Stewards Pull Together Against AIS!

by Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

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Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant
Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

The Finger Lakes Institute Watercraft Stewards got their hands a little dirty on Wednesday August 14th, at the Montezuma Audubon Center (MAC) in Savannah, NY. Located on Route 89, the Montezuma Audubon Center is a state-owned facility on 198 acres of land that is operated through an agreement between the NYSDEC and the National Audubon Society. It is a part of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, which is a globally significant bird area that supports rest areas during migration, raising young and during breeding.

As part of their continued training and education through the Finger Lakes Institute Watercraft Steward Program, the stewards had the opportunity to physically handle Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) and help with Montezuma’s continued eradication efforts against this aquatic invasive plant. Venturing out into canoes, the Watercraft Stewards paddled the Seneca River around Howland’s Island and Haiti Island helping to remove approximately 4,800 pounds of Water Chestnut. They worked alongside staff members Wildlife Biologist Scott Stipetich, Montezuma Audubon Center Education Manager Chris Lajewski, and 19 other volunteers.

Introduced into the Finger Lakes region in the 50’s, hand-pulling volunteer efforts such as this one have proved to greatly reduce the amount of Water Chestnut across the Montezuma Wetlands Complex. If not controlled and maintained, invasive plants such as Water Chestnut have the ability to choke out waterways decreasing food and shelter availability for wildlife, and even hindering recreational activities including swimming, fishing, and boating.

This event was part of MARSH, Montezuma Alliance for the Restoration of Species & Habitats, a volunteer program through the Montezuma Wetlands Complex Project that is dedicated to controlling invasive species. It strives to work towards increasing native species, as invasive species are less beneficial and more harmful to Montezuma habitats.

Are you interested in getting involved and protecting Montezuma’s Wetlands Complex? These workdays are free and open to the public, but plan on getting a little dirty! View the following link for their upcoming volunteer events, and be sure to sign up in advance! There is plenty to do, so get involved!

For information about the Montezuma Audubon Center and their upcoming education programs, visit http://ny.audubon.org/montezuma.

Engaging Diverse Audiences to Prevent AIS

by Alex Gatch, FLI 2013 Watercraft Steward

Alex Gatch
Alex Gatch

Community outreach is one of the most important aspects of the Steward program. Collecting and disposing of samples is a necessary part of the job, however, enlightening and teaching the community about invasive species plays just as an important role. I have had the opportunity to serve in two community outreach events this summer. These included the Finger Lakes International Dragon Boat Festival and the Celebrate Cayuga Lake Event at the  Ithaca Farmers Market, of which both were held on Cayuga Lake.

The FL International Dragon Boat Festival on Cayuga Lake is a festival in which dragon boats are raced through the canal by local and non-local paddle teams. The eight dragon boats that were rented and used in the race came from Philadelphia. Thus, not being “native” boats, myself and fellow steward Kristen, were given the task to inspect the boats as they were taken from their trailer and launched into the Cayuga Inlet. The boats ended up being clean of any invasive species. While we found nothing of concern on or in the dragon boats, it was still a valuable experience to inform the surrounding crowd, as well as the company who supplied the boats, as to what we were doing and why it was important.

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The Celebrate Cayuga Lake Event at the Ithaca Farmers Market offered a bit of a different experience. At the event, FLI WSP Intern Hilary Gove and I were able to provide community outreach by way of posters, informational handouts, and by conversations. Hilary and I talked to the community about various invasive species, how to prevent them from spreading, and how to identify them. Talking to locals on the canal that holds the world’s worst invasive (Hydrilla), was time well spent. Locals seemed to have abundant knowledge about the invasives and were motivated to get involved.

Though the FLI Watersteward Program has served as a summer job for me, it was also a fundamental step in my education and in the understanding of the relationship between the environment and the community. Without the natural environment, the quality of our community would be hindered. Thus, through community outreach and engagement, we as Water craft Stewards are able to provide a critical link between the community and the environment.

Hydrilla in Cayuga Lake Inlet- Two Year Anniversary

by Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant
Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

This mid-August marks the two-year anniversary of the Hydrilla verticillata detection in the Cayuga Lake Inlet by a staff member of the Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom (Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program, 2012). The Cayuga Lake Inlet is located between Treman State Marine Park and the Route 89 Bridge in Ithaca, New York.

For those of you who are are unfamiliar with Hydrilla verticillata, or commonly known as ‘hydrilla,’ this is an extremely aggressive aquatic invasive that is considered to be one of the world’s worst invasive species. In fact, infestations are capable of altering the physical and chemical characteristics of lakes, as it causes impacts such as producing in extremely thick mats that obstruct recreation, block sunlight for native plants, and decrease waterfowl feeding areas (Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program, 2012). Figure 1 illustrates a close up look at this extremely hardy aquatic invasive plant that makes recreation in a waterbody nearly impossible once it has become established. Try swimming through that! Gross!

