News from the Field: Day 12--Mono Lake Day

Today was our Mono Lake day. We started with a guided tour of the Tufa Reserve of Mono Lake with Dave Marquart,a ranger with the California State Tufa Reserve.  Dave gave us a great tour of this extraordinary site with dramatic sculptures of calcium carbonate rising out of Mono Lake. Dave helped us understand the history of the lake, the origin of the tufa towers, and the unusual ecosystem that has developed in one of the West's great saline lakes. We explored lake chemistry, brine shrimp, alkali flies, birds, tufa, hot springs, and the plants and animals surrounding Mono Lake.  A lunch at the Mono Basin Visitor Center was followed by two afternoon meetings exploring the environmental politics surrounding water use in California. First, Chris Plakos from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power showed us several of DWP's water diversion projects, which take Mono Basin water and divert it 250 miles to feed Los Angeles ravenous water needs. We ended the afternoon with Bartshe Miller, and environmental educator with the Mono Lake Committee, a highly successful local environmental group that is credited with saving Mono Lake from a near-certain death from dessication and salination.  Another great dinner, followed by an evening lecture by Bob Jellison, a limnologist with SNARL who has worked on Mono Lake chemistry and biology for over 20 years. He told an interesting story about an unexpected mixing of Mono Lake and the need to preserve salt lakes around the world. The talk catalyzed lots of interesting discussion about science, environment, and public policy.

    May 21st
Dave Marquart of the Mono Lake Tufa Reserve State Park starts the day with a presentation on Mono Lake natural history. 
The group looks on as Dave gives some background on Mono Lake's tufa towers. 
A nice view of the tufa towers with the Sierra Nevada in the background. 
Megan performs an acid test on the tufa--confirming that it is indeed composed of nearly pure calcium carbonate. 
A demonstration on the chemistry of tufa formation shows the precipitation of calcium carbonate (limestone!) when dissolved calcium meets the bicarbonate-rich waters of the alkaline lake. 
A nice panoramic view of southern Mono Lake tufa.
Megan checks out the famous pupa of the alkali fly (called kutsavi)--the mainstay of the Paiute Indians.
Adam can't resist trying kutsavi, with Ganesh looking on in disbelief!
Esther won't be outdone by Adam!
Alkali flies are just starting to appear on the lake shore.
The group goes hunting for brine shrimp in the water.
After lunch at the Mono Basin Visitor Center, Lauren and Ganesh chat     (see Negit Island in the background).
A panoramic view of Mono Lake from the Visitor Center  (the lake is 14 miles across!).
Chris Plakos, from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, discusses the DWP perspective on water policy with the group.
Chris explains the history and technology of water diversion from the Mono Basin, through an 11-mile long tunnel through the Mono Craters, to the Owens Valley, and on down to Los Angeles 
Back in Lee Vining, we meet with Bartshe Miller, an education specialist with the Mono Lake Committee 
And after dinner, an evening lecture by Bob Jellison on Mono Lake water chemistry and its impacts on the lake's unusual biota.