Sunday, April 11, 2010

We had a relaxed morning today. After yesterday, it was a blessing. We each had breakfasts in our own hotels (we’re staying in several places) and met at the boat dock of Hotel Atitlan at 9am. This was our first opportunity to gather as a group, including the Guatemalan students and NGO representatives. First order of business: name tags. Second: get out on the lake.

Members of the media joined us for this orientation boat ride of the lake. Eliska, Alberto, and others discussed the purposes of this expedition and shared the hope we have for a healthy Lago de Atitlan.

First photo: Eliska Rejmankova (UC Davis)

Second photo: Alberto Rivera (Natural Reserve of Atitlan)

The amazing part of this boat ride was the interaction between the Guatemalan students and the visiting scientists. The students were confident and introduced themselves, stated what their interest was, and relationships were started. Scientific curiosity and a love of Lago de Atitlan were common ties.

In addition to giving the group a chance to interact, this boat ride gave trip leaders the chance to make decisions about where to sample for phytoplankton and other water quality indicators.

Photos: Sudeep Chandra (University of Nevada, Reno) discussing sampling depths with other trip members

There is a mix of land uses surrounding the lake. As with many beautiful lakes, vacation homes are present. Farming is also conducted close to the water, with corn being the most prominent crop visible today.

We were able to see some terracing, which has been a traditional agricultural method for centuries.

We also saw the harvesting of "tul," which are used for making mats, curtains, and other items.

One of the water quality issues is high levels of phosphorous, in part natural, and in part added to the lake due to human activity. Laundry is often done in the lake, and many detergents contain high levels of phosphorous. A new detergent by Henkel has come to market recently that contains no phosphorous – hopefully it will become the standard.

Photo: drinking water intake, Santiago

In the afternoon, Robert Collison (UC Davis) and Natalia (Vivamos Mejor), and Alberto Rivera (Natural Reserve of Atitlan), and Felix (from Panahatchel) visited wetlands constructed in Panahatchel. The wetlands were built by community members to help filter waste water from the city. The wetland, a zig zag structure that filters waste water prior to its emission to the lake, was designed and built by community members and is making a big difference. The challenge now is that the quantity of outflow from the sewage system is overwhelming the wetland. Discussion focused on how to expand the capacity of the current wetland. There are several options for small to medium-size communities that don’t require major financial investments and can be constructed using local materials.

Photo: Wetland

Photo: Discussing solutions

Photo: Swimming near outflow from wetland

Robert Collison, University of California, Davis

This is my first exposure to the world of blogging, and I’m inspired by a wave of enthusiasm. Atitlan is a stunningly beautiful setting with three volcanoes rising above the limpid blue lake.

Today started with a boat trip around the lake, which provided a chance to mix beautiful scenery with a face to face with our colleagues. Discussing the issues, seeing the affected areas, and understanding the concerns and problems was instrumental in planning to use our time here effectively.

Sunday afternoon included a visit to the Panajatchel wetlands with three colleagues. The original, concrete waste water treatment plan that that served this city (I’ve heard estimates of 15,000 to 30,000 population) was destroyed during Hurricane Stan in 2005 when the Pana River migrated into the flood plain and washed it away. In an effort to remediate raw sewage discharge into the river, a group of local people constructed a serpentine stream channel, and planted grasses to filter the waste. Although the space available for this stream channel (referred to locally as a wetland) is not enough to allow all the waste to be treated, I am filed with admiration for the people that got together to try to rectify this major issue. This kind of determination and effort is inspiring. I am told that funding may soon be available to build a new waste water treatment plant which will remove the raw sewage and treat the organize material (although not nitrogen and phosphate).


Maria Alicia

Universidad del Valle

Today April 11th 2010 I left my house at 5:45 in the morning, something I hadn’t done since I was in school. We left Guatemala at 6:00 am and arrived at Atitlan at 9am. We went on a tour around the lake, something I also had not done since I was ten years old. The only contacts I had there where the one I made through lab teachers that I had been contacting since last year. At the lake I was able to contact and encounter many personalities coming from different places like Czech Republic, USA, and England, getting to know students that work on the same field as I do; we have the same nationality. I was a little nervous because I had not spoken English for some time and that was the language everyone was speaking. I realized that the most important thing was communication and it didn’t matter how we achieved it. At the moment I think that this is a great opportunity for knowledge and exchange that will enrich us academically.

Hoy 11 de abril de 2010 salí de mi casa a las 5:45 de la mañana, cosa que no hacía desde que estaba en el colegio. Salimos de Guatemala a las 6:00 am. Llegamos a Atitlán a las 9 am y dimos una vuelta alrededor del lago, lugar que no visitaba desde que tenía comom10 años, el único contacto que había tenido con él habían sido las muestras de laboratorio que he estado contando desde el año pasado.

