Calling all Citizen Scientists!

At the New Canal Lighthouse Museum we are studying Microplastics .... and we need your help!

Recently, we built a new laboratory at the New Canal Lighthouse Museum to learn more about Microplastics and Algae in the Pontchartrain Basin.  "Citizen Scientists" are individuals who are concerned about our environment and want to do something more to help, while also learning new skills in the process.  In our new lab, LPBF’s staff will provide oversight on how to collect and process a sample as well as correct methodology on scientific techniques.

Our low lying region relies on drains and pumps to remove water from the urban areas of the southshore. While this helps protect us from flooding, it also means that a lot of trash and debris finds its way into the canals and rivers, and from there into Lake Pontchartrain, where this debris ends up on the shoreline (and throughout the water system).  Plastic debris can breakdown into Microplastics (small remnants of plastic). These pollutants take many forms but are usually defined as films (remnants of plastic grocery bags), fibers (nylon rope, polyesters), microbeads (found in detergents and beauty products) and fragments (cups, water bottles and practically everything else). While the litter is unsightly, the greater threat is the impact to our aquaculture and that has a direct impact on us as we consume it. With the help of our Citizen Scientists we will learn where plastic is accumulating and quantify how much is being found and how quickly it is settling. This information will help with other projects in the future and inform how Louisiana and the Gulf States approach this problem in our region.

We are also seeing changes in our waterways brought on by the opening of the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway. These openings provide relief throughout the country as vulnerable regions deal with rapid and unpredictable storms and snow melts. While these openings help with flood management, they also introduce fresh, nutrient rich water into the saltier estuarine waters of Lake Pontchartrain, which increases the potential for Algal Blooms and other harmful conditions. But with the help of our Citizen Scientists, we will develop a means of tracking the changes in the water that could become an algae bloom. Samples collected by Citizen Scientist will be tested for nutrient content and changes to salinity. Also, pictures will be taken at each site and uploaded to the BloomWatch app. This app uses those pictures to track changes in the color of the lake and for cyanobacteria.

LPBF’s mission is to drive environmental sustainability and stewardship through scientific research, education, and advocacy. But more than ever, we need the help of our community as we take on these growing problems. Come join us as Citizen Scientists and help us keep Lake Pontchartrain clean for generations to come.

To sign on as a Citizen Scientist, or for more information, please email us at waterquality@saveourlake.org.