The Australian National University is embarking on the most comprehensive study yet of Lake George's mysterious water levels, as well as its archaeological, indigenous and European history.
Professor Brad Pillans, who learnt to ski on the lake in 1964 when it contained more water than Lake Burley Griffin, will lead the three-year study looking at the environmental and human history of the Lake George basin.
A senior fellow at the Research School of Earth Sciences, Professor Pillans said research would look at everything from fossil pollen grains preserved in sediment in the lake's bed, to mega-fauna mammals including kangaroos and wombats as big as cows.
''We want to know when humans first came to the basin, its Aboriginal people, initially,'' Professor Pillans said. ''There's also some interesting European archeology out there.
''If you have seen the recent book by Graeme Barrow (Magnificent Lake George: The Biography) there is quite a bit on European history, particularly some of the homesteads. Currandooley homestead in the 1900s must have been an impressive.''
Professor Pillans said the water and what sat under it would be investigated. Groundwater was an important source for Bungendore village. ''We are working with the sand mining companies, particularly the Canberra Sand and Gravel, using exposures in their quarry to help us understand aspects of the history.''
The quarry had uncovered exposures and sediments which could be examined in detail without having to bore holes, or keep that activity to a minimum.
''I guess we will be helping them better understand their resource,'' he said.
Professor Pillans said his work would complement earlier studies, including by other ANU researchers and Geoscience Australia. Archaeology consultants had also looked at the mysterious natural lake, which covers more than 15,580 hectares
and is 30 kilometres long. None of the work had been published.
''On the archaeological side there is a fair bit of a hole to be filled, you might say,'' he said.
''It's been pretty much 30 years since serious scientific work has been done out there. Techniques have changed. We can use a whole lot of new techniques to better understand what's there.''
The Australian Research Council, Canberra Sand and Gravel and the Osborne grazing family would fund the $420,000 project.
The partnership would allow access to sections of the lake and historical data.
''Lake George is in the minds of a lot of people in Canberra, particularly people who have lived here for a long time and remember the dramatic water fluctuations and older people like me would remember good times in boats, or fishing. It is part of our natural heritage.''