Announcements / Opportunities / Science

At the Helm with Dick Harter

20140814AtHelmDickHarterIt’s never easy saying thank you for the last time, especially after 30 years depending on an expert helmsman and monitor’s willingness to help.  Dick Harter has monitored Lake Champlain since 1985, and will be retiring from the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program at the end of the summer.  Through Dick’s tireless commitment to the health of Lake Champlain, he has established the oldest and longest-term water quality database on Button Bay in Vergennes. 

My first visit to Lake Champlain was on my honeymoon in 1965.  I remember how beautiful it was… Getting involved as a Lay Monitor in the early 80’s was a logical step in helping to “preserve” Champlain’s quality. 

Managing Lake Champlain means understanding it, and Dick was there at the beginning of the monitoring efforts, gathering important baseline information on Lake Champlain’s water quality.

Lay Monitors are trained and equipped to sample lakes weekly throughout Vermont, including 15 stations on Lake Champlain, during June, July, and August.  Using an eight inch black and white disk, called a Secchi disk, monitors measure the water clarity in meters.  They also collect water samples for analyzing levels of phosphorus and chlorophyll-a. Phosphorus is typically the limiting nutrient in a lake system and when in excess, feeds aquatic plants and algae. Chlorophyll-a is the green pigment in plants and algae used to describe the amount of algae in the lake. Generally, lakes with high phosphorus concentrations will have increased algal growth.

In addition to the Lay Monitoring sampling, Dick’s reports on blue-green algae, zebra mussels, northern water snakes, aquatic plants, and fossils and “buttons” from Button Bay have all been instrumental in understanding and managing the lake.  Dick says that his Lay Monitoring and attendances at various lake events over the years, such as the New England Chapter of the North American Lake Management Society conference, helped inspire him in the classroom as a science professor at Champlain College. While his contribution to understanding Lake Champlain’s water quality is hugely significant, Dick’s monitoring legacy also lives on through lessons learned and taught from his monitoring experience.      

Family recreation is what has made Lake Champlain so special for Dick, his wife, Joanne, and their children and grandchildren.  And, as we say thank you one last time to Dick for his amazing service as a Lay Monitor on Lake Champlain, we wish him and his family many great times ahead on the lake. 

For information, visit the on the Lay Monitoring Program website , or catch the Wednesday weekly Secchi water clarity report with Sharon Myers on Channel 3, WCAX-TV.

Thank you, Dick Harter! 

Dick Harter off Button Bay, taking one of 1000s of Secchi water clarity readings over 30 years!  Photo by Amy Picotte

Dick Harter off Button Bay, taking one of 1000s of Secchi water clarity readings over 30 years!
Photo by Amy Picotte

 

Dick Harter with Bethany Sargent, Lay Monitoring Program Coordinator, out sampling last week on Lake Champlain. Photo by Amy Picotte

Dick Harter with Bethany Sargent, Lay Monitoring Program Coordinator, out sampling last week on Lake Champlain.
Photo by Amy Picotte