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.

Preliminary Summer 2012 Data Analysis

Sarah DePillo ’14, 2012 Watercraft Steward Program Intern

This summer I was given the incredible opportunity to work on the brand new Finger Lakes Institute Watercraft Steward Program which is an effort focused on preventing the spread and introduction of invasive species and educating the public on the issue throughout the Finger Lakes region and on Lake Ontario. My specific role in the program included acting as a coordinator for the stewards, maintaining the program blog, and collecting and analyzing data that was initially collected by the stewards. As a William Smith Student working towards a degree focused in Environmental Policy, the watercraft steward program provided solid experience and insight into the nature and challenges of environmental policy on a local and regional level.

An article describing the workings of the Watercraft Steward Program and the current invasive species legislative efforts was included in the Finger Lakes Institute’s July Newsletter. In essence, the Watercraft Steward Program placed trained individuals at launches throughout the Finger Lakes and on Lake Ontario throughout the summer beginning in late May. The occupied launches were on the seven eastern Finger Lakes (Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, and Otisco), and two southern Lake Ontario bays (Sodus bay and Little Sodus bay). The stewards worked five days each week at the launches cleaning people’s boats of any attached weeds or other organisms, and keeping a special eye out for invasive species. Permission from boaters was required for all inspections as there does not currently exist any legislation requiring people to have their boats inspected for invasive species. In addition to visual inspections, the stewards provided verbal education and educational materials to the boaters who were interested. Although not all people allowed their boats to be inspected, the vast majority did, and even those who did not became more aware of the issue via the presence of the steward in itself. In addition to inspecting boats and educating boaters at launches, the stewards attended various local events in order to conduct further public outreach and education.

The stewards also collected data for each boat that entered and exited the launches, and this data was submitted daily to the Finger Lakes Institute for analysis. This data can be used to track several different trends which can aid in the placement of watercraft stewards in future program efforts and also help to gauge the methods and places by and from which invasive species are most likely spread in the instances that they are spread. The Table below shows a summarized analysis of data collected at seven different launch sites between May 24th and July 31st 2012. Over 18,000 lake users on over 7,000 boats came into contact with an FLI Watercraft Steward during this time period alone (the program continues through the end of boating season in October) and at only seven of the seventeen launches that were sporadically occupied throughout the season. Approximately 96.1 percent of the 7,134 boats were licensed in New York State, so the immediate citizen impact was majorly within New York. Only 14.6 percent of the 7,134 total boats were found to be carrying aquatic plants or other organisms, and they were not all invasive plants. This data does not reflect the entire boating season and therefore the FLI Watercraft Steward Program has reached an even greater number of people since the end of July. These numbers are encouraging and demonstrate a significant and necessary presence reminding lake users to care responsibly for their lakes via the cleaning of their watercrafts.

Senator Gillibrand Targets Invasives

On August 9th, 2012, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Penn Yan, N.Y. to announce new legislation regarding invasive species which will greatly assist those who work daily to prevent the introduction, spread, and establishment of invasive species into our delicate ecosystems. Representatives from the Finger Lakes Institute’s Watercraft Steward Program were present for the speech, which took place at Indian Pines Park on the shore Keuka Lake, to learn of the exciting news and to show support for the effort. Also present were Lynn Thurston, chair of the Finger Lakes Regional Watershed Alliance;Chuck O’Neill, coordinator of invasive species programs for Cornell Cooperative Extension; representatives from several lake associations; and many other concerned citizens. Both Thurston and O’Neill spoke to regional invasive species issues and actions following the legislative announcement.

Senator Gillibrand announced a three-part plan which targets key issues and will be a powerful force in combating invasive species on all fronts as the fight continues. The first part addresses Harmful Algal Bloom concerns. Blue – green alga, a type of Harmful Algal Bloom, is unfortunately common in areas of Sodus Bay and has been reported to cause neurological problems in pets and humans. Because little is known about the algal blooms other than that they do pose a high risk to human health, Gillibrand is sponsoring the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Control Amendment Act, which will require the development of a national strategy for dealing with the algal blooms.

