The Jefferson Project at Lake George, one of the most ambitious research projects to deploy Big Data and analytics technology to manage and protect a body of fresh water, is entering a new phase in which enormous amounts of data will be captured from sensors and analyzed. Scientists anticipate that insights uncovered from the data collection and discovery stage of the project will not only help manage and protect one of America’s most famous lakes, but create a blueprint to preserve important lakes, rivers and other bodies of fresh water around the globe.
Jefferson Project Director Rick Relyea (left) and IBM Research Distinguished Engineer Harry Kolar (right) examine a visualization of Lake George, as part of The Jefferson Project at Lake George, a three year effort to deploy Internet of Things
The potential impact of these new developments extends well beyond the shores of Lake George. By capturing and pooling data from all sorts of sensors and swiftly analyzing it, scientists, policy makers and environmental groups around the globe could soon accurately predict how weather, contaminants, invasive species and other threats might affect a lake’s natural environment. Armed with these new insights and a growing body of best practices, corrective actions could be taken in advance to protect fresh water sources anywhere in the world.
Thirty-five years of monitoring the chemistry and algae in Lake George by scientists at Rensselaer’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute, in collaboration with The FUND for Lake George, have demonstrated the lake is changing. Chloride inputs from road salt have tripled, algae have increased by one third, and five invasive species have been introduced. These factors threaten entire regional economies driven by water recreation, boating and other forms of tourism on fresh water lakes, rivers and streams.
Early Findings Even as the data collection and discovery phase of the Jefferson Project ramps up, the ambitious initiative has already offered intriguing insights into Lake George. For example, Lake George flows south to north, with the lake draining into Lake Champlain via the La Chute River. However, sensors deployed on the lake bottom during the winter ice-over period recently confirmed complicated flow patterns within Lake George. These findings, which are being further investigated, include higher than expected currents and countercurrents during the time in which the lake is frozen.
The computing infrastructure powering the Jefferson Project involves multiple computing platforms, ranging from an IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer located in a data center on the Rensselaer campus to embedded, intelligent-computing elements and other Internet of Things technology situated on various sensor platforms in and around the lake.