GRI Scientist Participates in Restoration of the Most Polluted US Lake: Onondaga Lake Project Update - August 2005

Geosystems Research Institute
September 27, 2005

John D. Madsen, Assistant Professor with GRI, spent two weeks this past July in Upstate New York sampling in Onondaga Lake near Syracuse, a lake once dubbed "the most polluted lake in the United States." Dr. Madsen is working with a coalition of scientists from State University of New York - Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), Syracuse University, SUNY-Cortland, Upstate Freshwater Institute, and the Onondaga Lake Cleanup Corp. Their task is to monitor the littoral zone habitat and biological components to lake, as part of a long-term project to improve the quality of the lake and restore the lake's fishery.

The habitat project includes monitoring restoration of wetlands connected to the lake, establishment of fish habitat areas in the lake, and assessing shallow-water habitat quality throughout the lake. Madsen's task is specifically to assess aquatic plant communities in the lake, which are a critical component for fish habitat.

This summer, Dr. Madsen snorkeled along transects in two wetlands to assess wetland plant communities, measured plant community development in three special habitat areas (and three undeveloped areas), and measured plant community development throughout the lake.

While data from this summer has yet to be analyzed, observations do indicate that the lake is continuing to increase in the diversity, distribution, and abundance of rooted aquatic plants throughout the entire lake shallow-water areas. For the first time in fourteen years of monitoring, a healthy bed of the desirable native plant water celery (Vallisneria americana) was found. Both fisheries and waterfowl biologists prize water celery as habitat and food, respectively, for fish and waterfowl.

For more information on this project, contact Dr. Madsen at 662-325-2428, or email him at

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