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SUNY Research Group Works with Community to Protect NY Lakes

A Student tests a water sample from a New York lake to identify the presence of cyanobacteria toxins. (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry)
A Student tests a water sample from a New York lake to identify the presence of cyanobacteria toxins. (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry)
January 18, 2016

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Chemists at SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry are leading the way in protecting New York's lakes.

Students and staff are working with a public volunteer program to collect thousands of water samples from more than 130 lakes. They're looking for blue-green algae blooms, which graduate student Zach Smith says is associated with a harmful bacteria that can cause liver, intestinal and nervous system issues in people and pets.

"Many lakes have algal blooms and we want to make sure that those lakes, which people drink from or use for recreation, do not have algae in them – and especially not toxins, because those toxins can be extremely harmful," he explains.

The school's Great Lakes Research Consortium works in conjunction with the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program – a state-run, volunteer based monitoring and education program.

If toxins are detected, the positive results are transferred to state environmental or health departments, so the proper advisories and warnings can be issued.

The research team is headed by Gregory Boyer, a biochemist and director of the consortium.

"We are one of the few labs in the country that has the capability of testing for the entire family of toxins and so, we have a cooperative agreement with New York state,” Boyer states. “And all those toxin samples come into our lab now to be tested."

The algal toxins lab at the school is one of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's rapid-response labs and is one of the first to be called when cyanobacteria toxins are found.


Nia Hamm, Public News Service - NY