New Sediment Profiling Imaging System Deployed on Lake Erie

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Results from this study will support Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement objectives.

Scientists aboard research vessel Muskie and a sediment cross section (right)

(Left) EPA and Kent State University scientists (left-to-right), Dr. Janet Nestlerode, Taylor Michael, and Dr. Elizabeth Hinchey, on the R/V Muskie with the SPI cam. (Right) High-resolution image of a cross-section of the sediment including the sediment water interface to ~25 cm below surface from a site in the central basin of Lake Erie. Visible are various strata of the sediment, including a thin periphyton surface, quagga mussels, redox layers, and macroinvertebrate organisms in their tubes and burrows.

(Credit: Janet Nestlerod, Evironmental Protection Agency. Public domain.)

GLSC staff teamed up with the EPA and Kent State University to test a novel rapid assessment approach for examining benthic ecosystem condition during the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) intensive field year on Lake Erie. The purpose of the study was to examine benthic community status across Lake Erie’s prominent nutrient gradient, which spans from eutrophic to oligotrophic environments that are variably affected by harmful algal blooms, low oxygen zones, and invasive quagga mussels.

The team undertook a two-week field effort across the entire lake, deploying an advanced Sediment Profiling Imaging system, or SPI cam (pictured below) to look at features within the sediment strata. The images will be paired with water and sediment data to explore how imagery may reflect bottom water chemistry and biogeochemical features to inform benthic indicator development.

The science team consisted of: Richard Kraus (GLSC, Sandusky, Ohio), Beth Hinchey (EPA Great Lakes National Program Office), Janet Nestlerode (EPA Office of Research and Development in Gulf Breeze, Florida), and Taylor Michael (Kent State University, PhD candidate). In collaboration with NOAA-GLERL, Buffalo State University, and Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), the study will support efforts to advance the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement objectives related to hypoxia and eutrophication.