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Lake Winnecook

Also known as Unity Pond, Lake Winnecook is a small waterbody at 2,528 acres surrounded by the towns of Burnham, Troy, and Unity. It has a maximum depth of just 37 feet. Located in Central Maine, it drains to the Sebasticook River via Twenty-Five Mile Stream. This stream usually acts as an outlet but during periods of high water, it reverses and becomes an inlet. Nestled between rolling farmlands to the east and extensive bog areas to the west, the pond offers a tremendous diversity of fishing opportunities. Anglers may access Lake Winnecook via a public access facility located off Kanokolus Road in Unity. The lake is well marked with navigational buoys which are maintained by Friends of Lake Winnecook.

Nearby Unity College, with a mission of environmental stewardship, uses Lake Winnecook and its watershed as a model for science classes and research. The college supports Lake Winnecook water quality projects.

Lake Winnecook provides excellent habitat for warm water gamefishes. Good populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, pickerel, and other warm water species provide anglers with many hours of fishing enjoyment. Black crappies have recently migrated to the lake from other waters in the Sebasticook drainage and are a principal fishery. White perch can also keep the intested angler busy.


Unity College Will Study Lake With Drones

Unity College faculty earned a $35,000 grant to monitor Lake Winnecook water quality using drones.

There are a number of ways to monitor the changes in a lake's quality of water, such as gathering and testing water samples, using a Secchi disk to measure visibility, and even satellite data gathered over the course of several years. However, when Dr. James Killarney, Assistant Professor of Environmental Chemistry, saw an opportunity to apply for a Maine Space Grant Consortium Faculty Seed Research Grant, he began thinking of new ways to study the eutrophication of Lake Winnecook, also known as Unity Pond. Eutrophication, which is usually caused by runoff from the land, is when the body of water becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients due to an abundance of plant life and algae.

The Maine Space Grant Consortium is part of a network funded by NASA's National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, also known as Space Grant.

"One of the NASA mission directorates was related to monitoring global environmental change with respect to water quality" said Dr. Killarney. "I had a conversation about the grant with Kevin Spigel, Professor of Geoscience, and because of some drone work he had recently started, he brought up we should do something with them. From there, the idea of using aerial imagery at a local scale to perform water quality analysis started to develop."

Drs. Killarney and Spigel then reached out to Dr. Janis Balda, Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, to take the lead on the business development piece of the grant, and Dr. Kathleen Dunckel, Associate Professor of Forest Resources and Geographical Information Systems, who can overlay the images taken using GIS.

The grant also funds two full-time student positions throughout the summer. "Students get to go along for this ride," said Dr. Killarney. They're going to see this process of science at a federally funded level, and they're going to be able to decide if this is something they want to do with their life."

"I want to congratulate Drs. Killarney, Spigel, Balda, and Dunckel on being awarded this grant," said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. "Not only is it great to see our faculty engaged in research that will benefit the residents here in Unity, but this grant will also offer our students an invaluable experience conducting research with professionals. This is the embodiment of a Unity College education, getting hands-on experience in the field, and I can't wait to see what comes out of this research."

The Friends of Lake Winnecook also helped in funding the research, as they continue to work closely with the College to monitor the lake's water quality.

"We're really excited about it," said Brian Levesque, the President of the Friends of Lake Winnecook. "It's going to be huge in terms of monitoring and testing, and we think it's going to be a huge step in the ongoing efforts to clean up the lake. Our end goal is to get Lake Winnecook off the impaired list of lakes in the state, and continue to work with Unity College and other agencies in a collaborative effort to do that."

While the bulk of the research will be conducted throughout the summer, work with this grant is already underway and will be included in portions of the curriculum for the upcoming Fall semester.



The Forgotten Pond

Unity College student Steven Beason published this as a senior project in May 2015.