UVM Internet upgrade to aid in algae bloom study

By Dan D'Ambrosio, Burlington Free Press

The first project at the University of Vermont to benefit from a planned $17 million upgrade to the schoool's Internet capabilities involves studying algae blooms in Lake Champlain.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center on Thursday to announce the project.
The upgrade, first reported in Wednesday's Burlington Free Press, will turbocharge research efforts by making it possible to share giant data sets with universities across the nation.
The work to improve UVM's Internet capacity will be done by Williston-based TelJet Longhaul and should be finished by January. It will begin with work on fiberoptic lines connecting Burlington to Albany, N.Y., and finish with lines connecting Burlington to Hanover, N.H.
The speed of the network would rise to 160 gigabits per second, a 120-fold increase over the existing network.
"If you're going to do cutting-edge research, you need this kind of speed," Leahy said.
The $17 million for the upgrades comes from grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes for Health.
Benefitting will be a study led by UVM biology professor Judith Van Houten, who will try to determine the genetic triggers that make some algae blooms toxic while others remain benign.
The problem with the toxic algae blooms came to researchers' attention in 1999 when two dogs died after drinking water from the lake in the vicinity of the blooms, said Mary Watzin, dean of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.
While steps have already been taken to protect public health, Watzin said the research made possible by the North East Cyberinfrastructure Consortium, as the upgraded fiber-optic system is known, will help unlock the genetic key to controlling the toxic blooms.
"In more than 30 years of trying to clean up Lake Champlain, we've found it's extremely complex," Leahy said. "We're now going to understand why some algae blooms are toxic and some are harmless."
Contact Dan D'Ambrosio at 660-1841 or ddambrosio@burlingtonfreepress.com. To have Free Press headlines delivered free to your e-mail, sign up at burlingtonfreepress.com/newsletters.
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