The PI's request funding for an integrated precision-depth multibeam / current-profiling / bottom characterization (MCC) system to be used in lake-studies research and research training (both research based lab classes and faculty-mentored student research) at Middlebury College and within the Lake Champlain basin of Vermont and New York. The MCC system will address a lack of detailed bottom bathymetry, surface sediment characterization, and observations of circulation. Existing data are quite old, of questionable accuracy, limited in scope, and not up to current technological standards. To move interdisciplinary research objectives in the Lake Champlain basin forward over the next 20 years, these issues must be addressed. The MCC system requested will provide these data.

Broader Impacts:

The PI's and overall teams record and dedication to student training and educational programs is very strong. An outstanding aspect of the proposal and the lake studies program at Middlebury College are their openness for students of other institutions to experience the limnological disciplines and instrumentation. The diversity of disciplinary areas served by the instrumentation is high and also a strength of the proposal. The partnering institutions within the region also suggest strong opportunity for broad interdisciplinary and extended opportunities for students and training functions. There are clear applied uses of datasets collected for both scientific and societal concerns within the Champlain system spanning from water quality, habitat and sediment/nutrient/contaminant dispersal and transport. Multibeam capabilities will undoubtedly be a strong attraction for expanding cooperative research initiatives and partnerships in the region.

Project Report

Three instruments were funded for marine science research for Lake Champlain, VT utilizing Middlebury College’s research vessel RV Folger: a Reson multibeam system that maps the bottom of oceans, lakes and rivers, a RDI Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler which measure water column velocities, and a SeaBird CTD profiler which allows for the determination of the conductivity, temperature and density of the water column. The new equipment has been incorporated into marine projects within semester-length courses including Oceanography, Marine Geology, Invertebrate Biology, Environmental Geochemistry, senior thesis research and First-year seminars. These instruments are unique in the region and have generated new knowledge about Lake Champlain that would not be accessible any other way. With this new technology, we are introducing undergraduate students to the most state-of-the-art instrumentation available for marine sciences. The data that is produced from these instruments allows students to think three dimensionally and apply what they are investigating to doing cutting edge research within Lake Champlain. By participating in the acquisition of data, the post-processing of the data and a final interpretation of the data, students see firsthand the scientific method in action. These three instruments, though originally focused on marine science studies, have been utilized by biologists, marine archeologists and other science such as Middlebury College’s Summer School of the Environment. The intellectual merit of this project is that it has expanded the research opportunities for Middlebury College's faculty and for researchers in the region. The larger scale features in Lake Champlain are fairly well known however newer research in the fields of sediment dynamics and transport, paleo-climate, hydrodynamics, benthic habitats, nutrient influx/ deposition/ resuspension, fisheries, and nautical archeology are requiring vastly improved bottom bathymetry of horizontal and vertical scales of a meter and 10 cm, respectively. Bottom characterization will help define (with ongoing multibeam surveys) sediment types within the lake, colonization extent of invasive species, fish spawning areas, erosional and depositional sites for sediment transport to name a few. The broader impact has been to advanced instrumentation and technology to the research infrastructure on Lake Champlain, enhancing inquiry not only for Middlebury College students and faculty, but for other members of the local educational and research community. It has enabled faculty at other local colleges to provide experiential training in research techniques that would otherwise be unavailable. Our research has produced data to address the environmental and managerial aspects of this region. This impact extends to VT, NY and to a limited extent, Canada through our involvement with the VT-EPSCoR Research on Adaptation to Climate Changed (RACC) program funded by NSF-EPSCoR. Finally it also has prepared highly qualified candidates to enter STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professions. Many of our students earn advanced degrees in ocean sciences, and the new instruments will help Middlebury College to carry on and expand that tradition.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE)
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Kandace S. Binkley
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Middlebury College
United States
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