Figure 1: Taken from www.nyis.org. Close-up of Hydrilla. Photo: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org
Figure 1: Taken from http://www.nyis.org. Close-up of Hydrilla. Photo: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org

Native to Southeast Asia, hydrilla was first imported into the United States as an aquarium plant, which was later believed to have been released into the wild through an aquarium dump during the 1950’s in Florida (Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program, 2012). Hydrilla has been listed as a noxious weed since 1979 on the USDA’s Federal Noxious Weed List and is illegal to sell/buy in the United States (Menninger, 2011).

Soon after its discovery in 2011, the Hydrilla Task Force formed to research the risks and possible responses of this invasive, involve agencies at all levels of government and interested parties, make recommendations to those that could carry out action, and to provide extensive outreach and education in the Cayuga Lake Watershed. A follow up survey in late August 2011 by aquatic biologist Robert Johnson found roughly 6-8 acres of dense hydrilla mats located in high boat traffic areas of the Cayuga Inlet (Menninger, 2011).

This location represented a concern for the potential of increasing the spread of Hydrilla due to recreational disturbance, as fragments are easily caught on boat propellers and further dispersed. In Fighting Hydrilla in Cayuga Inlet 2011, the City of Ithaca declared an emergency and the decision to use herbicides was not made lightly (Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County). The Inlet remained closed for about two weeks to conduct the October 2011 herbicide application of Endothall, as well as reduce disturbance by boat traffic. Use of the Inlet for drinking water was restricted for 14 days within 600 feet of the application site. Endothall levels were continually monitored until they were undetectable by the Tompkins County Department of Health as well as the City of Ithaca.

With its first year, it was found that the Endothall application, which was applied 4 different times, killed approximately 95% of the plants biomass above the soil level (which is very good). This bought some time as the Hydrilla Task Force continued to meet throughout the winter months as they drafted an initial 2012 Hydrilla Work Plan. The 2011 herbicide proved to be successful, so they continued a reapplication of Endothall on June 26th, 2012. To increase the effectiveness of eradication in the second year, another herbicide known as Fluridone was applied from July 12th to October 31st in 2012 at very low levels. This additional herbicide assisted in hindering plant growth by killing the roots and tubers. Combined with these efforts, trained volunteers and professionals helped monitor the infestation for any new populations before, during and after these applications.

Figure 2: Invasion Curve (image from Southwest Montana Science Partnership's Module on Plants and Pollinators
Figure 2: Invasion Curve (image from Southwest Montana Science Partnership’s Module on Plants and Pollinators

When infestations such as these are analyzed for action, the Invasion Curve is used by organizations to determine the most sensible action. This Invasion Curve (Figure 2) illustrates introduction of an invasive plant, animal, or insect and its feasibility of eradication over time. As you can see, the longer an invasive species is established over time the eradication feasibility continues to decrease. Fortunately, this hydrilla infestation was detected early enough where eradication was still possible and feasible. There was no sign of Hydrilla in the south end of Cayuga Lake, as the infestation just reached to the mouth of the Inlet (Menninger, 2011).

This past July 16th 2013 was the first Endothall treatment of the 2013 season and was applied in the Cayuga Inlet, the Flood Control Channel, the Treman Marina, and the lower reaches of Cascadilla and Six Mile Creeks. After 24 hours they reopened the Cayuga Inlet on July 17th, 2013 at 8 am, and the first water quality results have since been published. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District, Tompkins County Health Department, and the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility will continue to work together in the Enthodall Water Quality Monitoring over the next few weeks. Be sure to sign up and receive hydrilla email updates if you are interested.

So, although this eradication is claimed to be still feasible, how much did this treatment cost you may ask? The Endothall treatment this year was contracted to cost $104,140, and the proposed herbicide Fluridone is contracted to cost between $234,267 and $309,109 according to James Balyszak, Program Manager of the Hydrilla Task Force. The expenses for the treatments will be covered by a mix of federal and state funding. He said that these estimated numbers are high due to the inlet’s flow that disperses the herbicide more quickly (Casler, 2013). However, left untreated the problem would cost even more.

So How Can You Help?
It is extremely important to become part of the solution by taking the necessary precautions in Cleaning, Draining, and Drying your boat! Also, properly dispose of water weeds away from the watershed on dry land to prevent fragments or seeds making their way back into the lake.

You should also become familiar with the characteristics of Hydrilla, and report Hydrilla suspects to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and to attend future Hydrilla events and volunteer opportunities!

