Cambridge environmental science class honored for water quality initiative | Local

EVAN LAWRENCE Special for The Post-Star

CAMBRIDGE – The New York State School Boards Association on Thursday presented Cambridge Central School with its Champions of Change Award for the ongoing Lake Hedges Water Quality Initiative from the Science Classroom. the high school environment.

The program made headlines earlier this year when students alerted lake residents to the presence of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, in the private lake.

A resident realized that the toxins released by the bacteria could be what was making her dog sick and shared the information with her veterinarian. With treatment, the dog recovered.

Catherine Lewis, Schenectady School District School Board President and NYSSBA Zone 7 Principal, presented a “Champions for Change” banner at the school Thursday afternoon.

The presentation, which was attended by school superintendent Douglas Silvernell, high school principal Caroline Goss, school board president Jessica Ziehm, school board member Neil Gifford, environmental science teacher Steve Butz and members of this year’s environmental science class took place on the dock overlooking the pond. in the school’s biosphere reserve.

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Lewis said the NYSSBA launched the non-competitive award during the pandemic to recognize worthwhile projects from public schools and other educational institutions. Recipients are chosen by a committee of NYSSBA members and staff.

Butz said the school’s water quality testing program began in 2003 when invasive zebra mussels were found in Lake Hedges, about 6 miles north of the school. The program added the Batten Kill in 2006 and the pond in the biosphere reserve a few years ago.

“Hundreds of students have gone through the program,” Butz said.

Some have embarked on careers in the environmental field.

The students take water samples, analyze them in the lab and tell the community about their findings, Butz said.

“Students learn hands-on research,” he said.

The community also benefits. Other than the students, “no one is studying Hedges Lake,” he said.

Unlike most green algae, which form strands or filaments, Hedges Lake cyanobacteria “look like grains of green sand,” Butz said. The bacteria releases a toxin that can sicken people and animals and has led to numerous beach closures in other places. Hedges Lake has only experienced harmful algal blooms in recent years, Butz said. Although the exact reason has not been determined, he suspects it could be related to higher water temperatures.

Butz thanked the Hedges Lake Campers Association, the organization that oversees the private lake, for their cooperation. The association allows the school to keep the program boat there during the summer. In turn, the students report their discoveries to the association.

“It’s a great collaboration with the community,” Butz said.

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