Keep Tahoe Blue shares results of science, innovation projects
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – With snow piling up to historic levels in the Lake Tahoe Basin, summer is a distant thought for residents and visitors. The League to Save Lake Tahoe, an environmental advocacy and action organization dedicated to Keep Tahoe Blue, is already planning ahead to protect the Lake once the snow melts.
This week, the nonprofit released the results of two pioneering projects: one that uses a beach-cleaning robot to remove trash hidden in the sand, and another designed to measure the 2021 Caldor Fire’s impacts on the Tahoe ecosystem. The projects’ findings are shared through interactive StoryMaps, where users are free to explore graphs, maps, videos and images.
With this data at their fingertips, the League and natural resource managers can do things like identify sites in need of restoration after wildfire, or design litter prevention efforts to target widespread plastic trash buried in beach sand. The StoryMaps are featured on the League’s website, keeptahoeblue.org. The public is encouraged to have a look.
“Science is the League’s true north. It guides everything we do to Keep Tahoe Blue,” said Laura Patten, senior science policy analyst for the League. “Our programs are designed to solve Tahoe’s problems, and to contribute new scientific data. StoryMaps are a great way to share what we’ve learned so it can be used for conservation.”
One of the StoryMaps highlights a League program created to monitor the effects of the Caldor Fire using citizen science. In the summer of 2021, the wildfire scorched 10,000 acres of hillsides in the Tahoe Basin, burning trees and even their root systems. The League’s science experts knew that without plant roots to keep the slopes stable, there was a high likelihood that storms would wash these loose soils into rivers and streams that feed the Lake, harming water quality and possibly encouraging algae to grow.
Because Caldor was a unique wildfire in many ways, it was important to measure how it impacted Lake Tahoe in the short and long term. With this valuable information, forest managers can be better prepared for the next, climate change-driven wildfire. The data gathered by volunteer citizen scientists also helped identify areas in need of restoration, which were the focus of the League’s Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days events in 2022. The StoryMap for this project is available at keeptahoeblue.org/caldor.
“In 2021, the Caldor Fire hit us physically and emotionally. We also feared that this would impact our Lake and surroundings. So when the program was launched, I signed up for the training along with many others” said Valerie Castejon, volunteer in the Caldor Fire citizen science program. “It has been a wonderful experience, not only to be part of this community of staff and volunteers, but to learn about scientific measurements, what is important to analyze and the data that are collected. And it’s a pleasure to do the tests on a beautiful morning by the Lake, knowing you are doing your part.”
The League’s other project focused on testing an innovative, technology-driven solution to combat beach trash. In collaboration with ECO-CLEAN Solutions, the League brought an electric, beach-cleaning robot to the Basin in 2022. The BEBOT is the first technology of its kind to be used anywhere on the West Coast. The goal of the pilot project was to determine how effective the robot would be at removing tiny pieces of trash buried in beach sand before they washed into Lake Tahoe. This type of litter is difficult to detect and remove by hand.
“We were honored to partner with the League to Save Lake Tahoe in 2022 to bring this technology to the shores of the Tahoe Basin,” said JT Chevallier, co-founder of ECO-CLEAN Solutions. “The League embodies the mission of sustainability and stewardship, and their support was paramount to our success. ECO-CLEAN Solutions is excited to expand our partnership in 2023 and build on our shared mission to Keep Tahoe Blue and beautiful!”
Throughout the past summer, the BEBOT was deployed at 11 sites around the Lake and proved effective at finding and removing litter buried in the sand that people could not. Based on this initial success, the League and ECO-CLEAN are working with land managers and business owners to expand the program this year and have the BEBOT clean entire beaches on a regular basis. The StoryMap for this project can be found at keeptahoeblue.org/bebot.
Science and innovation lie at the heart of the League’s work to protect Lake Tahoe. By sharing their work with the public, the League is raising awareness of the threats facing the Lake and ways to solve those challenges, so anyone can play a part in keeping Tahoe blue.
Source: League to Save Lake Tahoe
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