Almanack Contributor Caitlin Stewart

Caitlin Stewart

Caitlin Stewart is Conservation Educator at the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (HCSWCD). One of HCSWCD’s largest programs is their Invasive Species program and Caitlin will be sharing her field experiences, as well as the efforts and results of forest surveys, and monitoring and management.

Caitlin has deep roots in Hamilton County as both her grandparents purchased property on Sacandaga Lake and Lake Pleasant in the 1960s. Her parents met and were married in Lake Pleasant, and she spent summers and vacations there. She’s been a full time resident since 2008 and is an avid hiker, skier, paddler, runner and biker.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Moffitt Beach Campground Invasive Species Survey

Tom Colarusso and I teamed up for an invasive insect forest survey on a sunny, warm January day.  Tom is a Plant Protection and Quarantine Officer for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.  We survey one campground a year for invasive insects, and his expertise has fueled my understanding of these hungry bugs.

We headed to Moffitt Beach Campground to check trees for hungry bugs like Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), emerald ash borer (EAB), and hemlock woolly Adelgid (HWA). » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

9th Graders Become Beetle Busters

The Beetle Busters of Indian Lake Central School learned how to check trees for invasive Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer. During National Invasive Species Awareness Week, I had the good fortune to teach Indian Lake Central School’s 9th graders how to become beetle busters. On February 22, they discovered how invasive insects can cause economic, ecologic, and societal harm. For this lesson, we zeroed in on emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.

The class already had a solid understanding of what invasive species are because their teacher Sandra Bureau had been incorporating invasive species curriculum into their studies since September. Hands shot up when I asked for a definition. I detailed that Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer probably hitched a ride from Asia to the United States in wood packing crates. Without the ecological checks and balances found on their home turf, they reproduce rapidly. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Lake Pleasant Green Infrastructure Demonstration Projects

This rain garden is a landscaped depression that captures and absorbs stormwater from the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District’s driveway and roof. My coworkers and I completed the installation of green infrastructure demonstration projects at the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District office in Lake Pleasant including a rain garden, a bioswale and two rain barrels.

Local homeowners and municipalities have the opportunity to see the benefits of stormwater pollution prevention practices. The projects are designed to protect and preserve water quality as essential aspects of public health, a vibrant local economy and a flourishing ecosystem. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On The Search For Invasive Species At Limekiln Lake

Limekiln LakeHydrilla. Eurasian watermilfoil. Parrot feather. Yellow floating heart. I listened to the captivating and often funny Scott Kishbaugh of the Department Environmental Conservation go through 14 aquatic invasive plants at the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program’s Aquatic Invasive Plant Identification and Survey Techniques training. This past June, the Speculator Pavilion was packed with eager volunteers excited to survey their lakes for invasive plants that cause economic, ecologic, and societal harm. The four-hour workshop gave us the education we need to scope out invaders in ponds, rivers, and lakes. » Continue Reading.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Forest Pest Surveying: The Next Generation

Tom and Lenny use binoculars to scan tree bark for invasive insect exit holes.  Emerald ash borer exit holes are shaped like a D while Asian longhorned beetle exit holes are round and the size of a dime.  Forests, the final frontier. These are the voyages of forest pest surveyors. They’re lifelong mission: to explore strange new woodlands, to seek out invasive insects and pests that harm trees, to boldly go where no pest surveyor has gone before.

Invasive insects are to conservationists like Romulans are to Vulcans. Emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid, and balsam woolly adelgid threaten the economy with costly tree removal, environment with adverse impacts to forest health, and public safety with dead limbs that fall on cars and homes. They found their way from their Eurasian home range to the United States in nursery stock and wood packing materials. Without the natural checks and balances found on their home turf, they reproduce as fast as tribbles. Forest pest surveys are important because early detection leads to rapid response and better management options. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 15, 2014

On The Lookout For Invasive Species

Eurasian watermilfoil is an aquatic invasive plant that spreads by fragmentation to form dense populations.   This summer and fall, by land and by water, I was on the lookout for invasive insects at the Sacandaga Campground and invasive plants in Lake Algonquin.  Surveys are one component of a suite of tools that help protect the Adirondacks’ natural resources.  When infestations are detected in their early stages, fast action can be taken for management or even eradication.