En el lago pude conocer y convivir con personalidades que venían de República Checa, EUA, Inglaterra y conocer más de cerca de estudiantes que se manejan en el mismo campo que yo. Aparte que comparten nacionalidad conmigo.

Me sentí un poco tímida porque llevaba mucho tiempo sin hablar inglés y ese es el idioma que todos hablan, luego me dí cuenta que lo importante era lograr la comunicación sin importar como. Hasta el momento me ha parecido una muy buena oportunidad de aprendizaje e intercambio de conocimientos para enriquecerme académicamente.

Ana Cristina Ruiz Castro

Universidad Rafael Landivar

I thought this day was very interesting because I had the opportunity to meet many experts on many topics related with the lake problem. I have great expectations about this experience; I think that this event is unique and of great importance to enrich and to help the lake and the basin. I’m anxious to start working and assisting all the experts that have come from all over the world. My goal is to help the lake and take advantage to the fullest out of this opportunity.

Este día me pareció muy interesante ya que conocí a muchas personas expertas en diversos temas relacionados con la problemática del lago. Tengo muchas expectativas acerca de esta experiencia pienso que es un evento único de gran importancia para el enriquecimiento y ayuda al Lago y la cuenca. Estoy muy ansiosa por empezar a trabajar y apoyar a todos estos expertos que vienen de distintas partes del mundo con el mismo objeto que el mío, aportar al lago y aprovechar al máximo la oportunidad de estar aquí.

Javier Aju

Universidad del Valle

Today we had our first visit to the lake for a general reconnaissance. The first thing that caught my attention was the blue sky and lake, as well as the two impressive volcanoes. Even though the lake looks alright, we can’t discard a new algae resurface. The appearance of cyanobacteria has been on the headlines for the last months, but we still don’t have great knowledge over it or what it is doing to the lake. Being able to meet recognized scientists is an honor for me. Today I was able to speak to one of them on phytoplankton, but most of all on cyanobacteria. Being able to talk to him was very enriching because he gave me an explanation on lyngbya and its ecological differences. I didn’t only learn about the biological elements but I was also given a brief history on the Czech Republic. Knowing people this important is a plus for Guatemala and will allow us to save the lake with more cultural and biological richness in the world.

El día de hoy tuvimos nuestra primera visita al lago, para reconocimiento general. Es lo primero que saltó a mi vista fue un cielo y lago azul con imponentes volcanes. A pesar que el lago parece estar bien, la amenaza de un nuevo afloramiento puede estar cerca. La cianobacteria es probablemente uno de los organismos que más ha ocupados los titulares en los últimos meses, sin embargo, aun no se tienen un profundo conocimiento sobre su presencia en el Lato de Atitlán. Poder conocer a tan importantes y reconocidos científicos es para mi un gran honor. Hoy pude hablar con un reconocido científico que se especializa en phytoplankton pero sobre todo en cianobacterias. Poder hablar con él fue muy enriquecedor porque me explicó un poco más del modo de vida de la cianobacteria Lyngbya y sobre las diferencias ecológicas de las distintas especies. No sólo aprendí algo valioso sobre el componente biológico, también pude tener una pequeña charla sobre la historia geoplítica de la República Checa (su lugar de origen). Conocer a personas tan importantes y con tanto conocimiento por aportar es una gran oportunidad que debemos aprovechar para rescatar el lago con mayor fuerza cultural y biológica del mundo.

Krista Boconegra

Universidad Rafael Landivar

Mi experiencia del primer día en el campo científico fue muy satisfactoria. Tenemos que mantener una mente abierta para poder aprender diferentes cosas. Hoy aprendí que el alga no es buena ni mala pero depende del uso que le demos a través del lago. Se podría tratar de descentralizar el sistema de tratamiento de agua para que en lugar de mandar todas las aguas servidas a unas cuantas plantas de tratamiento, introduzcamos la opción de implementar un simple tratamiento de agua en cada casa. Aprendí mucho hoy y espero aprender más mañana cuando empiece oficialmente la práctica.

David E. Cabrera D.

Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala

Today’s journey began very early in the morning; we left Guatemala City at 6:00, without delay.

We arrived at Hotel Atitlán’s dock around 0900, where we were anxiously awaited by our teachers. After general instructions were given to us, we set sail. The trip lasted approximately 3 hours, during which the professors spoke to us about their experiences, and asked us questions about the current situation of Lake Atitlan. By lunch time, we held a friendly gathering; we ate lunch in the middle of jokes and questions. When lunch time was over, the groups of students split in order to check in and unpack in their hotels, where we will live for the next two weeks.

So far this has been a unique experience, and I’m deeply grateful for having the opportunity to participate of it. I’m willing to learn and to be involved in every way I can.

