Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan, and one of the oldest lakes in the world. With a total area of about 670 km 2 and a history of over 4 million years, the lake is home to over 1700 species of aquatic life (60 of which are thought to be endemic) and acts as an important source of domestic water for about 14 million people that live in the Kansai region. Recent anthropogenic developments, however, has led to major deterioration in the lake’s health: the cessation of total circulation that led to sever anoxia of the bottom waters; introduction of invasive species resulting in a collapse of the local ecosystem; improper disposal of wastes causing eutrophication and pollution of lake waters; poorly planned developments that are greatly reducing the habitats of wildlife; etc.… At Biwako trust, we believe that it is our duty to protect and preserve the rich ecosystem for many generations to come. Since our foundation in 2008, we have thrived to promote environmental education and research with our partners to raise awareness and help protect the ecosystem of the lake. To achieve our goals, we have been engaged in: (1) Environmental education for families; (2) Supporting and conducting environmental research at the lake; and (3) Hosting STEAM program under the support of the Japanese Science and Technology Agency (JST). Our environmental education events are open to families interested in learning about Lake Biwa and the related ecosystems. In the past, we have hosted nature walks to old-growth forests northwest of the lake, plankton viewing programs on the Megumi recreational vessel, and provided opportunities to experience biodiversity survey at the lake
shores. All these events have contributed to raising environmental awareness especially among young people.
The Biwako trust owns and operates the research vessel Hakken and have been actively involved in lake research and supported external researchers conduct experiments at the lake. Some examples of our research include long term monitoring of lake water qualities and tracking water currents at the lake. In the summer of 2021, we deployed three autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to survey the endangered planarians that are endemic and live in the lake bottom. In addition to research on the lake, we have also conducted research in the surrounding areas. Our study on the types of wastes such as plastics that are drifted along the lake shores is a prime example. Our STEAM program (Junior Doctor program) runs parallel to some of our research activities and is supported by the JST. Here, we give monthly lectures and support research projects of primary and junior high school students. Many of their research are related to the lake environment and we allow students to board Hakken to assist in our research and have students conduct their own studies. In the past, we have also had the students take part in the unmanned solar boat race at Lake Biwa and participate in the International Society of Limnology (SIL) conference. Some of our graduated students are now successfully studying science in universities and are helping us run this program.
The future generations deserve to receive the ecosystem services surrounding lakes. The Biwako trust will continue to provide education to the public and conduct research to help preserve them.