By Deb Patterson
The Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams has studied 12 local freshwater, all-sport lakes including Syracuse, Wawasee, Big Barbee, Tippecanoe and others, weekly through the summer since 2007. Center workers have studied the major streams surrounding half of the 12 lakes, gathering a lot of data.
But until 2018, there was no complete picture of the
Dr. Nate Bosch, director, has noted his desire to utilize stream sensors for several years to get the complete picture. The dream came true in recent weeks as data can now be filled in with the installation of 12 stream sensors installed as of October 2019, in inflow and outflow stream sites. While there are 12 stream sensors being used county wide, eight of those sensors are located in the Lakeland area.
Sensors have been placed at Grassy Creek and Tippecanoe River inflow locations for the Tippy chain and at the Tippecanoe River outflow. There have been sensors installed on Dillon Creek, Launer Creek, Turkey Creek and Papakeechie Lake for the inflow for Wawasee and Syracuse lakes. There is also one at the outflow of Turkey Creek in Syracuse. The remaining flow sensors are at inflow locations for Winona Lake and the outflow for that lake at Eagle Creek.
The solar-powered stream sensors, from YSI Inc., have two main parts: the sensor that sits in the stream and the box, mounted outside the stream that receives and transmits parameters data hourly, every day, year-round. Those parameters include:
Water flow: volume of water moving through the stream during a set amount of time. The Lilly Center measures the flow rate in cubic feet per second.
Water depth: Stream depth, measured in feet.
Water velocity: Average speed of the water since the last reading, measured in feet per second.
Water temperature: Temperature of the water in Fahrenheit.
Air temperature: Temperature of the air around the transmitter in Fahrenheit.
With the live data, the Lilly Center can assess many aspects of lake health. To date Lilly Center has studied boating impact, starry stonewort, zebra mussels, economic impacts, watershed contributions, historical trends, blue-green algae toxins, changing water levels and more.
With three trained aquatic scientists and many dedicated science students on the staff, coupled with private investment, the flow sensors are a strategic expansion of the research expertise and equipment. This information will assist in determining the most effective actions for particular lakes moving forward.
The sensors will provide information when and where spikes in rainfall and runoff occur and help determine what may have washed into the steams and subsequently the lakes and how to address it in the future. When these questions are answered more accurately, the scientists at Lilly Center can more fully decipher the patterns and affects of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). They will also be able to project what kinds of problems the lakes may encounter in the future, understand connections between species and much more.
Interested persons can view the live data stream at lakes.grace.edu/live-data.
When on one of the center’s live stream data pages, people might be confused by the legend to the right of the table. Use the above mentioned definitions to navigate the graph. The graph will also show the IQ system status — showing if the system is operating along with the system battery that shows the voltage of batteries powering the flow monitors.
This is important to monitor at the center to make sure the solar panels are functioning properly and the system has continual power.