United for Lake Atitlán, Guatemala Project

A fisherman on Atitlan in the early morning

Studying the lake while training young Guatemalan scientists and
providing infrastructure for future investigations and monitoring

Lake Atitlán is located in the highlands of Guatemala. Described as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, the lake’s ecology has undergone dramatic alteration due to increasing pollution. In December 2008, the lake underwent a dramatic regime shift when a large cyanobacterial algal bloom occurred. The news about the bloom spread quickly with local residents concerned about the clarity, ecology, and “health” of the lake. There has been very little limnological research at the lake with a shortage of information to understand the mechanisms contributing to the lake’s alteration. In April 2009, a team of international researchers arrived at Lake Atitlan to work with their Guatemalan counterparts to initiate a collaboration to understand lake processes and conserve the lake and assist the residents of Guatemala in understanding why the lake was changing. This project resulted from those initial investigations and trainings.

The main objectives of this project will address detrimental environmental and man-made impacts on Lake Atitlán through:

  • Promotion and strengthening of existing monitoring/ research programs and development of a long-term, scientifically based monitoring framework across the watershed (lake, river, land, atmosphere).
  • Compilation and quality control of existing lake and river data and place this information into a database available to all parties working to conserve Lake Atitlán.
  • Creation of infrastructure in Guatemalan institutions through the purchase of modern laboratory and field instrumentation that can be deployed and maintained by Guatemalan institutions in the future.
  • Training of young Guatemalan scientists in the proper use of this instrumentation, data analysis, and sharing information with policy makers through public-friendly reports and presentations to implement programs that will restore Lake Atitlán.
  • Development and implementation of a communication and sustainability strategy for this initiative that can jointly contribute to the economic development of the Lake Atitlán Watershed.

United for Lake Atitlán Research and Training in Action:

Stop at San Juan en route to Atitlan Sunrise over Atitlan after a night of work Bottom sample from 300 meters! Collecting lake water for testing Investigating Atitlan Algae A fistherman over Atitlan Night work on Atitlan Plume from San Francisco Ready to load the boat Rio San Francisco feeding into Atitlan A load of Atitlan sampling equipment Sediment from 300m down Volcanos and Cerro de Oro Watershed group heading out for a day of sampling