The Gobler Laboratory has set forth a specific research action plan to gather key missing information to help develop a management plan for Georgica Pond and to better inform the Georgica Pond community. The four main objectives of this plan are as follows:
1. Evaluation of nutrient sources to Georgica Pond: Excessive loading of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus is the main factor leading to the suite of environmental problems plaguing Georgica Pond. However, it is unclear whether the majority of nutrients originate in groundwater, streams, run-off or the atmosphere, and if fertilizer or wastewater are the main sources. With data from our proposed field and modeling effort, we can identify the largest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus so that a fact-based, measurable solution can be proposed.
2. Genetic and toxin analysis of algae in Georgica Pond: The algae in Georgica Pond, stimulated by excessive nutrients, are the primary direct and indirect threat to the health of this ecosystem. With its annual openings and closings to the ocean, Georgica Pond is a highly unique ecosystem, fluctuating from being a near-ocean ecosystem with high salinity, to a near-lake system with very low salinity. Careful analyses of the toxic blue-green algae in Georgica Pond have revealed a complement of species that are not found regionally and which are likely to synthesize a suite of non- traditional toxins. Using state-of-the-art molecular biology and analytical chemistry tests, this study will provide a definitive and absolute assessment of the specific species and strains of algae and toxins present in this system. This data is critical for the development of targeted remediation plans and to protect the health of the residents of the Pond. Equally important, genetic assessment of nitrogen fixation within Georgica Pond will further inform the extent to which remediation plans focus on phosphorus alone or on both nitrogen and phosphorus.
3. Continuous water quality monitoring station with telemetry: Traditionally, monitoring of coastal water bodies has been performed by collecting and transporting water to a laboratory. The water samples are then processed and analyzed, and eventually, data becomes available. This time line of discovery often misses key ecological changes that can happen on a day- night, tidal, or multi-day cycle. For example, there is evidence that night time levels of dissolved oxygen in the pond were dangerously low. However, this would not be evident in samples taken during the daytime. Moreover, in 2014, severe changes in levels of blue-green algae were found to occur very rapidly, possibly in response to environmental forcing such as severe rainfall events. Again, traditional static monitoring of coastal water bodies would miss these changes. Recently developed in situ monitoring devices can make continuous, real-time measurements of key water quality indicators that can be instantly telemetered to a web site, greatly expanding the temporal breadth of data collected. This real-time data will help us to more accurately ascribe rapid water quality changes to precise environmental processes. In addition, these devices will enable scientists, residents, and managers to continuously observe and rapidly respond to changes in Georgica Pond.
4. Support for a Georgica Pond Steward: The serious, complex issues within the Pond warrant the undivided attention of a researcher who will study it in depth, consider all management issues, and report to the citizens of the Pond area regarding current conditions and their effect on management strategies. The pond steward will be engaged in the studies listed above and will share the state of the science with residents.