Tag Archives: Lake Erie State Park

Mushroom Tech Cleans Up at Lake Erie State Park

For many people, mushrooms can be a healthy, tasty addition at mealtime. But along the Lake Erie shoreline south of Buffalo, the science of mushrooms is being used in an innovative way – as an environmentally-safe method to reduce harmful bacteria in a stream near the beach at Lake Erie State Park.

At the beginning of this decade, tests of the stream and water at the beach by the State Parks Water Quality Unit were showing consistently high levels of e. coli, a bacteria found in fecal matter which can severely sicken those who have been exposed.

The sand and cobble beach in Chautauqua County had been closed to swimming for several years due to a combination of high bacterial levels and fiscal constraints. Testing indicated that the problem likely was being caused by faulty septic systems or unsewered properties upstream, although additional contamination from animals could not be ruled out as another potential source.

While there are mechanical and chemical techniques  to filter such harmful bacteria from water, in 2014 Water Quality staff decided  to test an innovative mushroom-based system developed by Fungi Perfecti, a Washington-state based company with a long research history into fungus and mushrooms, a scientific field known as mycology.

Company founder and owner Paul Stamets is a nationally- and internationally-recognized expert and promotes innovative uses for mushrooms in bioremediation and medical therapies. He even entered the realm of popular culture when creators of the latest Star Trek franchise, which started in 2017 on CBS All Access, named the ship’s science officer after him as part of the use of a a mushroom-based propulsion system for the Starship Enterprise.

Meanwhile, back here in New York State and with funding support from the federal Great Lake Restoration Initiative, water quality staffers at State Parks installed a Stamets-designed mycofiltration system into this small creek at the Park.

The filtration system uses large plastic containers called totes that contain a mixture of wood chips and mycelium (the tiny threadlike vegetative part of fungi that fruits as mushrooms) that allow water to pass through. This allows the mycelium mixture to absorb bacteria from contaminated water as it flows past.

A crane drops the mycofiltration tote into position within a concrete weir that channels the stream. (Photo Credit- State Parks)
Microscopic image of mycelium (Photo Credit- Fungi Perfecti)

So far, the test results seem promising. E. coli levels downstream of the filtration system have dropped and water quality at the beach has improved, although outside factors, including improvements in the surrounding watershed, may have contributed.

The mycelium in the totes were reinoculated – another way of saying reimplanted and reinvigorated – in 2016 and 2019. Data from this project is being shared with Fungi Perfecti to assist in their research and development of their system.

Said Renee Davis, director of research and development at Fungi Perfecti, “We are proud of the contributions that fungal mycelium has been able to make for Lake Erie State Park and the surrounding ecosystems. Though we still face challenges with scalability of this technology, the applications are promising. We are closely studying the aspects of fungal metabolism that drive these effects, particularly the secretion of specialized compounds from mycelium into the environment.”

She added, “New potential applications have also arisen for bioretention and stormwater. For us, this project is an example of the possibilities that emerge when we look at nature—particularly fungi—in a new, creative, and innovative way. We hope this is the first of many projects to come using mushroom mycelium for water quality.”

Mycelium and wood chips are mixed together in the totes. (Photo Credit- State Parks)
Totes rest within the concrete channel of the stream. (Photo Credit- State Parks)

Currently, this is the only State Park where this chemical-free, ecologically-safe method is being tested, although it could be introduced into the Finger Lakes region if a suitable location can be found.


Cover Shot: NYS Parks crews service the mycofiltration unit in Lake Erie State Park in 2016.

More Resources

See a technical display of the project here

Hear Fungi Perfecti Founder Paul Stamets give a TED lecture on the potential uses of mushrooms.

Fungi Perfecti founder and owner Paul Stamets. (Photo Credit- Fungi Perfecti)

Stamets’ awards include Invention Ambassador (2014-2015) for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Mycologist Award (2014) from the North American Mycological Association (NAMA), and the Gordon & Tina Wasson Award (2015) from the Mycological Society of America (MSA).

Currently, Stamets is testing extracts of rare mushroom strains at the NIH (National Institutes of Health/Virology) and with Washington State University/United States Department of Agriculture against a wide panel of viruses pathogenic to humans, animals and bees.

Read what local Capital Region entrepreneur Eben Bayer, owner of Ecovative Design, a mushroom-based packaging and development business based in Green Island, has to say about the scientific potential of mycelium.

Check out the Mushroom Blog at Cornell University.


Post by April Brun and Gabriella Cebada Mora, NYS Parks Water Quality Unit

Weekend Forecast: Heavy Meteor Showers

Each year when the second week of August rolls around, I know where my family will be. Loaded with blankets and camp chairs, we head to Lake Erie State Park to sit back, relax, and gaze at the stars. Why? Early August marks the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, one of the best displays of shooting stars every year.

This year, the predicted peak performance is on the night of August 12th (intensifying through the predawn hours, if you can stay up that long), though you may catch a glimpse of meteors any night between July 17th and August 24th. The Perseid meteor shower typically produces 50-100 meteors per hour, with outbursts up to a couple hundred meteors per hour in some years.

The meteors we see–particles ranging in size from a grain of sand to a small pebble—come from the debris of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Though this comet (think of a 16-mile-wide dusty snowball) orbits around the sun only once every 133 years, the Earth passes through its long-lasting trail of rocky and dusty debris around the same time every year, presenting us Earth-dwellers with the fiery flashes of the Perseid meteor shower.

As the tiny particles collide into the Earth’s atmosphere at a measly speed of 133,000 miles per hour (37 miles per second), they ignite due to the friction of the atmosphere. If you trace the paths of these meteors, they will appear to originate from around the same area; this point is called the radiant, and the Perseid meteor shower radiates from, you guessed it, the star constellation Perseus. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to know exactly where this constellation is to find the show; just look towards the northeast!

Direction_of_the_Perseids
Perseid meteors will appear to originate near the Perseus constellation, so look to the northeastern sky for the best view. Image from NASA

The number of meteors you see depends on several other factors as well, including lights, weather, location, and moon phase. The Northern Hemisphere is the place to be for these showers, and lucky for us, on August 12th the moon will be nearly brand new, which means that the night sky should be nice and dark. We can’t control the weather, so be sure to go out on a night with less cloud cover.

How do you throw a get-together for a meteor shower? You have to planet! The best way to see the Perseids is to find a safe, dark and secluded spot away from city lights – a local park perhaps? Be sure to check that the park will be open at night, and some State Parks are even offering programs for the big event! Leave the binoculars and telescopes at home, you will be able to see these meteors with just the naked eye, and the more open sky in your field of view, the better. Dress for the weather, bring blankets to lay on or comfortable chairs to sit in (reclining camp chairs are great for this), and don’t forget the snacks. The longer you sit out, the more meteors you are likely to see! It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the dark, and the number of shooting stars increases throughout the evening. So go outside, get settled, and enjoy the beauty of fiery space debris!

Click here to check out some upcoming star-related State Park events!

Post by Kelsey Ruffino, State Parks

Resources:

NASA Meteor and Meteorites Perseids In Depth

In The Sky Perseid Meteor Shower

Space.com Perseid Meteor Shower 2018: When, Where & How to See It This Month

DateandTime.com Perseid Meteor Shower 2018

Sky and Telescope The Best Meteor Showers in 2018

Stardate Meteors

Learn more about meteors:

Aronson, Billy; Meteors : the truth behind shooting stars; Franklin Watts, NY, 1996.

Rose, Simon; Meteors; Weigl Publishers, NY, 2012.

Featured image: NASA/Bill Ingalls