Jonah Boucher ’17 is undertaking research this summer with a team of students under Associate Professor of Biology Michael McCormick analyzing various chemical and microbiological properties of Green Lake in Onondaga County, N.Y.
Green Lake is notable for its meromictic properties, meaning that it is separated into two major layers of water, one well-oxygenated and one anoxic, that do not mix, even after the passage of long periods of time.
“There are basically two different projects going on,” explains Boucher. “One is called high resolution sampling, and is a continuation of the work that Professor McCormick has been doing recently. We use one of Professor McCormick’s sampling methods that allows us to collect samples from different depths of the lake, all at the same time. This gives us essentially a cross-section of the chemistry of the lake, so you can look for relevant chemicals, sulfur, and oxygen, get the Ph. value at different depths, etc. We can get a view of where these chemicals are, and where they’re changing,” Boucher explained.
The second project consists of the recovery and analysis of biofilm from the lake wall. Through research during the spring of 2013 McCormick’s lab discovered this biofilm, or patches of bacteria, growing along the lake wall near the contact point between the two major layers within the lake.
These bacteria resembled the sulfide oxidizing bacteria most usually found within marine environments.
Utilizing a custom-built remote operated vehicle (ROV) to obtain samples of biofilm from the lake wall, the research team hopes to discover the properties of these bacteria that allow them to live and grow in this environment traditionally thought of as relatively hostile to life. The current ROV can retrieve samples as deep as 20m, but plans are in place to construct a new vehicle that can reach all the way down to the lake’s floor, a depth of around 52m.
Boucher, a mathematics and environmental studies double major, was drawn to this course of research by an interest in biology fostered in McCormick’s Biology 115 course. “I helped with Professor McCormick’s research in an unofficial capacity for two weeks last summer, and found it really rewarding,” said Boucher, adding, “there are a lot of places the research could go. Obviously studying a lake upstate, we’ve been limited in the past to summer research, but as the technology gets better we’ve been able to move into winter and fall testing, Boucher explained.
“There are environmental implications with the lake, and that interdisciplinary aspect is a big reason why I was intrigued by the research. It’s definitely something I’m considering making a component of my senior thesis,” he concluded.
Professor McCormick’s student research team also includes Tommy Blanchard '17, Jenna Crawford '17, and Eric Nieminen '16.
Boucher is a native of Rochester, N.Y., and a graduate of Brighton High School. He will be spending his next semester abroad in Costa Rica, studying sustainability through the lenses of development, resource use and agricultural practices.