Mike Kelly and Jeremy Farrell give presentation on the Jefferson Project


Thursday, April 21, Union alumnus Mike Kelly ’91 and Jeremy Farrell ’03 gave a presentation in the Nott Memorial about the Jefferson Project, a collaboration between the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM, and the Fund for Lake George to preserve Lake George as a potable resource.

Lake George is a vital resource to the Adirondack area, as the lake is widely used for its fresh drinking water.

Lake George is the largest lake within the largest park in the continental United States, and includes 170 islands throughout. The water is considered fresh because 95% of its watershed derives from natural forestland, designating the lake as “Class AA- Special” drinking water.

In 2014, a group of Darrin Freshwater Institute researchers discovered through extensive water quality analysis that without intervention, Lake George faced permanent degradation. In other words, Lake George is at risk of contamination that will make the water no longer safe to drink.

According to Kelly, “In 2014, the Rensselaer Darrin Fresh Water Institute on Lake George and The FUND for Lake George published a joint report based on 30 years of water quality monitoring that revealed numerous threats to the quality of Lake George water.”


Threats to the lake’s water quality are listed as salt, algae, stormwater runoff, invasive species, upland development, nutrient loading, and stream corridor management.

For example, salt levels have tripled between 1980 and 2009, majorly due to road salt on roadways around Lake George. Invasive species such as the Zebra Mussel, Curly-leaf Pondweed and the Spiny Waterflea threaten water quality, recreational activities, and tourism.

Since the discovery in 2014, The Jefferson Project has taken the initiative to pursue remediation strategies for biotic and abiotic stressors.

Named after Thomas Jefferson, who once said in 1791, “Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw,” the Jefferson Project has been pursuing the ultimate goal of “stopping the present decline of water quality and achieving sustained protection of Lake George for the next generation,” according to the Fund for Lake George website.

This is pursued through a myriad of technologically advanced tools, used for “monitoring, modeling, simulation, forecasting and experimentation.”

Such tools include sensor platforms along the lake, which allow the monitoring of weather, currents and tributary flows, and water quality. As stated on the website, “The Jefferson Project promises to set the standard for restoration efforts anywhere in the world by showing how a complex natural system can be deliberately studied for the purpose of sustaining protection.”

Mike Kelly graduated from Union in 1991 with a BS in Electrical Engineering, and went on to obtain his MS in Electrical Engineering at Union one year later in 1992.

Currently a Senior Research Engineer with IBM Research, Kelly does data analysis for the Jefferson project, such as seiche waves, basic exchange, and using Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers to study the water flow within Lake George.

Kelly describes his role as, “Currently a Senior Research Engineer with IBM Research, I work to incorporate Internet of Things technology into the lake-wide sensor network, and also performs data analysis with specific sensors such as the Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers.”

Jeremy Farrell graduated Union in 2003 with a BS in Geology, and has since received a PhD in Biology in 2013 from RPI.

Farrell’s research involved hydro-acoustics, which further the data collection by allowing in depth studies of cold-water fisheries, sediment typing, habitat mapping, and detection and mapping of invasive plants.


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