Lastly, strike up a conversation with your local FLI Watercraft Steward! Visit Alex who is working this summer at Taughannock Falls State Park and Allen Treman Marine State Park boat launches to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species such as Hydrilla!

Upcoming Hydrilla Trainings-
Aquatic Invasive Species Trainings:
The Cayuga County Department of Planning and Economic Development along with Watershed Assessment Associates, LLC and the Finger Lakes Institute will be holding five aquatic invasive species identification training workshops for the public across the Finger Lakes in July. These trainings are free, open to the public, watershed associations, watershed officials and agency personnel. Participants will learn how to identify invasive aquatic plants and animals through presentations and hands-on activities. They will also learn what to do if they find a species of concern. Details

  • July 22nd: 6 pm, Cayuga Lake Watershed Network Offices, 2nd Floor, Zabriskie Hall, Aurora
  • July 23rd: 1 pm, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Meeting Room A, Ithaca
  • July 23rd: 6 pm, Finger Lakes Institute, Geneva
  • July 24th: 10 am, Yates County Office Building- Auditorium, Penn Yan
  • July 24th: 6 pm, First Presbyterian Church, Skaneateles

Hydrilla Hunt Webinar: On Friday, July 26 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the New York Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) will present a webinar to instruct volunteers on the skills needed to identify Hydrilla verticillata (hydrilla). The webinar will kick off the Hydrilla Hunt on Friday, July 26, at 2:00 pm. Participants can join the webinar. Sign in with your name and email.  The password is Hydri11a (using the number 1 not the letter l).

Works Cited
Casler, A. (2013, July 7). Problematic plant threatens lakes. Democrat and Chronicle , p. 1b & 7b.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Invasive Species Program. (2012, October 3). Hydrilla. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse: http://www.nyis.info/?action=invasive_detail&id=16

Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County. (n.d.). Herbicides In Use. Retrieved from Cornell Cooperative Extension: http://ccetompkins.org/environment/invasive-species/herbicides-use

Menninger, H. (2011). Hydrilla verticillata in the Cayuga Inlet: A science-based review to guide management actions. NY Invasive Species Research Institute, Cornell University, 1-11. Ithaca, NY, USA. Retrieved from The New.

Summer Survey To Show Public Familiarity with AIS

by Sarah DePillo, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Intern

Sarah DePillo WS '14
Sarah DePillo WS ’14

This summer marks my second season working with the Finger Lakes Institute on their remarkably successful Watercraft Steward Program. The Watercraft Steward Program, which has recently kicked off for the summer, places trained stewards at boat launches throughout the Finger Lakes region and on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in an effort to educate boaters on aquatic invasive species issues and prevent the spread of invasive species by physically removing them from boats.

As an educational efficacy assessor for the Watercraft Steward Program, I will be spending this summer designing and administering a survey at several of the boat launches both on weekdays and weekends during the month of July. The survey is intended to measure public perceptions, attitudes towards, and knowledge of invasive species, as well as amenability and support for various management techniques and policy approaches for the overall issue of aquatic invasive species.

Some of the things that the survey is asking are attempting to understand whether the person is familiar with invasive species issues. If they are, where they are getting their information, and what their motivations are for preserving the well-being of the lakes? The survey is also asking questions regarding specific invasive species management techniques, such as transport laws that require boats to be inspected and fines for non-compliant boaters; cleaning stations at launches; the use of herbicides; and more. The survey aims to understand where the public stands on some of these issues and potential actions to resolve them.

Any person who is approached at a boat launch and asked to complete the survey may voluntarily do so as long as they are of 18 years of age. All participants will be greatly appreciated for contributing to our research, and all opinions are valued. Hopefully, the information collected about the users of Finger Lakes boat launches will be valuable both to improve the efficacy of our own Watercraft Steward Program, and also to inform local policy makers and stakeholders of the public opinion and level of involvement or interest regarding these issues.

These are our waterbodies to preserve and protect; help us to understand how we can continue to do so by indicating what you are and are not willing to support in terms of solutions!

Launch of 2013!

by Hilary Gove, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Intern

Hilary Gove, WSP Intern
Hilary Gove, WSP Intern

The Finger Lakes Institute is pleased to announce that the Watercraft Steward Program has successfully begun its second season! The boat stewards began last week with two days of training at the Finger Lakes Institute. They were trained in how to properly inspect and clean boats of aquatic life and how to identify the most harmful aquatic invasive species (AIS) known to the Finger Lakes, such as Hydrilla, Asian Clam and Round Goby. They also learned about the devastating environmental and economic costs associated with the spread of aquatic invasive species.

