Wednesday June 28, 2023


Brandon Berry has an enviable job. In the morning he flies a drone to survey Lake Tahoe water clarity and in the afternoon he dives into the lake to sample water quality. This hands-on research has its fitness benefits and it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful office.

It’s a year-round job, though. “In the wintertime when the water is freezing cold and it’s snowing, I think my colleagues are less envious,” Berry said.

As ecological researcher for the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC), his work has advanced scientific understanding of algal growth and the invasive Asian clam. Both contribute to degradation of the nearshore in the famously clear mountain-ringed lake.

Berry began the drone program at TERC five years ago. He’s used the combination of drones, water sampling, and geographic information system (GIS) technology to record conditions and address Lake Tahoe’s metaphyton problem—free-floating, nuisance algae that forms mats above the bottom of the lake. Dependent on currents and wave patterns, the algae can wash onshore where it rots.

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