Chautauqua Lake Aquatic Data Mapping Program
The Chautauqua Lake Aquatic Data (CLAD) Mapping Program, initiated by the Alliance in 2020, continues to be expanded and improved based on past experience, increased collaboration, new availability and sharing of datasets, and priorities of the Alliance and other lake stakeholders. The program includes the collection of field data by Alliance staff and Members using a variety of equipment throughout the year, focusing on the development of new long-term data and information sets related to lake conditions and management actions. These and other lake-related data collected and shared by researchers are organized and mapped using Geographical Information System (GIS) software to help unify, increase the accessibility and shareability of, and aid a more thorough assessment of these once-disparate datasets.
In the spring of 2020, the Alliance was awarded a grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation (CRCF) to develop and implement a Global Positioning System (GPS) weed management program in coordination with the Town of Chautauqua and the Chautauqua Lake Association (CLA). The Alliance began this initiative by deploying seven Lowrance Elite Ti2 Fishfinder/Chartplotter units on three Mobitracs and four harvesters for a portion of the 2020 lake maintenance season. In 2021, GPS tracking was expanded to include six harvesters, two Chautauqua County-owned skimmers operated by CLA, and four Mobitracs. This GPS data tracking program, which continuously records location, time and date, allows for a detailed evaluation of effort and work output over the course of the season, or other time periods of interest. The maps and other visualizations that can be generated from this program help build historical datasets and allow us to share information with stakeholders to help drive more evidence-based understanding, decision making, and adaptive lake management. After its successful initiation of the pilot GPS program in 2020, the Alliance now continues the GPS program under the umbrella of CLAD.
Also in 2020, the Alliance initiated a new CLAD program utilizing consumer-grade underwater video and sonar technology to perform surveys of select areas of the lake to complement other lake survey initiatives led by its Members, NYSDEC, or others. Staff use the same type of Lowrance sonar unit mentioned above to collect data on macrophyte biovolume, bathymetry, and bottom hardness in targeted areas of the lake. The Alliance performed repeat surveys at a ~40-acre section Bemus Bay, which is located in an area of high use and economic significance, on a monthly basis between June and November as part of the 2020 pilot program. Staff also surveyed portions of Sherman’s Bay and the Village of Lakewood. These surveys continued in 2021 and were expanded to include a ~70 acre portion of the Stow narrows between Tom’s Point and the I-86 bridge. All field data are processed by BioBase software, which produces user-friendly outputs for the Alliance to download and map using QGIS.
The underwater video program involves Alliance staff using a rod-mounted GoPro Hero 7 Black waterproof camera deployed through the ice or by boat to perform visual assessments of macrophyte and other lake conditions. After the pilot-program was started in February 2020, both 2021 and 2022 saw the introduction of additional underwater video survey locations. In building a data set of underwater conditions over several years, this program can provide a historical archive of plant conditions in select areas during a time when other surveys are not possible. By monitoring and cataloguing changes in these visual conditions, we hope to glean new information about the impact of different variables on plant growth.
New to CLAD in 2021, the Alliance also performed baseline bathymetry sonar surveys of select tributary mouths in the fall to assist Members with assessing the feasibility of future dredging projects. These surveys were followed by a sediment sampling program aided by the Alliance at these locations in January of 2022. Sediment samples were collected at tributary mouths through lake ice and sent for laboratory analysis. The Alliance is optimistic that in the future the varied capabilities of CLAD can continue to serve Members and other stakeholders in similar scenarios where data collection and monitoring is needed and provides a tangible benefit to future lake and watershed management actions.