‘Interrelation’ is buzz word at Lake Tahoe science, eco conference | SierraSun.com

‘Interrelation’ is buzz word at Lake Tahoe science, eco conference

Matthew Renda
Sierra Sun

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. and#8212; Climate change, invasive species, forest management and lake health were among the topics of discussion at a recent science conference.

National and local scientists joined representatives from local government and environmental organizations at the Sierra Nevada College campus in Incline Village for the two-day Tahoe Science Consortium Tuesday and Wednesday.

Interrelation was the buzzword of the conference, as scientists drew connections between seemingly separate fields of scientific study to create a more comprehensive picture of the current environmental situation in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Sudeep Chandra, assistant professor of Limnology at the University of Nevada, Reno, provided a simple example of relationships between studies. Chandra linked a talk about the use of NASA satellites to track the surface water temperature of Lake Tahoe to another discussion about the invasion of warm water fish into the near shore zones of Lake Tahoe.

The NASA study by California Institute of Technology scientist Philipp Schneider provided empirical data that lake temperatures have been steadily on the rise since 1981. University of Nevada, Reno graduate student Christine Ngai’s study showed that warming lake temperatures have provided a more comfortable environment for largemouth bass, which have, in turn, diminished the native Lahontan Cutthroat trout populations in the lake.

and#8220;This is the biggest yearly event for the local science community,and#8221; said Chandra. and#8220;It gives us the chance to make connections and compare results.and#8221;

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Another interrelation highlighted during the conference was the need to connect science to other disciplines, such as economics, social sciences and government.

A talk by Jonathan Bossenbroek, Assistant Professor of Ecology at the University of Toledo in Ohio, featured collaboration between ecologists and economists to determine the potential financial impact of zebra and quagga mussel invasions on virgin bodies of water in the Western half of the United States.

In the study titled and#8220;Bioeconomics of the Spread of Zebra Mussels to the Western United States,and#8221; Bossenbroek details the enormous cost of the zebra mussel infestation in the Great Lakes and#8212; specifically how power plants and utility districts have spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate the aquatic organisms from intake and outtake valves positioned in the lake.

Zebra and quagga mussels attach themselves to hard surfaces such as steel or concrete, thus clogging pipes and necessitating extensive maintenance and monitoring efforts, Bossenbroek said.

Bossenbroek enlisted the efforts of top economists to assess the financial implications of the ecological problem creating a and#8220;risk aversion controland#8221; analysis, which attempts to identify the most cost effective means of controlling the mussel invasion, whether it be prevention or control.

A discussion by Carla D’Antonio, Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, emphasized the importance of communication between the science community and land management agencies.

and#8220;Communication is paramount,and#8221; D’Antonio said in her talk titled and#8220;Invasive Plants in the Western USA: Merging the Study of Invasion Processes with Management Needs.and#8221;

and#8220;Scientists need to work with agencies and stakeholders to establish goals in regard to invasive species and how it effects their environment.and#8221;

Goal identification is more difficult than appears, D’Antonio said, citing that a species of thistle is viewed as a noxious weed in California, but viewed as important habitat for an endangered bird species in New Mexico.

Zach Hymnanson, Executive Director of the Tahoe Science Consortium, emphasized the need for a community to agree on ecological issues.

and#8220;We can agree in principle that we want a more unadulterated version of Lake Tahoe without the presence of invasive species,and#8221; he said. and#8220;But, then the question arises, what does that unadulterated version look like. Is it the Lake Tahoe of ten years ago or the Lake Tahoe before Europeans arrived? Those are important questions and they cannot always be answered by the scientific community alone.and#8221;