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Group works to repopulate Potter Lake

Student organization cleans up, reintroduces fish to campus lakes

Floating masses of yellow muck and the unsavory perfume of decay are seasonal blights to KU’s beloved Potter Lake, but not for long.

That’s because a small, hungry school of Asian grass carp now call the popular campus waterhole home. On March 26, the student-led Potter Lake Project obtained 14 of the herbivorous fish in an effort to take bites out of the overgrown foliage choking the 1911-vintage lake.

Submitted/Scott Campbell

John Kenny, a student member of the Potter Lake Project prepares Asian grass carp to be introduced in to Potter Lake.

“We would like it, when it’s 100 years old, to look like it’s brand new,” said England Porter, senior in environmental studies and a project coordinator.

Scott Campbell, a research associate at the Kansas Biological Survey, along with other KBS scientists, assisted the group with its research into Potter’s situation. He said that large masses of aquatic vegetation cause water quality problems, proliferate and then die, creating an unpleasant and unhealthy condition in the lake. They especially tax the water’s oxygen levels in the fall and winter, creating the potential for a fish-kill situation.

“Adding the grass carp is a biological control that is pretty benign,” Campbell said. “They typically lounge around the shore, grazing on vegetation like a cow or a manatee.”

The fish seldom take bait or a lure, and the group hopes people will not attempt to fish for them.

Campbell said the carp wouldn’t yield results overnight. The fish are in adolescence, only 15-inches long, but will grow more voracious as they progress to their adult weight of 35 to 40 pounds. Project members and their university colleagues plan to monitor their progress over the next three years.

“But people can rest assured they are doing their job 24-hours a day,” he said.

The carp came free-of-charge to Potter Lake, thanks to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Richard Sanders, fisheries biologist at Clinton Lake, orchestrated delivery of the fish and has provided assistance to the students.

The project also has received donations from KU alumni and has hundreds of supporters on its Facebook and Google groups.

The project’s members currently are drafting a comprehensive plan on the water quality, vegetation and other conditions of the lake for presentation to university administrators, with suggestions for future projects.

“This was a student-led effort, and that’s what is neat about this,” Campbell said. “Potter Lake is one of those aesthetic elements that make our campus beautiful.”


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