Lake Lillinonah, Connecticut’s second largest lake, is one of the state’s premier fishing holes, a fact not lost on both savvy anglers and the many bald eagles that roost along its 45 miles of serene shoreline from Southbury to New Milford.
Unfortunately, “Lake Lilli” is also widely known for its overabundance of algae blooms, which can make some of the lake’s surface look like it’s covered in pea soup in late summer, leaving swimmers and water-skiers looking elsewhere for fun.
“Your spray from your ski is green like soup,” a lakeside resident told a reporter last summer. “It’s thick and your legs turn green. It’s disgusting is the best term for it, I guess.”
That’s where Jen Klug, Ph.D., associate professor of biology for Fairfield University, comes in. A Newtown, Conn., resident, Dr. Klug has spent the last eight years monitoring and studying the lake’s algae blooms, which could threaten the bass and other wildlife if they grow unchecked.
This year, Friends of the Lake (FOTL), a local nonprofit hoping to improve lake conditions, presented Dr. Klug with its Friends of the Lake Award for her dedicated work to solving water quality problems on Lake Lilli. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal presented the award and Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty attended the ceremony.
“Professor Jen Klug has been invaluable to the continued studies in Lake Lillinonah,” said Gregory Bollard, a FOTL board member. “She has given scientific credibility to our efforts, been an advocate for the lake, and been an outstanding resource of networks to promote further studies on the lake.”
In 2006 Dr. Klug began working in earnest with FOTL when members who live on the lake began a volunteer water-quality monitoring program. With five years of collected data, they will be able to look for emerging patterns.
A second volunteer program uses a sensor-based water quality-monitoring system to record such things as dissolved oxygen concentration. Using the equipment makes it easier to post conditions online for the community. FOTL provided most of the funding for the project with contributions from the Lake Lillinonah Authority.
“It’s been a very rewarding experience,” Dr. Klug said. “This project makes up the bulk of my research agenda right now and it’s been great to go to meetings and have people be interested in learning about the lake.”
Fairfield University students are also involved with the FOTL’s efforts. Senior Katie Whitney, a biology major, was hired as a part-time intern and will begin a new project that will attempt to reconstruct the historical record of the water quality in the lake, which was created with a dam in 1955.
“Partnerships such as this one between scientists and educators at Fairfield and the community illustrate the ideal model of research at a Jesuit institution,” said Robbin Crabtree, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Our students are learning to be scientists, citizens and shepherds of the earth’s natural resources.”
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