, gathered plankton (full of diatoms and algae), and trawled for larger lake life forms. Once back at the Aquatic Visitor’s Center, we filtered Lake Erie water samples to get a better, more concentrated view of the algae that had been suspended in the water.
Then, we reversed our route, taking the tram back to the ferry, the ferry back to Catawba Island, and the bus back to Fort Wayne. It was a long day, but worth it to see the great work being done to educate the public about the importance of Lake Erie and why and how we need to protect it.
If you are interested in learning more, you can experience this same journey for yourself. Here are links to help you out: