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Clarkson University Grad Student Wins First Place for Great Lakes Winter Research

[A photograph for media use is available at .]

Clarkson University graduate student Derek E. Smith of Marcellus, N.Y., was awarded first place at the recent Great Lakes Research Consortium student/faculty conference in Syracuse, N.Y., for his research presentation on a study of Lake Erie in the winter.

Clarkson University graduate student Derek Smith samples surface water from the CCGS Griffon icebreaker on Lake Erie in February 2011.Smith’s research involved travelling across an ice-covered Lake Erie in February 2010 and 2011, as well as trips across the great lake in spring and summer 2010.

The voyages were made possible through collaborations with the Canadian Coast Guard, which operates a Class 1 icebreaker on the lake in the winter, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has a scientific research vessel that conducts scientific monitoring during ice-free seasons.

Smith, a master of science student in the environmental science and engineering program offered through Clarkson’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment, has made important observations on the lake in winter.

He observed remarkably high concentrations of algae in the surface water under the ice in winter at concentrations exceeding the spring algae bloom. He has also noted the removal of nutrients by winter algae. Both of these observations have important implications to managing the Lake Erie sport and commercial fishery -- multi-million dollar industries in the United States and Canada. 

Smith’s research will help guide lake managers in Canada and the United States, as they consider winter conditions in attempting to understand the ecology of Lake Erie, one of five that comprise the North American Great Lakes.

The research was made possible by a grant from the New York Sea Grant Foundation to Associate Professor of Biology Michael Twiss.

“Support from New York Sea Grant for this research will help the State of New York and its neighbors better manage water quality and ecosystem function in Lake Erie,” says Twiss. “It is a project that involved many collaborators from other academic institutions in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, and Ontario, as well as support from federal agencies such as the U.S. EPA and Environment Canada.

“Since Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes it is the both the coldest and warmest. Hence, it is an important sentinel for climate change in the region and one for us to continue learning more about.”

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University graduate student Derek Smith samples surface water from the CCGS Griffon icebreaker on Lake Erie in February 2011.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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