El viaje dio inicio desde tempranas horas de la mañana, la hora de salida de la ciudad capital de Guatemala era a las 0600, no demoramos en salir.

Aproximadamente, a las 0900 arribamos al muelle del hotel de Atitlán, donde ya nos esperaban ansiosos los profesores, se dieron las instrucciones generales y zarpamos del muelle, el viaje en bote duró aproximadamente tres horas, en las cuales los profesores se acercaban a nosotros para compartirnos de sus experiencias y dudas acerca de la situación del lago de Atitlán.

Llegada la hora del almuerzo se tuvo un momento de convivencia, entre bromas y preguntas todos comíamos, una vez terminada la hora de almuerzo se dividieron los grupos de estudiantes para registrarse y desempacar en sus respectivos hoteles, donde viviremos por las siguientes dos semanas.

Hasta este momento ha sido una experiencia única, y agradezco en sobremanera la oportunidad de participar en ella, estoy deseoso de aprender y participar en todo cuanto me sea posible.

Wellington García

Químico Farmacéutico

Facultad de Ciencias Químicas y Farmacia

Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala

I’ve had de opportunity of being part of the 2010 Lake Atitlan Scientific Expedition, and I’ve shared experiences and information with students of many of the national universities, as well as with experts from other countries that have been so kind to train us in the limnological area, not only to give us the chance to obtain useful and trustworthy information in the future about our lake Atitlan, but to apply this knowledge to all lacustrine bodies in Guatemala as well.

He tenido la oportunidad de ser parte de la expedición científica del lago de Atitlán 2010, en la cual he compartido experiencias e información tanto con estudiantes de distintas universidades nacionales, como con expertos de otros países que han tenido a bien, capacitarnos en el área limnológica, para que en el futuro podamos obtener información útil y confiable no sólo de nuestro bello lago de Atitlán si no también poder aplicar los este conocimiento a todos los cuerpos lacustres existentes en Guatemala.

Mónica Martínez

Estudiante de Biología

Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala

The first activity was a survey by boat of Lake Atitlan, where we took the opportunity to interact with other students and foreign experts, speaking about our interests and expectations of this expedition. Overcoming the language barrier, we managed to share part of our own experiences in limnology. We had just a little time to talk about the lake’s problems and the possible solutions to them; nevertheless, these two weeks we’ll have to take advantage to the fullest to absorb all the information, and to learn a little more to make feasible proposals in order to help saving Lake Atitlan.

La primera actividad fue un reconocimiento en barco del lago de Atitlán, en donde aprovechamos a interactuar con los estudiantes y expertos extranjeros acerca de nuestros intereses y expectativas acerca de esta capacitación. Sobrepasando la barrera del idioma, logramos compartir parte de nuestras experiencias en el campo de la limnología. Fue muy poco tiempo para comentar sobre la problemática del lago y las posibles soluciones para resolverlo; pero estas dos semanas serán para aprovechar al máximo, absorber toda la información y aprender un poco más para poder plantear propuestas viables para ayudar a salvar al lago de Atitlán.

Regina Juárez

Universidad Rafael Landívar

The date that I’ve excitedly and nervously awaited for has arrived. Sharing time with the scientists has been better than what I expected, although I felt a bit insecure because I had to speak English and I hoped they could understand me, but everything has turned out to be quite acceptable. I am impressed to see that so many disciplines are involved for a same cause, and also by the motivation they have to research and to learn a lot more of things I have yet to know about (which are plenty, I admit). I know that the more we work, the more we learn, and this project looks professionally and personally enriching. A morning surrounded by Atitlan’s beautiful landscape, combined with so many experts willing to share their knowledge and a group of young people eager to learn and work hard to acquire that knowledge. I’m full of expectations and happiness for being part of this; I’m anxiously waiting to see what do the next few days will bring to me.

Y llegó la fecha que con tanta emoción y nerviosismo esperaba. La convivencia con los científicos ha sido mejor de lo que esperaba, aunque con un poco de inseguridad por hablar en inglés y esperar que el nivel fuera satisfactorio y me pudiera dar a entender, todo ha parecido ser superiormente aceptable. Mis impresiones principales ha consistido en el asombro de todas las disciplinas involucradas por una misma causa, y la motivación por investigar y aprender mucho más de todas aquellas cosas que aún me hacen falta conocer (que son muchas debo admitir). Sé que conforme se va trabajando se aprende más y este proyecto promete ser muy enriquecedor tanto profesionalmente como en el ámbito personal. Una mañana rodeada del hermoso paisaje de Atitlán combinada con tantos personajes expertos en sus áreas dispuestos a compartir sus conocimientos y muchos jóvenes deseosos de aprender y trabajar por absorberlos. Llena de expectativa y alegría por poder ser parte de esto, espero con ansias lo que deparan los días por venir.