Friday, April 16, 2010

In addition to gathering scientific data about Lago de Atitlan and its watershed, it’s important that we connect with decision makers and opinion leaders. Today was very successful in that regard.

A few of us started the day with a workshop for school teachers. This was originally planned as a small meeting, but there was much interest and an estimated 100 teachers participated!

Photo: great attendance at educational workshop with teachers

We began the workshop with an overview, informing or reminding the teachers of the basics: the concept of a watershed, the water cycle, the dynamic nature of lake ecosystems. Then we broke up into five groups to discuss methods for educating young people about the importance of keeping pollutants out of the lake (wherever they are in the watershed).

One group, facilitated by Nancy Giron (Universidad Rafael Landivar), suggested using a large piece of paper and shaping it like a mountain. This mountain can represent a volcano, like one of three surrounding Lago de Atitlan. When water is poured on the paper mountain, the water runs straight down … just like water does in the Lago de Atitlan watershed.

Photo: teachers work in a small group

Photo: group 5 sharing the results of their break-out discussion

In the afternoon, Eliska Rejmankova, Sudeep Chandra, Margaret Dix, and Nancy Giron traveled to San Marcos for a meeting with the US Ambassador to Guatemala.

A third meeting was held in the afternoon with high level government and NGO officials who are working manage the watershed.

Photos: meeting with decision makers and opinion leaders

The watershed group traveled into the upper watershed by car today (10,000 feet) to continue their exploration of the sources of nutrients into the lake. Soil and water samples are being collected in various locations to get data representative of various climate zones, soil types, and land use patterns.

The lake group, with the addition of Alan Heyvaert (Desert Research Institute) who has just arrived, deployed a core sampler to collect sediments from the lake bottom. This is a complicated exercise, but the equipment and the team functioned beautifully and three samples of the lake bottom were obtained.

Photo: Ellen Heyvaert provided this photo of the core sampler

Ana Cristina Ruiz Castro, Universidad Rafael Landivar

Yesterday and today were very interesting. I changed groups, and I got to know more about the basin. Today I was in the highest part of it, at approximately 10,000 feet. I loved seeing the basin from the top and observing its many features. We also had a very interesting chat with Robert Collison, where I learned about the efficiency of wetlands. I believe there is a great potential in this basin for this kind of [waste water] treatment. I learned a lot about the different kind of substrates used in this, and above all, how efficient the use of zeolite can be in the removal of nitrogen from water.

Ayer y hoy fue muy interestante, cambie de grupo y estuve conociendo mas de la Cuenca. Hoy estuve en la parte mas alta a aproximademente 10,000 ft. Me gusto mucho ver la Cuenca desde arriba y observer las destintas caracteristicas en la Cuenca. Ademas tuvimos ma charla muy interestante con Robert Collison, en la que aprendi acerca de humedales y la eficienca de esto. Creo que existe un gran potencial en esta Cuenca para este tipo de tratemiento. Aprendi mucho acerca de distinto sustratos usados y sobretodo de la eficiencia de la zeolita en la remocion de N en el agua.

Clint Davis, University of Nevada and Desert Research Institute

Yesterday we had a new group of students the lake survey team. Nice to have another ambitious, smart crew come in fresh (I know it’s boosted my spirits, as the past days’ workload has begun to wear on me!) It was sunny and mellow (somewhat) on the boat … just water quality profiles and plankton tows at a few locations near San Juan. We have been getting up at 4:30am and getting back to the hotel by about 10:00pm after the field/lab work is finished. It’s getting a little harder to get up each successive day, but I have to admit that it is great to get the most out of our time here (plus excellent coffee gives me a little fire to get started!).

A few more “fresh” people from UNR and UC Davis arrived, so that should also give us a shot in the arm. All in the science is progressing well and working at Atitlan with all these wonderful folks is a real bonus! Science collaborations abroad really rules and I hope to do much more in the future.

Jessica Corman, Arizona State University

Hello all! We will leave tonight for an overnight on the boat; as it has been raining for the past three nights, I am very much regretting my decision not to pack rain gear. Keep your fingers crossed it does not rain! We will be launching my nutrient limitation bioassay simultaneously with an experiment to determine primary production rates from the surface to the bottom of the lake. These tests are all about the phytoplankton: they will allow us to determine what nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus, or "trace elements" like molybdenum or iron) limits growth of the phytoplankton and which depths of the lake have higher or lower rates of phytoplankton growth. The tests will involve lots of work, as we will be pulling water from each depth to fill bottles for each test and securely placing the bottles into the lake. Even if it rains, hope that at least our lines of bottles don't get lost!