CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — In the wake of recent months of historic rainfall bringing Lake Meredith back up to its highest water level in 20 years, West Texas A&M University announced that its students will take part in new research hoping to provide a new scientific understanding of the reservoir.

As previously reported on, Lake Meredith’s water levels were at their highest in about 20 years after rising over 10 and a half feet throughout May and June. Consistent rainfall over the summer has led not only to the Texas Panhandle being the only region in Texas not plagued by drought as of the beginning of August but also brought the lake up to about 47% of its storage capacity.

WT officials said that the new study taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the water level will focus on examining variations in the microbiology and water quality of the lake, which stands as a major source of drinking water for Amarillo and 10 other cities around the Texas Panhandle and South Plains. The study will be led by Dr. Maitreyee Mukherjee, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Erik Crosman, assistant professor of environmental sciences, in the Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences

The study, said WT, aims to provide a better understanding of the diversity, composition and function of microscopic organisms present around Lake Meredith. The students will also examine levels of microbial contamination variations across the lake over the course of several months.

“Using state-of-the-art microbiology equipment, the WT students in my lab are collecting data that will reveal for the first time in-depth seasonal variations of microscopic organisms in Lake Meredith,” Mukherjee said. “Very few studies have investigated these organisms in reservoirs like Lake Meredith, where the water level and lake water salinity change so rapidly.”

WT noted that researchers will also aim to understand how the microscopic organisms in the lake are affected by physical characteristics such as temperature, water level and salinity.

Mukherjee and Crosman plan to incorporate the data collected into a proposal to the National Science Foundation, said WT.

“No study has previously linked the impacts of variations in lake properties to microscopic organisms in a semi-arid reservoir, so this is an exciting interdisciplinary study between microbiology and environmental sciences,” Crosman said.

The students involved in the study include:

  • Robyn Cuthbert, a graduate student in biology from New Orleans;
  • Cassie Dorsett, a Sweeney native about to pursue a master’s degree in biology;
  • Abigail House, a May graduate in biology from Azle;
  • Simon Mbanefo, a graduate student in environmental science from Akili Ozizor, Nigeria;
  • Quincy Nakamura, a junior biology major from Renton, Wash.;
  • Heather Ogle, a junior environmental science major from Canyon;
  • Afolarin Olatunbosun, a graduate student in environmental science from Ogbomoso, Nigeria;
  • Grayson Pool, a senior environmental science major from Sherman;
  • Kara Ramirez, a senior biology/pre-vet major from Andrews; and
  • Bentli VeneKlasen, a May graduate in biology from Amarillo.

The study was made possible in part with funding from several Killgore research grants, said WT.

For the latest Amarillo news and regional updates, check with and tune in to KAMR Local 4 News at 5:00, 6:00, and 10:00 p.m. and Fox 14 News at 9:00 p.m. CST.