Western works with area communities to protect Candlewood Lake
From the shores of Candlewood Lake to the laboratories and greenhouses of the Science Building, WCSU faculty and students are having an important and growing impact in preserving Connecticut’s largest lake — and the Danbury area’s primary fresh-water resource — through their deepening research and instructional collaboration with a diverse array of public and private sector partners.
Larry Marsicano, executive director of the Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA), described Western’s expanding research and instructional role in exploring the fresh-water ecology of the 5,420-acre manmade hydroelectric power reservoir as an invaluable scientific and public policy planning resource for the CLA, Candlewood owner FirstLight Power Resources, and the municipal governments of shoreline communities. “Having the university involved is an extremely important component in achieving well-informed and effective natural resource management in this area,” Marsicano observed. “They have the tools, the expertise and the talent to do the necessary research that the Authority cannot do on its own.”
Two WCSU research projects currently in progress seek to test and evaluate strategies for more effective containment and eradication of Eurasian watermilfoil in Candlewood Lake. Seasonal proliferation of thick milfoil growth near or at the surface during summer and early autumn months has caused serious disruption to boating, water sports and other recreational activities on the lake and has had a significant impact on Candlewood’s overall ecological balance as areas of high milfoil concentration have spread along its 60-mile shoreline over the past several decades.
Over the past two years, WCSU student research assistants under the supervision of Dr. Mitch Wagener, professor of biology and environmental sciences, have participated in a pilot study of the use of a type of weevil known to damage and potentially destroy watermilfoil as a biological tool to control the pest weed in shallows near the lake shoreline. WestConn students have assisted in the implantation of milfoil weevil eggs at several underwater test sites in shallows at the north end of Candlewood Lake and have conducted periodic site visits to monitor progress of the milfoil weevils in establishing and growing their populations. Wagener noted that the students’ work will contribute significantly to determining whether weevil populations can survive and build through reproduction to levels sufficiently high to become an effective biological tool in controlling milfoil spread.