After training, the stewards took to the boat launches. Stewards, in the rain and shine, have been working hard since last Friday inspecting boats for aquatic invasive species and informing boaters about the consequences of aquatic hitchhikers. Their goal is to stop the movement of aquatic invasive species, which are frequently carried on watercraft and boating equipment to different launches across the Finger Lakes. In addition to cleaning boats of aquatic life, stewards have been providing interested boaters with educational materials to increase awareness of identification of AIS and encouraging self inspections to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

This season is already proving to be a great success! In just the first week of work, stewards have inspected over 1,500 boats and have reached out to over 3,600 boaters! They are actively helping prevent the spread of harmful invasives, such as Curly- Leaf Pondweed, Eurasian Watermilfoil and Zebra Mussels, by removing them from watercraft.

Throughout this 2013 season, stewards will be present on all eleven Finger Lakes as well as Irondequoit Bay and Braddock Bay, located on the southern shores of Lake Ontario. Stewards will be located at 20 boat launches across the lakes at variable times, collecting valuable data on aquatic invasive species and educating the public. Throughout the summer, stewards will attend local events, such as fishing derbies and festivals, to help further facilitate community outreach about invasive species.

Next time you are at a boat launch in the Finger Lakes, look for a steward in a red shirt and hat! Remember to STOP AQUATIC HITCHHIKERS by inspecting  (clean, drain and dry) your boat, equipment, pets,  and fishing gear!

If you are interested in learning more about aquatic invasive species identification, click here. Five free, public workshops will be offered in July across the Finger Lakes region.

Gearing up for our second season.

by Kirsten Goranowski, FLI Watercraft Steward Program Assistant

Kirsten Goranowski, WSP Assistant
Kirsten Goranowski, WSP Assistant

2013 Watercraft Steward Program Update
With the smell of spring in our midst and the boating season upon us, Finger Lakes Institute staff have been gearing up for our second year of the Watercraft Steward Program. Last year proved to be a successful year for the newly implemented program, as we covered 7 of the eastern Finger Lakes (Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, and Otisco) and two southern Lake Ontario bays (Sodus Bay and Fair Haven.) This year, we hope to increase our coverage to all eleven Finger Lakes, and move our Southern Lake Ontario monitoring sights to Irondequoit Bay and Braddock Bay. However, the start of our program has been delayed.

Last year the FLI Watercraft Steward Program had been awarded funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and was able to initiate the program for steward training in May 2012. This year, our funding is currently held up with no known date for a contract. We received many outstanding applications for our steward positions so it is disappointing to have a delay. However, we remain hopeful that funding will be in place soon and that we can begin our training and steward program.

xsmall_horizontal-sah.jpgIf you are new to our FLI Watercraft Steward Program (WSP), boaters are encouraged to learn more about aquatic invasive species (AIS) and the best preventative measures against their spread. Watercraft stewards are out on the launches over the summer interacting with the public, and stressing the importance of not transporting “Aquatic Hitchhikers” between bodies of water. Education and outreach programs like this one are extremely important, as they are the first line of defense against aquatic invasive species. With such valuable water resources around us, we must protect them for our future generations.

This past Wednesday, May 8th, it was announced that U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer recently launched a plan to create the first-ever early detection and rapid response (EDRR) grant program to increase the effectiveness of combating aquatic invasive species in new waterways. Senator Schumer’s press release states that there are currently only rapid response plans for agriculture invasive species; his bill will create a national response framework that allows multiple agencies to collaborate for invasive species that threaten our waterways. Senator Schumer stated, “For countless Upstate communities, rivers, lakes and waterways are the very lifeblood of the regional economy and central to their way of life; more must be done to respond to the myriad invasive species threats they now face.” Schumer went on to further explain in detail the economy and how it would be negatively impacted from invasive species if there were no further combined efforts.

In other news, Seneca Lake State Park has been awarded $40,000 from the New York Works Initiative, a state grant towards aiding the prevention of AIS. This funding will be used this summer and coming fall to support a project that will restore the large expanse of lawn at the park entrance into a thriving native plant ecosystem. The Finger Lakes Institute and Hobart and William Smith College students will collaborate to provide support for project initiation, assistance with plantings and seeding, and continuous management. More information can be found here. FLI Community Outreach Coordinator Sarah Meyer, explains, “The Finger Lakes Institute began partnering with Seneca Lake State Park in 2005, hosting our annual International Coastal Cleanup. This collaboration has continued with the park acting as a site to conduct research on fish and wildlife and ecological restoration, invasive species management and monitoring and environmental education.”

Collaborative efforts such these will help the Finger Lakes region increase the grasp on AIS before they have a choke-hold in and around our valuable waterways.

Please check the WSP blog frequently for newly released information regarding the status of our Watercraft Steward Program.

Questions regarding the FLI Watercraft Steward Program can be directed to program assistant Kirsten Goranowski at flisteward@hws.edu.