Scientists Aim To Preserve The Clarity Of Oregon’s Crater Lake For Years To Come!

Aquatic biologists Josh Sprague and Scott Girdner are lying on the research vessel Neuston’s deck in a prone position on a sweltering August day. They look into the sapphire depths of Crater Lake, the only national park in Oregon while holding life jackets that are tented over their heads to prevent the sun’s brightness. Nate Akers, a biological science technician, uses a wire to lower a black-and-white disc far into the ocean as people stand and gaze.

“I’m out!” When Sprague can no longer see the disc, he shouts. Akers lowers the disc a few more meters before beginning to raise it again. โ€œOut!โ€ As soon as it is visible, Sprague yells once again.

The Secchi depth test, a straightforward yet sophisticated exercise, is used to gauge the lake’s transparency since it is so extraordinarily clear and blue. The cleaner the water, the deeper a person must look to see the disc.

The Secchi test is a component of extensive continuing Crater Lake monitoring. The 1983-born initiative is essential for assisting researchers in identifying patterns in the chemical, climate, and biodiversity of the lake.

While a large portion of the monitoring is done from the Neuston, remote equipment allows for year-round monitoring, even when the lake is surrounded by heavy snowdrifts. Temperature, humidity, and wind speed are all measured by a permanent weather buoy. Water sensors monitor oxygen and temperature. And since 2013, a unique “profiling device” has been gathering information on the water chemistry and organic matter by crawling up and down a wire that is anchored to the lake bottom.

The national park attracts thousands of people each year because of the lake’s depth and clarity, which are essential to its vivid hue. Clarity, however, also serves as a meter for other lake characteristics, such as the abundance of tiny aquatic plants that serve as food for small animals, according to Girdner.

According to Girdner, who oversees the monitoring program, “clarity impacts everything.”

Scientists Aim To Preserve The Clarity Of Oregon's Crater Lake
Scientists Aim To Preserve The Clarity Of Oregon’s Crater Lake

Girdner and Sprague were able to locate the disc that day up to a distance of roughly 27 meters, or 88 feet, which is about usual. The purity of Crater Lake hasn’t been damaged for decades, despite seasonal variations. However, there are other changes underway, many of which are brought on by a rising environment. Some of these changes have significant effects on the lake’s ecosystem and maybe even its recognizable look.

Following the Secchi test, the crew gathered water samples on deck using special bottles that were lowered into the lake using a long cable at various depths. Sprague emptied the bottles after getting the samples they need, but not before everyone had filled their flasks with the lake’s icy, delectable snowmelt.

According to Girdner, “it’s about as clean as you can get.”

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