CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – This week, Cambridge Central School District was acknowledged for an environmental science program that has chronicled years of ecological change – and led to students saving a dog’s life earlier this year. The subject of the program: Tiny bacteria living in nearby Hedges Lake.

On Thursday, Cambridge students received the Champions of Change Award from the New York State School Boards Association. The award is bestowed annually to a New York State school board member who is leading school programs that break ground in an innovative way. Cambridge’s innovation of choice is the Hedges Lake water quality testing program, operated by teacher Steve Butz.

The program leads students through the process of testing water at the small local lake for Anabaena, a form of cyanobacteria that can produce harmful toxins, such as anatoxin and microcystin. Those toxins can cause neurological damage if ingested.

That factor could have proved fatal earlier this year for Belle, a dog owned by Hedges Lake resident Marilyn Woodard. Woodard connected with Butz and his program on Facebook, and the resident credits information about the program for saving her dog’s life after the pet entered water containing what was later learned to be a harmful algal bloom of exactly the type that the program studies.

Butz and his current students in the program met on Thursday on the dock that the school uses as a biopreserve site. The students there to be commended are only the latest. Online, data from the program’s findings run back as far as 2006, including dissolved oxygen rates, pH balance levels, temperature and many other factors.