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After years of uncertainty, new partnership could uncover the cause of algae growth in Torch Lake

Aerial view of Torch Lake shoreline covered in algae
Three Lakes Association
Aerial view of Torch Lake shoreline covered in algae

For seven years, local researchers have been trying to find the cause of golden brown algae in Torch Lake with inconclusive results. Now, a partnership with the federal government seeks to expand the scope of the investigation.

The U.S. Geological Survey and the Torch Conservation Center, alongside other local groups, announced a new direction in algae research on Wednesday. Officials say the addition of top scientists and more resources will improve the joint effort.

“We’ve really gone from trying to manage this study with volunteers and with one professor and his little team to a very broad team with a lot of experience and a very strong willingness to help,” said algae project manager Tom Joseph.

He said research that had been conducted in the past would have worked on a normal lake, but Torch Lake is limited in nutrients, and has other unique qualities that make further study necessary.

The partnership with the USGS is expected to improve comprehensive monitoring of the lake and the algae, bringing in scientists with expertise in deep water lakes like Lake Tahoe, one of the only inland lakes in the U.S. with a close ecological makeup to Torch.

Golden brown algae, which arrived in Torch Lake around the same time as the invasive Asian Carp, poses more than just an aesthetic threat to the lake’s crystal-clear waters. Joseph said the presence of the algae is indicative of a change in the lake’s ecosystem, and the sooner researchers can find its cause, the more able they’ll be to protect the plants and animals that inhabit the lake.

Torch Lake advocates’ hope now is that with more hands on deck, an answer about the algae is within reach.

Lily Guiney is a an intern at IPR News Radio.