By Nicolas Brulliard
For more than four decades, Jill Baron has studied the changes to the air and water quality of a small corner of Rocky Mountain National Park, and her research exposed one of the biggest threats to the park’s alpine ecosystems.
On a blue-sky spring day, Jill Baron, a petite 69-year-old, inflated her packraft on the snow-covered shore of The Loch, an alpine lake in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park. When she was done, we hopped in and rowed toward a barely visible buoy in the middle of the lake, which is part of the Loch Vale watershed. Once there, Baron dropped a pancake-sized device called a Secchi disk into the water to measure the lake’s transparency, an indication of the amount of sediment or phytoplankton.
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