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Castle Lake helps researchers understand inland waters

Castle Lake Long Term Research FacilityDr. Sudeep Chandra, Associate Professor of Limnology and Conservation Ecology, is striving to continue CABNR's work at the Castle Lake Long Term Research Facility outside of Mount Shasta, Calif. The limnological center (limnology is the study of inland waters), which boasts the longest data set for mountain lake systems in North or South America, has collected over 52 years of research.

The facility produces invaluable information applicable to inland lakes throughout North and South America, but limited funding can't sustain the operation indefinitely, Chandra said.

"This is one of those things we really need to keep going," he said. "CABNR funds most of the work at Castle Lake along with two private donors, but funds are limited. Our goal is to write the National Science Foundation in January to try and get some additional funding for our research."

Started in 1958 by U.C. Davis, CABNR scientists assumed command of Castle Lake in 2006, continuing the study of effects of climate change and fish stocking on the lake. Both types of changes can alter a mountain lake's ecology, clarity and biology.

"We try to understand how climate air temperature, which has increased about 2 degrees Celsius, influences the biodiversity of the lake, the food available for fish to grow and the lake's clarity," Chandra said.

Chandra said the research is at the interface of understanding climate, ecological thresholds and manipulations to the water to maintain or restore mountain ecosystems.

"It's similar to using cattle on the range to maintain certain aspects of plant biodiversity, growth and ecosystem function but in a lake environment," Chandra said. "We've experimented to see if you can manipulate things by adding fish into the system to change its clarity back to how it was 40 and 50 years ago. We now know climate change can augment all of the other direct impacts that humans have caused like overharvesting forests or overgrazing parts of a watershed. So untangling the influence of climate and fish manipulations should allow managers to understand how to manage for clarity, fish production and biodiversity."

Along with research, Castle Lake serves to connect federal and state agencies, providing information on threatened bats as well as data on clarity levels that can affect seasonal tourism and recreation, Chandra said.

"We try to help state and federal agencies better manage what they both know," he said. "We try to use our research to bridge the two agencies and understand the process and management of these places."

During CABNR's five years of leadership, over 150 undergraduate students from UNR and 110 students from Northern California, South Korea, Guatemala and Russia have trained at the station either through field trips or summer internships. New student researchers are always welcomed at the facility.

For donations to support student internships at Castle Lake Research Facility, contact Chandra at (775) 784-6221 or email him at sudeep@cabnr.unr.edu.

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