Last week students from the College Preparatory School’s A.P. Environmental Studies course teamed up with Headwaters Science Institute to investigate the water quality and living organisms in Lake Temescal. 

Not only is this field site right next to school, but it also features several interesting ecological systems in a small area. Due to its unique geography and proximity to urban areas, Lake Temescal has historically been prone to harmful algal blooms. Starting in the 1980’s, several restoration projects have moderately reduced the amounts of nutrients flowing into the lake and the subsequent algal blooms. The goal of this science program was for students to create their own original research projects around Lake Temescal that further our understanding of its water quality and the potential for harmful algal blooms. 

The highlight of this program was the field day, where students interacted with Oakland Public Works staff who were also testing water quality at Lake Temescal following Tuesday’s earthquake. Several retired sewage pipes still drain into the lake. Public works staff were on-site doing several of the same tests as students looking for signs of leaky pipes. Students got to see tangible applications of their research projects and Public Works staff looked over student data to corroborate their own test results.

After analyzing their results, on group found that the sediment catchment pond at the main inlet of the lake reduced the amount of phosphate entering the lake. Other groups found a greater diversity of insects in the faster-flowing waters than the lake and ponds. Students were somewhat surprised to see low levels of nitrogen but hypothesized that what any nitrogen entering this system is very quickly used up by the plants and alga in the lake. 

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