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Public invited to learn about how to help manage lake water quality on Oct. 21: WCSU hosts second event in Regional Lake Communities Symposium series

Image of poster for Regional Lake Communities Symposium at Western Connecticut State UniversityDANBURY, CONN. — The Western Connecticut State University Integrative Biological Diversity graduate program, WCSU NOAA BWet Finding Our Way Office of Science Education Outreach and Praxair will host the second of three Regional Lake Communities Symposia, “What Can We Do to Help Manage the Water Quality of Connecticut’s Lakes?” at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019,  in Room 125 of the Science Building on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury.

The symposium will include presentations by Chris Bellucci, Supervising Environmental Analyst, Bureau of Water Protection & Land Reuse, CT DEEP, on “CT DEEP’s Lake Monitoring and Assessment Program” and Tracy Lizotte, Environmental Analyst 3, Bureau of Water Protection & Land Reuse, CT DEEP, on “Cyanobacteria in CT’s Lakes: What Can We Do to Help Manage the Water Quality of Our Lakes?”

WCSU Associate Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Ed Wong also will discuss his research findings in “Lake Cyanobacteria: A Research Perspective.”

In October, 2013, Candlewood Lake, Lake Lillinonah and Lake Zoar saw an unexpected sight: large blooms of cyanobacteria (aka “blue-green algae”) late in the season. This caught Wong’s attention because he specializes in using DNA techniques to study organisms of environmental importance. His previous work had been to use DNA technology to monitor local waterways for the presence of the invasive bivalve, the zebra mussel. With the news of cyanobacterial blooms now appearing more frequently in these same waterways, Wong worked with the Candlewood Lake Authority to set up a summer monitoring and water testing program for cyanobacteria and their toxins.

Cyanotoxins can cause symptoms ranging from skin irritation to brain and liver damage, and even death. Some research even suggests a correlation between long-term low-level cyanotoxin exposure and neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Alzheimer’s disease. Not all cyanobacteria carry the genes for producing toxin, and even those that do might only synthesize toxin under certain conditions. These conditions include, but are not limited to, climate and nutrient availability.

Supported by funding from municipal health departments, Wong’s lab has been operating the cyanobacteria monitoring program since 2015. The program involves sampling water at public town beaches and testing the water for concentrations of microcystin, one of the most common cyanotoxins. Cyanobacterial cells are identified by microscopy, and DNA is isolated from cells to determine if they contain cyanotoxin genes. Over the last three years, bloom events and toxin levels have steadily increased in local waterways.

Wong and his lab — which includes research associate Dr. Ghada Hafez and a long line of research students — hope these data will provide a better understanding of the conditions that foster cyanobacterial blooms and toxin production.

WCSU Professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Theodora Pinou will introduce the panelists, the topic and facilitate the conversation.

The symposium is free and the public is invited. Lake community panelists and other attendees will have the opportunity to pose questions to the speakers.

Future Regional Lake Communities Symposia will include:

  • “The Value of the Lake, Monetizing the Social Benefits of Lakes” at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25. Economist  Matthew Bingham of Veritas Economic Consulting and Chris Sanders from the Connecticut Federation of Lakes and president of the West Side Pond Association will discuss community strategies for non-market valuation of water resources.

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