In July 2022, Project Baseline Lake Tahoe had the opportunity to help out some researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Global Water Center. The objective: track down and replace some sensors in Glenbrook Bay, Nevada, on the east shore of the lake. I, Lake Tahoe project manager Karl Fendelander, accompanied Ph.D. student researcher Kelly Loria and lab manager Emily Carlson on this successful mission, and more collaboration is planned for the future.

Ph.D. student researcher Kelly Loria studies stream metabolism in the Lake Tahoe
Basin through the Global Water Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dissolved oxygen
sensors like this one in Glenbrook Bay, NV help with the tracking of algal blooms.

The sensor stations we were working on are part of a project characterizing watershed ecosystem function around Lake Tahoe, specifically in streams and close to shore, to better understand the conditions that lead to nearshore greening. The study is looking at factors like enzymatic activity, productivity, respiration, and nitrogen uptake and how they affect algal growth. The research uses nearshore high-frequency dissolved oxygen sensors to estimate productivity in the lake and compare it to laboratory samples with the ultimate hope of being able to better predict the locations of periphyton and metaphyton (types of algae) growth.

I arrived at Glenbrook Bay a few minutes before Kelly and Emily finished up their first dive, during which they’d taken some samples and checked out the more easily tracked down station. I was there to help locate the other station. The typical Tahoe zephyr (west wind) was creating quite a bit of chop in Glenbrook Bay and really stirring things up in the shallows, right where we were about to jump in to go hunt for the other sensor. 

Kelly Loria bringing gear back to shore after a successful dive gathering samples with Emily Carlson

Kelly planned a thorough transect search pattern for us, and fortunately, the water cleared up below about ten feet, so we weren’t going to be doing this by feel in zero vis, at least. I was carrying a line for defining the search area, which I attached to a log before following Kelly to where she’d planned to begin the search. Our goal was to lay down this line and use it as one side of a grid, swimming back and forth between it and another line we were going to put down a little ways away. 

I hadn’t quite gotten to the end of the line when Kelly waved her arms excitedly—we’d already found the sensor before even starting the official search! I retrieved the line, and Kelly went about her business at the station, taking some samples before we started working our way back to shore. The wind had picked up, which made for an exciting exit over very slick rocks covered in the aforementioned algae while knee-high waves tried to trip us up even further and tangle the line on the dive float. Emily, who had stayed on shore for this dive to prep samples, helped us out of the water. A good time was had by all.

 Project Baseline Lake Tahoe project manager Karl Fendelander showing off the new signage at the Sand Harbor environmental monitoring station

This was the first time in over five years that Project Baseline Lake Tahoe had the opportunity to assist some researchers in the field. Our work with the Global Water Center goes back almost ten years, but the Lake Tahoe project was dormant for a few years until I took over as project manager in summer 2021. We are currently working with Kelly and her colleagues on attaching some of their dissolved oxygen sensors to PBLT stations already in the lake, as well as getting the word out about PBLT being willing, ready, and enthusiastic to help.

In the days following this dive, I went out to three of our environmental monitoring stations to update the attached signage. These stations have our own temperature and depth sensors on them and a series of visibility estimation posts going out to 60 feet. With the new instructions and submission URL on the signage, citizen scientist divers around the lake can once again submit their findings to the Project Baseline database. The stations updated to date are: Hurricane Bay at the Alley Cat, Rubicon Wall heading out from Calawee Cove in D.L. Bliss State Park, and Diver’s Cove in Sand Harbor.

Find us @projectbaselinelaketahoe on Instagram, and drop us a line if you’re ever up diving Tahoe!