Biodiversity Survey of Artificial Reefs in Lake Allure, Quarryville, Pennsylvania
By Elefteria Papavasilis
My name is Elefteria (Terry) Papavasilis, and I am a senior planning to graduate this May with a Bachelor of Science in Biology (Marine Concentration) with Departmental Honors and a Minor in Oceanography. I am excited to be graduating college a second time with a degree in my first love, Marine Biology! My return to school and my research was inspired by my career as a SCUBA Diving Instructor. For the last 10 years, I have taken my students to North Carolina to explore its shipwrecks and swim with its famous residents, the sand tiger sharks. I noticed the shipwrecks served as a colorful oasis of marine life in an otherwise barren desert of a sandy seafloor. The North Carolina Coast is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic due to its plethora of shipwrecks, but each wreck is a unique artificial reef that provides a biodiversity unlike any other in the world’s oceans.
My research, “Reef Revelations: A Biodiversity Survey of the Artificial Reefs of Lake Allure in Quarryville, Pennsylvania” is the second phase of my honors thesis project. The first phase of this project was presented at Made in Millersville in April 2022, and was entitled, “The Bathymetry and Mapping of Lake Allure in Quarryville, Pennsylvania.” This project produced a contour map of the lake identifying potential hazards and identifying key underwater features so that divers could safely plan and enjoy their dives. To date, this map has been used by divers from across the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States from New York to Virginia. In the Spring of 2021, two boats were sunk as attractions for SCUBA divers. The sinking of these boats was immediately realized for their important potential to contribute to our scientific knowledge of how artificial reefs form in freshwater inland lakes. A 16-foot boat was sunk in 30 feet of water to provide an attraction for novice divers, and a 21-foot sailboat was sunk in 70 feet to provide an attraction for SCUBA divers participating in Advanced Open Water and Deep Diver Specialty Courses.
To prepare the boats for scientific study, a one-meter square grid was placed on the bow of the shallow boat and a one-meter square grid was placed just aft of the mast of the deep boat. Forty-eight settling plates were placed within the grid of each boat. Monthly dives were conducted from November 2021 to October 2022 where the boats were photographed, temperature was recorded, and 4 settling plates were removed from each boat and placed in 30ml scintillation vials for analysis in the lab. Analysis of the settling plates have revealed 14 Phyla representing 50 taxa of organisms. This research provided invaluable experience in working with community partners, planning, implementing, and managing artificial reefs to provide habitat for aquatic organisms while also providing ecosystem services such as recreation for SCUBA divers using Lake Allure as a dive training facility.