By Alex Williams
South Lake Tahoe’s watershed has been facing a serious issue pertaining to aquatic invasive species. Non-native Eurasian Milfoil and Curly Leaf pondweed are two of the most prominent weeds growing in several of Tahoe’s streams. These thick weeds alter the clarity of Tahoe’s water system and hinder recreation spaces that were once enjoyable.
To help stop the growth of these species, The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) places down thick black mats at the bottom of infected lake areas. These mats are most notably located at Taylor Creek, Kiva Beach, and Baldwin Beach. These benthic mats restrict light to the invasive species living on the lake floor, effectively reducing the speed at which they grow, thus causing them to perish.
In order to understand how these benthic mats may be inadvertently affecting water quality in Lake Tahoe, GBI’s AmeriCorps VISTA Cameron Meikle is partnering with LTBMU to create an aquatic invasive species and water quality monitoring project. For this project, he was awarded the Green STEM grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). NEEF provides grants to federal agencies such as the U.S Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and so forth, along with their non-profit partners, in order for them to develop scientific education programming for local students.
Meikle and LTBMU’s program will work with two of South Lake Tahoe High School’s classes. The goal is to have the students travel to the field sites (Taylor Creek and Baldwin Beach) weekly to work alongside LTBMU Scientists. Meikle is hoping that students will be encouraged to engage and ask important questions geared towards aquatic invasive species and their effect on water quality. Another goal is to provide a unique science experience to low income or at-risk students who attend South Lake High. As a young student, Meikle had similar resources given to him. This allowed him to benefit from an early internship that shaped his interest in the sciences. He believes that these opportunities are beneficial for students and create a chance for them to make positive changes in their community.
The project started September 15, 2023 and will continue the following month. Meikle and LTBMU look forward to creating an educational atmosphere while collecting important data.