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Seth Jensen, director of the municipal utilities department for the city of Auburn, speaks at the March to Lake Day event at Auburn Public Theater in 2017.

For residents concerned about the recent prevalence of harmful algal blooms on Owasco Lake and other Finger Lakes, a number of local water quality protection groups will host a symposium this March to help cut through the scientific jargon surrounding the issue.

Scheduled for March 9, the free and public symposium will feature four local water quality experts who will present in "plain English" their latest research to help explain the threat HABs pose to Owasco Lake, according to a press release for the event.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Dr. John Halfman, a professor of environmental studies who has been studying Owasco Lake and other Finger Lakes for years, will present an annual status of the lake report. In addition to an update on changes in the lake in 2018, the report will also present results from an Owasco Watershed Lake Association grant-funded project exploring the effect of sonic buoys and aerators on disrupting HABs.

Dr. Bob Howarth, of Cornell University, will offer his latest research and observations of the effects of nitrogen — of which Owasco Lake has an excess — on cyanobacteria, the organism that comprises HABs. While phosphorus is usually considered cyanobacteria’s primary nutrient source, Howarth posits that some strains may actually prefer nitrogen.

From SUNY ESF, Dr. Kim Schulz will present the findings of an extensive underwater survey of Quagga Mussels, an invasive species that has gained a foothold in Owasco Lake, and the relationship between the mussels and the growth of HABs.

Lastly, state Department of Environmental Conservation Tony Prestigiacomo will discuss the next steps for the Lake, including a discussion of the numerous existing and new testing and sampling programs on Owasco lake that gather data such nutrient numbers, algal indicators, and HAB samples.

The event is co-sponsored by OWLA, the Cayuga County Water Quality Management Agency, the Owasco Lake Watershed Management Council, Partners for Healthy Watersheds, Save Owasco Now, Cayuga Community College, the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Finger Lakes Museum and Aquarium, Upstate Freshwater Institute, and the Skaneateles Lake Association.

The event is scheduled for 9 to 11:30 a.m. March 9 at the Auburn Public Theater, 8 Exchange St., Auburn. The event is free and open to the public and is special needs accessible.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin

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County government reporter