As UC Merced continues to expand their campus through extensive construction projects as part of the 2020 Project, one of the newest additions to the campus is Little Lake, which reopened in the fall of 2018.

Little Lake, which is better classified as a pond, is located next to the Glacier Point and Granite Pass residential buildings. Although it is intended to be a visual attraction for students and faculty to admire, many individuals have voiced their concerns regarding the pond’s current abundance of algae plants. According to Michael Beman, Associate Professor of Life and Environmental Sciences at UC Merced, this algae bloom would be better categorized as a “nuisance”, rather than a major concern to the environmental health of the pond. The dried- up algae within the pond can also cause an “earthy-decay odor”, which is unavoidable, even during the hot summer. In terms of human health, this type of algae is blooming in large patches, which concludes that there are likely no human health risks involved with this type of algae.

Marc Beutel, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering at UC Merced, explains that the water quality of Little Lake is good, due to the constant water circulation from the pond’s fountain. Many students have noticed the pond’s water level decreasing since the beginning of school in August of 2018. Professor Beutel states that this occurrence is caused by water evaporation during the summer season, but that water levels are expected to increase in the fall and winter from rainwater runoff. The clarity of the pond water and formation of aquatic plants also indicates an acceptable water quality.

The presence of flying insects has also been a raised concern by students, but Professor Beutel indicates that most of these insects are harmless and are not harmful to human health. Additionally, many dragonflies are present near the pond, which is an asset because they prey on harmful insects such as mosquitos.

Both Professor Beman and Professor Beutel conclude that Little Lake is in acceptable condition, and will continue to improve as time progresses. Professor

Beman expresses that “there are some real opportunities to turn the lake from detraction into attraction. It would be amazing to have waterfront tables and sitting areas alongside a crystal clear lake. There are well- established ways that water quality could be improved, which might serve as good student projects to test what is most effective. For example, trying to reduce sediment and nutrient inputs, planting appropriate species that can improve water quality, or coming up with clever ways of clearing algae from the lake”.  

Currently, there is no concrete plan established for the maintenance of Little Lake. UC Merced’s Facilities Management has not been provided authorithorization to maintain the pond to date. Thus, this leaves students and faculty wondering how the campus plans to maintain the sanitation of the pond, as well as continue adjusting and improving it. The overall maintenance plan is still yet to be determined.

Photo Credit: Andree Souder.

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