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Dr. Charles Goldman honored at Tahoe Summit, addresses threats to the lake

An old photograph of Charles Goldman leaning on the inside of a boat. He is a middle-aged male with a mustache. He is wearing a blue overcoat, a plaid shirt and a cap. He is gazing out at a body of water that surrounds the vessel.
UC Davis
Charles Goldman, 1990.

A group of leaders and stakeholders convened at the Lake Tahoe Summit on Tuesday to discuss ways to protect the basin. At the event, a renowned local scientist was honored for his work to maintain the health of the lake.

Charles Goldman is known as the “Godfather of Limnology” — or the study of lakes. He was presented with the Dianne Feinstein Tahoe Award for his four decades of work to improve the health of Lake Tahoe. Since his arrival in 1958, he’s witnessed alarming changes to the lake.

“The lakes of the world are all warming,” said Goldman. “And Tahoe has increased a whole degree down the water column and 4 degrees at the surface in recent years.”

Tahoe’s waters mix in the winter, with surface water descending to bring vital nutrients to deeper areas. But Goldman says this process will stop if the lake continues to warm at the current rate and that these kinds of disruptions drive invasion from non-native species. His concerns were echoed by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who says algal blooms are becoming a statewide problem.

Steve Sisolak is standing behind a podium and speaking into a microphone. Nevada Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, as well as California Senator Tom McClintock, are seated next to him.
Shelby Herbert
KUNR Public Radio
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak was one of the keynote speakers at the Lake Tahoe Summit on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.

“As the lake warms, it’s more conducive to the algae growing,” said Sisolak. “We need to do everything we can to make sure that we understand global warming, we understand extreme heat, and we do what we can to protect the environment.”

Water contaminated by algal blooms is a known public health hazard, which can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and even death in people and animals. Blooms also obscure the iconic clarity of Tahoe’s water.

“As you warm the water, it becomes a much more habitable environment for blue-green algae,” said Goldman. “We call them cyanobacteria since they’re closely related to bacteria.”

Sand Harbor State Park on a sunny and clear day. In the foreground is a sandy beach with a single piece of driftwood sticking out of it. A few boats can be seen in the middle of the composition. In the background is a faint outline of a mountain range.
Shelby Herbert
KUNR Public Radio
The summit was held at Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. Lake Tahoe is a unique aquatic and economic resource that attracts millions of people to its shores every year.

Among his many contributions to the field of limnology, the Tahoe Environmental Research Center is an offshoot of one of his former research groups. In the ‘60s, he discovered that wastewater was encouraging algal growth in South Lake Tahoe and convinced the local public utility district to change its treatment practices. He also has a glacier in Antarctica named after him — the Goldman Glacier.

Shelby Herbert is a reporter for KUNR and the Hitchcock Project for Visualizing Science, which is part of the Reynolds School of Journalism.

Shelby Herbert is a former student reporter at KUNR Public Radio and the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D., Project for Visualizing Science.
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