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CNR Students Research Health of Glenwood Lake

August 20, 2014
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Professor Elvira Longordo consults with Kamala Brown SAS'16 while LeeAnne Dailey SAS'15 takes measurements at Glenwood Lake in New Rochelle.

The Glenwood Lake Association has enlisted the help of Associate Professor of Chemistry Elvira Longordo and three students from The College of New Rochelle to research the health of Glenwood Lake, which ultimately empties into a brook that feeds the Long Island Sound. The Association is supporting the students with lakeside assistance and $2,000 in funds as they conduct research on whether the lake is threatened by natural causes or human activities. For the students majoring in chemistry and biology, the project also offers an opportunity to use sophisticated instruments and sharpen their field research skills while working on a real-world problem related to their majors.

The lake which provides sanctuary to birds of the Atlantic waterway as well as native plants and amphibians, is also a precious natural refuge for residents of southern New Rochelle. Concern about its water quality spiked recently when a number of crawfish crawled out of the lake and died on its shore. Many hypothesize that an increase of algae, millefoil, and other leafy matter growing on the lake's water over the years deplete oxygen from the lake which is threatening its animal life. When recent installations of two aerator pumps did not sufficiently mediate the problem, the Glenwood Lake Association invited Longordo to discuss options at a meeting in March.

Longordo pointed out that many factors could contribute to depletion such as eutrophication, natural aging of a lake, as well as from the close proximity of people around the lake, who introduce phosphates from lawn fertilizers, gas/oil from cars, road/salts or sewage by-products. The Glenwood Lake Association, led by President Amy Jackson, agreed to support Longordo's research proposal to collect data on the lake water chemistry over the summer, including how outdoor summer activities of people impact the lake.

Assisted by her students Manuela Patino SAS'15, a chemistry major; LeeAnne Daily SAS'15, a chemistry major and biology minor; and Kamala Brown SAS'16, a biology major and chemistry minor, Longordo will take measurements of dissolved oxygen, phosphates, nitrates, pH, temperature, alkalinity, salinity, and turbidity. Measurements are made at several points around the lake once a week and in the lake itself, via a resident in a flat-bottom boat every other week.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for the students to do research on a real-world problem in a field setting. They calibrate the instruments, take photos, measurements and samples. In a class this fall called Research Seminar in Modern Chemical Problems, we'll analyze the data, put it together with conclusions and observations and make a presentation to the Association, " explained Longordo.

The students earn a stipend and experience in exchange for their weekly research time. "I like helping people out through this research, it's like a calling in the science field. I look forward to it because of the hands on aspect. I like to see it in the field and experience it myself," explained Brown.

Dailey, who grew up in the Bronx without much exposure to woodsy open areas, first worked with Longordo on a Tibbetts Park field project and sought her for the chance to work on a new project. "After that first experience I knew I liked working in the field. It's more interesting than staying in the lab every day. I definitely want to go into research," she explained.

"In addition to be being a home to frogs, aquatic life and birds like grey herons and cormorants, the lake has a long history of use as a fishing reservoir stocked with fish by the state. New Rochelle residents come to check out the local wildlife on walks around the lake's wood chip path, built and maintained by Local Eagle Scouts and Girl Scouts. It's a special place we're doing all we can to preserve," said Jackson.