Second in Gillibrand’s plan is a response to the current and urgent threat of Asian Carp moving towards the Great Lakes. The presence of these large fish in the Great Lakes could potentially eliminate several species of native fish, simultaneously blowing a hole through the multi-billion dollar Great Lakes fishing industry. Senator Gillibrand is calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a study on preventing this spread of Asian Carp by October. A potential option mentioned by Gillibrand involves a physical barrier separating Chicago waterways from Lake Michigan.

The third and final aspect of Gillibrand’s plan, and possibly the most important, is to provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with greater capabilities to prevent the entry of invasive species into the U.S. This will be accomplished by requiring the establishment of an “injurious-species listing process.” This type of listing will provide invasive species-related authorities with a more clear reference for enforcement purposes. Additionally, the new listing process will be useful in the future reporting and research of invasive species

Senator Gillibrand’s specific attention to invasive species efforts is a victory in itself and a step in the right direction towards more effective legislative tools. In supporting and enacting this legislation, Senator Gillibrand is supporting the continued use of our precious lakes, the economies supported by lake use, and a healthy environment.

Take a look at this Finger Lakes Times article by Jim Miller (published 8/10/12) which provides further detail on Senator Gillibrand’s visit to Penn Yan.

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Photos by Sarah Meyer

WSP Featured in Democrat and Chronicle

The Finger Lakes Institute Watercraft Steward Program was recently featured in the Democrat and Chronicle; on the front page! The July 4th, 2012 article by Steve Orr highlighted many aspects of our invasive species monitoring program by describing a typical boat inspection, introducing a few of the stewards and their locations, and interviewing an actual boater.

In addition to outlining the Watercraft Steward Program, Orr’s article provided an update on the current hydrilla battle in the Cayuga Inlet at the South end of Cayuga Lake. In late June, an herbicide treatment was applied to the hydrilla in hopes of controlling its spread and eventually eradicating it from the lake. The success of the treatment cannot be determined anytime soon and will likely need to be repeated.

The Finger Lakes Institute was thrilled to be given the newspaper’s spotlight for a day, because the more people that know what the stewards are trying to do, the better. If people understand who the stewards are and that what they are doing is a good thing, then their job of protecting the lakes becomes that much easier.

Read the Full Article  at http://fliresource.wikispaces.com/file/view/D+and+C.pdf

Invasive Species Education Targets Children

My name is Alessandro Valle, and I am one of the FLI Watercraft Stewards. Recently, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the Kids’ Fishing Day which took place June 23 on Oak Island in Waterloo, NY,  sponsored by the Finger Lakes Conservation Club.

In order to provide more information to the community about what our program is about and some of the invasive species that are found in the Finger Lakes, I set up a table at the event, with the program intern, Sarah DePillo.  We had samples of quagga mussels and asian clam under magnifying lenses for the children to get a closer look. We also had a display board to give a bit more information about some of the invasive species.

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Parents who were waiting for their kids to finish registering or getting their equipment were able to talk with us about some of the invasives they have seen or heard about. It was a good chance for them to give us direct feedback on any concerns or questions they had about what they’ve seen in the lakes they access most frequently.  In addition to invasive species that many people knew about, there also were some that we had brought with us that not everyone was familiar with in the Finger Lakes region.  Community members who had heard about Hydrilla had questions and wanted to be able to identify it in case they come across a plant that looks similar to it when they’re out on their lake.  With laminated samples, photographs of infested sites, and pamphlets to distribute, it was a great feeling to know people were interested in our program and stewards and could turn to us with their questions.

This event was beneficial in that community members will know why the FLI Watercraft Steward Program is in place in the Finger Lakes region.  This first season has already given us a lot of insight into what works best for different aspects of the program.  The Kids’ Fishing Day was a great success, not only for us, but for community in general.  Over 200 kids showed up this year with their families and they enjoyed the great day, not to mention there was no shortage of fish being caught.  The Stewards will be out at their posts into September, so feel free to ask them questions or voice some concerns.

We would like to thank the Finger Lakes Conservation Club for allowing us to take part in such a great event and being immensely helpful to us; events that bring together communities while tying in education are very important.