The geology beneath Seneca Lake
SENECA LAKE--What's below the surface of Seneca Lake? Not just the water and the organisms that live in the lake. Beyond the silt of the lake bottom, the assorted wrecked boats, trash and other detritus of human habitation--probably even including real bones. But what if we went deeper, a whole lot deeper, past the bones of the stuff people have discarded to the bones of the planet?
Born and raised in Burdett, naturalist Adrianna Hirtler will speak about "The Bones of Seneca Lake" Thursday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m. at the Hector Presbyterian Church. The program is sponsored by the church's Earth Care committee.
"When you talk about geology in the Finger Lakes, glaciers tend to steal the show," Hirtler says. "It's been fun to put together the pieces, the stories that go back farther than the glaciers. Plate tectonics shape the landscape around the world."
She first explored the subject in a talk she gave at the Seneca Lake Academy, an occasional conference touching on all aspects of life in and around the lake--historical, geological, ecological, cultural and more--last held in Geneva in 2017. "There's this shared world we have, and stories that tie us all together," she said.
"Her knowledge was extraordinary," says Valois lakeshore resident Trudy Collins, who was present at that talk and looks forward to the coming one.
Hirtler, a Cornell graduate, has worked for the National Park Service as a naturalist and ranger, working in Yosemite National Park and in the Grand Canyon. "As a naturalist, I'm sort of a jack of all trades," she explains. "To do this, you have to have a passion and interest in geology." It's one of the many pieces of the essence of a place, critical to understanding it, she says.
More recently, she's been working for the Cayuga Lake-based Community Science Institute, whose mission is water-quality testing--not just for Cayuga Lake but for Seneca Lake and other places as well. Each lake has its own character, she says, going on to say the specifics of difference elude explanation. "I try talking to people about this, people who have a deep connection." Her own deep connection is to Seneca Lake, but this too, is difficult to put into words.
She says, about what she's discovered as she prepares for her talk, that she's reflecting "Not so much on the little facts, but the big story which we don't always take the time to delve into. That's a big piece of the whole geologic story. We're living that story. It's still unfolding geologically. You realize we're part of the change and movement and the decisions we make in our lives make a difference."
One change many local fishermen have noted and Hirtler affirms is the diminishing number of fish in the lake. "I hear all the time it's hard for fishermen to find fish."
Smelt, for instance. "I remember when I was a kid eating smelt and smelting--they're not completely gone but they're few and far between," she says. "I remember sticking a bucket in the water and pulling out smelt. There's more intense pressure on the lakes as seasonal cottages become more year-round with Air B&Bs. People are taking more of an interest at the same time we're having a bigger impact."
Exploring the intersections of science, art, nature, and culture promises to be an entertaining as well as informative program. Hirtler wants her audience to take away a appreciation of home. "I hope folks will take in the stories of the geology, this place that connects us," she says. "This is a story through one particular place about how interconnected we are to the forces around us. And that we are, in fact, one of the forces around us--we're part of the change that's all around us."
The program is free and open to the public.