Research Opportunities

All areas of research and education related to reservoirs and their watersheds are supported by the Center. At present, multi-disciplinary activities are organized around five interrelated areas. The unifying theme is processes which regulate and sustain biological productivity in reservoir environments. Brief synopses of the areas are provided below followed by active grants. The WSI Long-term Monitoring Program provides database support.

Area 1 addresses chemical and biological processes of catchment basins: assessment of the quantity and quality of the chemical composition of groundwater, hyporheic water, runoff and wetlands as they influence surface water chemistry and biota. Special attention focuses on the documentation of hydrologic events. Several layers of information (land use and cover, erosion potential, etc.) on Kentucky Lake catchment basins have been compiled in WSI's Kentucky Lake Geographic Information System. Layers are used to further understand basin composition as it relates to processes.

Area 2 addresses embayment and reservoir productivity in relation to tributary and mainstem influences based on analyses of data in the WSI Long-Term Monitoring Program. Understanding nutrient, carbon, and physical factors which regulate phytoplankton and zooplankton abundance and species composition is of special importance. Documentation of long-term water column nutrient patterns in relation to changes in the planktonic communities is essential to characterizing reservoir response to long-term environmental changes. Samples for enumeration and identification of planktonic organisms have been collected routinely as part of the WSI Long-Term Monitoring Program since its inception in 1988. Special attention focuses on documenting the effects of the invasion of exotic plankton into Kentucky Lake, i.e., the exotic zooplankton Daphnia lumholtzi, and planktonic larval exotic mollusks.

Area 3 focuses on quantitative characterization of the chemical environment within the sediments of Kentucky Lake. Sediments are important sinks and sources of nutrients and other chemical species to the overlying water column. Thin layers of sediments in contact with overlying reservoir waters have been identified as the most active sites of important biochemical processes such as nitrification, denitrification, and oxygen consumption. This area seeks to quantify fluxes of a number of chemical species between the sediments and embayment waters. Chemical conditions within the sediments are closely linked to the activities of both micro- and macro-organisms inhabiting the sediments.

Area 4 seeks to examine some of the more important biota of embayment environments. Focus is on the complex diversity of habitats and food resources which sustain the productivity. Fisheries studies address embayments as important in providing food, shelter, and spawning and nursery areas. Invertebrate studies focus on unionid clams and the parasites which infect them. Unionid clams are a commercially important component of the natural fauna of Kentucky Lake, and relationships between clam abundance and such environmental factors such as phytoplankton abundance and water chemistry are being assessed. Likewise, links between environmental factors and parasite species composition and abundance are sought. Assessment of chemical effects on the life cycles of aquatic insects also are addressed.

Area 5 focuses on improved water quality mapping and modeling for Kentucky Lake with particular emphasis on incorporation of Landsat TM satellite data. Ongoing are efforts to map chlorophyll, temperature, and turbidity distributions from TM data (calibrated by field measurements). A related component of this area is investigation/modification of numerical hydrologic, thermal, biologic, and sedimentologic models for use in Kentucky Lake. The area addresses the theme of biological productivity on a broad scale. Models of chlorophyll concentrations and light attenuation are validated by comparison with field measurements of primary production and algal composition. Conceptual and numerical models of reservoir processes provide a mechanism for both incorporating results from other reservoirs and for extension of project results to other environments.

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