Long running study continues after 50 years
Fifty years ago a young scientist named Charles Goldman hiked up to Castle Lake and made a ground breaking proposal that there was an interactive relationship between the Alder trees on the shore and the lake’s waters. The rest is history as Castle Lake is now one of the longest on-going ecological studies in the world. Although it is now taken for granted that there is an interactive relationship between land and water, at the time such an idea was revolutionary.
Goldman has gone on to international fame in the field of limnology, the name for the study of rivers and lakes. Among the numerous awards Goldman has received is the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. The Einstein Award, bestowed annually to a single individual by a council of eminent scientists which includes 25 Nobel laureates, recognizes those who have accomplished scientific and technological achievements that have advanced scientific understanding and benefited humanity.
The 50th anniversary party held last year at the lake brought Goldman, scientists, researchers and former students from all over the globe to recognize the lake’s importance.
Rene Henery is the latest in long string of PhDs to manage the lab and the student research. Henery is the first lab director who has lived in Mount Shasta and he says he wants to lab to become more accessible to the community.
“We want to make the lab more community oriented and raise the level of educating people on water issues. We will have open houses and we’re looking at a possible College of the Siskiyous?course with the lab,” Henery said. “The demographics at the lake are changing. There are more people and more use. The community needs to become stewards of the lake. I see the project becoming the nexus of environmental information for a sustainable future. We want our work to be inclusive. We want to hear what you have to say.”
Henery can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Henery said among the current projects at the lake are monitoring water quality, productivity, nutrient dynamics, distribution and abundance of organisms, weather and climate.
Henery said the last few years have seen changes at the lab with Goldman taking less control. The project is now a joint venture with University of Nevada at Reno and UC Davis. He said funding has also become increasingly competitive.
“Funding is more difficult for long term research. United States Forest Service grants are the most competitive in history,” Henery said.
An ongoing Forest Service sponsored study caused some citizens last year to complain about the insect collectors that were placed in various locations throughout the lake, saying the pristine view was degraded by the colored traps. Henery says the lab in looking into the problem.
“The insect collectors are part of a collaborative study with the Forest Service,” Henery said. “We could replace them with blue colored ones, but then we’re throwing away styrofoam. We might paint them, but then the paint could flake off into the water. The traps are also used in other locations in other studies.”
Although he was not a decision maker, Henery was involved in the recent decision by the California Department of Fish and Game that was prompted by a court decision to ban non-native trout stocking in a few local lakes and rivers including Castle Lake.
In a recent letter to the editor in the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers San Francisco Chronicle outdoor columnist Tom Stienstra contended there are no studies showing ill effects on amphibians from stocking non-native trout. Stienstra opposes the stocking ban. Stienstra quoted Henery in the letter as one of those in favor of the ban.
Henery contends there are studies showing ill effects.
He said two of the many studies that support the claim non-native trout do impact amphibians can be found at www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/welsh/captured/psw_2006_welsh009.pdf and www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/matthews/KM_ConsBio_00.pdf. In addition, Henery says a study, at www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1839007, shows that removal of non-native trout causes amphibian populations to come back.
In order to obtain more complete data on the issue, Henery said he will ask that the ban be lifted on Castle Lake next year and then reinstated the year after.
“We need more information on the effects,” Henery said.
Over the decades Castle Lake has spawned other studies including a Tahoe Lake project that spawned a Crater Lake study.
“The Castle and Crater Lake teams are collaborating. Teams have visited each others sites to compare methodologies and procedures. We can see whether the teams have found better ways of doing things,” Henery said. “A new proposal would combine Castle, Tahoe, Crater, Bewa in Japan and other lakes. The basic idea is that although systems are different, we would study climate change reactions and compare trends in different parts of the world.”
Henery says the role scientists play in monitoring the natural world is important.
“For me, all cultures in some form or another have people whose role it is to be sensitive to natural systems. Systems operate at a range of scales that don’t always match up with human life times. What we do fundamentally in long term research is observe natural systems carefully and transparently within a range of time scales,” Henery said. “We look at number of factors. One of the most important is climate change. It is forcing us to recognize and adapt to the rate at which and the way nature changes.”
Henery says we need to recognize how our culture affects the natural world.
“Right now in this culture, we aren’t connected to natural systems. People are distant from nature, because for the most part we do not depend on it for survival. We are not subsistence livers,” Henery said. “We do not pay attention to natural cycles. We need this kind of observation in this industrialized age.”
Henery cites as examples of human interference forest fire suppression and the building of dams that can ultimately have negative consequences.
“Western culture has a particular flavor of disturbance. It’s a resistance to the dynamism of nature. We don’t allow natural processes to take place. Now we have to do ecosystem restoration,” Henery said. “We have to spend years and tons of resources to figure out how to undo what we have done.”