Which fish lived in Mirror Lake ages ago?

PSC researchers will take sediment core samples to find out

LAKE PLACID — Paul Smith’s College students will be out on Mirror Lake late Saturday morning collecting a sediment core from the village’s central body of water.

The group of students are part of Curt Stager’s Paleoecology class and will be joined by Brendan Wiltse, Science and Stewardship Director of the AuSable River Association.

“We will be using the core to look for the historical presence and DNA of lake trout, rainbow trout, and yellow perch going back several hundred years,” Wiltse said. “This is continuation of the work that Curt and colleagues did at Lower St. Regis Lake and will help us better understand the history of Mirror Lake.”

Conventional wisdom has long held that yellow perch are a non-native species in the Adirondacks and a threat to native brook trout populations. Stager and colleagues, however, have discovered yellow perch DNA in sediment cores pulled from Lower St. Regis Lake that date back 2,200 years, which they say is more than enough to justify calling the species native.

Wiltse said the group will head out onto the surface of Mirror Lake from near the village Beach House at 11:20 a.m. on Saturday. The group will collect samples from the middle of the lake “roughly straight out” from Mid’s Park, Wiltse said.

The coring will be accomplished by lowering a plastic tube into the sediments after drilling a hole through the lake ice roughly the same size used by ice fishermen. The group will then bring the sample back to the lab where they will split the core open to to look for preserved DNA from those target fish species.

Wiltse said the group expects to core for a little more than a meter of lake sediment, which he said should will include 2,000 years of lake history. The coring will be done near the deepest portion of the lake, which Wiltse said is approximately 17 meters deep. He added that recent warm weathers and the weekend’s warm, rainy forecast shouldn’t affect the groups abiliity to accomplish the work, though they will assess ice conditions when they set out Saturday morning. Wiltse added that he was out on the lake earlier this week when ice thickness was 12 to 14 inches.

“Being able to go out right in our backyard and practice the techniques and science we learn in the classroom is not only an amazing time but also a valuable part of our education,” said Matt Spadoni, a student in Stager’s class. “I’m excited to learn about the ecology of Mirror Lake and learn what fish species were native to the area after the last glaciers receded.”

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