Alex Gatch is an undergraduate at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (’16).
How did you become involved in the Finger Lakes Hg Project?
I started working on the Finger Lakes mercury (Hg) project when I returned from a study abroad program in Australia, in the fall of 2014. Previously, I worked for the Finger Lakes Institute as a watercraft steward, but was asked to join the Hg project so I could expand my background in biology.
What is your role?
Since 2014 I have played several different roles in the Hg project. I originally started by collecting pertinent scientific papers that could be used to write Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). I then moved to collecting samples from the Finger Lakes and their tributaries this past summer. The field sampling included dredging, electrofishing, pulling zooplankton nets, and collecting water samples. Once the sampling season was completed, I work to process fish, seston, plankton, and other benthic invertebrates so they can be analyzed for Hg concentrations. Running samples for Hg analysis has also been a part of my role in the Hg project.
What has most interested or surprised you so far?
As an avid fisherman from the Finger Lakes, I find it extremely interesting that we are able to analyze fish for Hg concentrations. Previously, I followed the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYDEC) consumption guidelines for eating fish in the Finger Lakes; however, that information is not complete. I am interested in seeing which lakes I should continue eating from and which to avoid.