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Purity Patrol

By Paul E. Kandarian

With limited staff, UNH's freshwater biology scientists would be hard pressed to monitor more than just a few of New Hampshire's 800-plus lakes. But aided by citizen volunteers, UNH has kept biological tabs on approximately 100 lakes a year in an effort to improve their purity and clarity.

The Lay Lakes Monitoring Program, or LLMP, began in 1978 as a field experience course at Lake Chocorua. The following year, Squam Lake was added and soon word spread. Now more than 500 volunteers use LLMP monitoring kits and their own boats to collect water samples for UNH researchers.

"Each year, they generate up to $40,000 in volunteer effort, not including wear and tear on their own boats and money for gas," says Jeff Schloss, a freshwater biology research scientist, Cooperative Extension water resource specialist and LLMP program director. "We could never afford that," he says.

Lakes to be tested are selected either by researchers or at the request of some 90 lake associations eager to protect their local waters and willing to provide volunteers. Other states and even some foreign countries are creating their own lay lakes monitoring programs following the UNH model, Schloss says.

As an example of the impact of the program, Schloss cites a study of Lake Chocorua that convinced the state to install ditches and culverts to reduce highway runoff to the lake. As a result, the lake's tributaries have seen a reduction of phosphorus pollution of 84 to 92 per cent, he says.

Last year, in a new offshoot program called Lake Watch, UNH students helped develop remote sensing plans using data from satellites. One day last fall while satellites passed hundreds of miles overhead, three boats bobbed in the waters of Squam Lake as volunteers took measurements. The satellite imagery was used to correlate and augment the physical water samples in order to predict water quality changes. Earlier this year, Lake Watch students won a blue ribbon of merit for their work at an international meeting of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography.

Robert Craycraft '90, LLMP's educational coordinator, worked in the program as a student and liked it so much he applied for the job when it became available in 1991. "Dealing with people who can and want to make a difference is very rewarding," he says.

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