Water quality station set up with turbidity tubes.

On a crisp September morning, the Rangeley Lakes Regional School 6th, 7th, and 8th graders were in the field learning about water quality science in the Rangeley Lakes Region.

Sponsored by the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, this event highlights the work done by the Headwaters Lake Protection Program staff and volunteers. Experiential education stations were set up throughout the village. Each station had a focus: water quality monitoring with Secchi discs, identifying aquatic plants, LakeSmart, and the invasive Rusty Crayfish.

The Secchi station, led by volunteers Jim and Deb Ferrara, focused on the turbidity clarity of regional waters. Students used samples from Rangeley Lake, a nearby settling pond, and other water types were simulated. Students learned to use a turbidity tube and made the connection connecting storm runoff to water clarity.

LakeSmart is a free, non-regulatory, voluntary program for homeowners to encourage behaviors that maintain the water quality of their lake. Students learned about the concept of a watershed and the Best Management Practices for living near the water, like installing multi-layered vegetative buffers to slow the entry of storm runoff into our lakes. RLHT offers LakeSmart evaluations to shorefront owners throughout the season.

Viewscope and Secchi used in lakes

At Haley Pond Park, volunteer Em Hancheck led students through identifying aquatic plants found in the Rangeley Lakes Region. Using “Quick Keys” developed by the Lakes Stewards of Maine, students could quickly determine if a plant was suspicious by its characteristics. Hancheck works for Friends of Cobbeessee Watershed, fighting infestations of European Frog’s Bit and Eurasian Water Milfoil, and he spoke firsthand to the problems caused by these invasive plants.

At the Trust headquarters, students investigated the invasive Rusty Crayfish found only in the Rangeley Lakes and the Belgrade Lakes Regions in Maine. Students learned how to identify natives from invasive crayfish, determine sex, and understand the changes in the ecosystem invaders bring to our waterbodies. RLHT has mapped the spread of Rusty Crayfish in the region since 2016 and hosted the first Invasive Rusty Crayfish Contest in August.

The day was coordinated by RLRS Science Teacher Sarita Crandall and RLHT’s Julia Morin and Amanda Laliberte, who hope to make it an annual event.

Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust

RLHT conserves, restores, and stewards the natural resources of the Rangeley Lakes Region. Sixteen thousand acres of conservation lands, including 39 miles of recreational trails, are open for exploration, hiking, photography, birding, family outings, inspiration, and adventure. Visit rlht.org to learn more.

Water Quality Station set up with simulated turbid water

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