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Water Lab relocates to Environmental Leadership Center building

2021-02-17-Water Lab 1
The Water Lab tests and analyzes samples of 11 sites from Lake Lanier and its tributaries. Tests range from alkalinity and pH levels to fecal coliform and water hardness. The lab relocated from Rogers Hall to the Environmental Leadership Center this spring.

For the past 34 years, the University of North Georgia (UNG) Water Quality Trend Monitoring Lab has researched water quality of the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin from a windowless room on the first floor of Rogers Hall on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. This spring, the program moved to a new home inside the Environmental Leadership Center (ELC).

"Our new space is awesome," said Ally Crookshanks, manager of the Water Lab and a senior pursuing a degree in biology. "We have beautiful space with windows and are together with Stacie James and the beetle lab (officially called the Ecological Protection Lab)."

James, program coordinator of the ELC at UNG since 2017, said the relocation stemmed from the Department of Physics and Astronomy needing an interior room with no windows to conduct research on fluid dynamics.

"UNG Facilities came up with the idea to reconfigure that room and build an additional room onto the back of the ELC for the Water Lab," James said.

Construction started in November and finished in January. The new room houses the equipment the Water Lab uses to test and analyze samples from Lake Lanier and its tributaries. Tests range from alkalinity and pH levels to fecal coliform and water hardness.

"I think the most important test we do is for E. coli," Crookshanks said.

She explained the Water Lab's monthly analysis of 11 test sites in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin and its tributaries is shared with its community partners of Forsyth, Gwinnett and Hall counties and the City of Gainesville to supplement the municipalities' own monitoring.

"Our job is to provide quality control for these certain locations on Lake Lanier," Crookshanks said. "They use our information to look at the sites where the chemical levels of the water aren't where they should be."

The Water Lab is one of three research-related programs overseen by the ELC that helps address environmental issues:

  • UNG's Ecological Protection Lab aims to protect the Eastern Hemlock tree from the invasive Woolly Adelgid through initiating biological control efforts by rearing and releasing predatory beetles to reduce adelgid numbers and impacts.
  • UNG's Hurricane Creek Research Site restoration efforts have the potential to bring field research and sustainable environmental practices to life for UNG students in a picturesque riverside ecosystem.

The ELC also provides aid and support for the efforts related to Campus Sustainability, which models sustainability practices and innovations to be shared with others in UNG's service region through well-organized student engagement.

All programs share a common mission.

"The Environmental Leadership Center's main goal is to support service, research and teaching activities that promote leadership and stewardship in preserving and enhancing the environment," James said. "Our programs raise awareness about the water quality of the area, invasive species of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on native trees and other sustainability efforts for the environment."

She said it made logistical sense to have all programs in one building.

"We are happy to have all of our team members under one roof," James said. "Working together in a shared space will help our collaborations, especially when we do outreach to the community."

For more information, visit the ELC website.

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