By Lancaster Emery – Staff Writer
Dr. Daniel Buckley of University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) is studying 30 different Maine lakes using electronic data loggers that measure temperature to see if climate change is affecting the lakes.
Buckley said he began his research on Maine lakes and their temperatures because he “became interested in what the impact of climate change was in Maine lakes.”
Some of the questions he wants to answer are whether or not elevation, size, or depth matter in terms of temperature change in these lakes. “The research allows us to figure out what the impact of climate change might be,” said Buckley, but seven to eight years of research are needed to have anything solid.
Buckley cannot say whether or not temperatures are increasing in Maine lakes, but said what types of changes could occur if there was a temperature increase in the lakes. Brook trout could go locally extinct as they need colder waters and availability of nutrients could change as well, causing algal blooms that can negatively affect lake ecosystems.
The data loggers used for Buckley’s research are small electronic devices a couple of inches wide and “measure temperature and light intensity,” Buckley said. This shows how the lake cools off when there is less light at night and also later in the year when there are shorter days. As the amount of light each day gets shorter, the temperature corresponds.
At two meters below the surface, data loggers are placed to retrieve a comparison between the lakes, he said. In some lakes there is a string of around 12 to 16 data loggers every meter from top to bottom. This is to analyze the temperature at each level of the lake. The levels of a lake are similar to a house, explained Buckley, the second floor is the hottest, then the first floor is colder, and the basement is the coldest. In a lake, this is called “thermal stratification”. Data obtained from Webb Lake in Weld, showed a 20 degree Fahrenheit difference in temperature from top to bottom, said Buckley.
The data loggers take temperature and light intensity readings every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day and can be left outside for several months at a time, but “the batteries last for over a year,” said Buckley.
Without the data loggers, it would only be possible to get “maybe one temperature reading a day,” he said. The loggers are put in to the lakes in the spring and are then retrieved in the fall, which can be as late as early December.
After the data loggers are retrieved, they are hooked up to a computer via a USB cord where the researchers can analyze the data using the data logging software, Buckley said. With the software, temperature change, as well as the light intensity can be plotted.
Temperature research is only one component of the research that he and UMF students do, Buckley said. They also study how they can sustain water quality on Maine lakes as the area around the lake grows economically.
Every time a house is erected it causes erosion which alters the water quality, he said, the research is to help maintain the quality of the lake, while also continuing the growth in the Rangeley Lakes.
According to Buckley the research is funded by several grants including one from UMF.
Dr. Buckley teaches Evolution and Aquatic Biology at UMF for students majoring in biology and also teaches Ecology for students that don’t have a major in biology.