Invasive species cost the United States billions of dollars each year.  Without the checks and balances found on their home turf, they can rapidly reproduce to outcompete native species.  Invasive insects can threaten maple syrup and baseball bat production, nurseries, agriculture, and forest health.  Infested trees are costly to remove and limbs may fall on power lines, homes, or cars.  Aquatic invasive plants can degrade water quality, inhibit boating, and overrun fish habitat. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Caitlin Stewart: Making a Dent in Purple Loosestrife

Purple LoosestrifeSince 2003, I have been battling purple loosestrife, an invasive plant that may be gorgeous but overruns wetlands, and outcompetes native plants that wildlife and waterfowl depend on for food, shelter, and nesting grounds. After 11 years of manual management, populations along the Route 8 and Route 30 corridors in Hamilton County have decreased. This is good news for native plants that fill in areas where invasive purple loosestrife used to grow.

This August I focused on rights-of-way along Routes 8 and 30 in the Town of Lake Pleasant and the Village of Speculator. I snipped each flower with garden clippers before plants went to seed for reproduction. All plant material was bagged and allowed to liquefy in the sun before being delivered to a transfer station.

It is exciting to fight invasive plants for over a decade and see promising results like this. Manual management is tedious, but persistent efforts have helped stop the spread of purple loosestrife and remove these invaders from the environment. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In Hamilton County, A Giant Hogweed Alert

Giant hogweed has white, umbrella-shaped flowers.  Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.  It was a hot August day and Lenny and I had the truck windows rolled down as we hunted for a home address in Speculator. We were following up on the identification of a poisonous invasive plant.

“I bet it’s cow parsnip,” said Lenny.

“That’s the house number. Turn here,” I pointed.

I hopped out and gaped at the plant. It towered above my height of 5 feet 9 inches. The leaves were enormous. I walked up to take a closer look saw hairy stems blotched with purple.

“It’s giant hogweed,” frowned Lenny. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Forest Management Plans: A Win-Win

Adirondack Forest and FieldGot Woods? If so, there may be a way for you to maximize your woodlot and maybe even your wallet. Funds are available through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) to help landowners with the development of a Forest Management Plan for their properties.

Zack Hanan of the Town of Hope, Hamilton County, recently applied for a Forest Management Plan and described the application process as quite easy with guidance from Tom Bielli, District Conservationist, United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Zack provided Tom the goals for his property and they worked together to develop a management plan. Meaningful information was provided about Zack’s woodlands that he was not aware of and he learned about numerous opportunities for improvements. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Invasives In Winter: A Trip To Lake Durant

binocularsOn a frigid morning in late December, I teamed up with a good friend and hiked the Lake Durant campground in Indian Lake in search of aliens. We were not on the lookout for little green martians, but invasive insects.

I met Tom Colarusso of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the campground parking lot. It was a windy day and the vehicle swayed a little as I dug around the back seat in search of my hat and gloves.

I was armed with a GPS system to document coordinates in case something suspicious was found, and tucked a pen and pad into my pocket for notes. Tom looped a pair of binoculars around his neck and then we were off. 2013 marked our fifth year of teaming up to survey Hamilton County’s forested areas for alien invaders like Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Surveying Adirondack Lakes for Aquatic Invaders

rake tossOver the last decade, I have monitored many lakes in Hamilton County for aquatic invasive plants.  I feel a sense of stewardship to these lakes because paddling, camping, swimming, fishing, and skiing are important aspects to my lifestyle that allow me to distress, reconnect, and stay healthy.  Invasive plant infestations can crowd out native aquatic plants that fish rely on for food and shelter; make boating and paddling unenjoyable; and be costly to manage. I survey lakes because I find it enjoyable and my efforts protect water quality.

This year my co-worker Lenny and I checked Spy Lake for invaders on two glorious September afternoons.  We were on the lookout for plants like Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, fanwort, and curlyleaf pondweed.  The inventory was in accordance with the survey instructions of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program’s Aquatic Invasive Species Project. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Monitoring Sacandaga Lake For Invasive Species

Eurasian watermilfoil can hitchhike to new lakes on boat motors.  The voice of the woman on the other end of the phone was laden with concern.  She called to report a possible infestation of Eurasian watermilfoil in the outlet of Sacandaga Lake, just past the Route 8 bridge in Lake Pleasant.  I took down her contact information and told her I would check it out.

That evening, my husband and I loaded up his Carolina Skiff with a glass jar full of water to collect a plant sample, a cooler to keep the sample cold, and an aquatic plant identification book.  The sky was streaked with ominous clouds against a low, red sun, and the boat ride would have been enjoyable if I were not so anxious to get to the plant bed.  Images of benthic mats and hand harvesting SCUBA divers flashed before my eyes, and my thoughts turned to the expensive cost of milfoil management that could take years to successfully eradicate.  According to a 2003 study, New York State spends an estimated $500,000 to control Eurasian watermilfoil each year. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Piseco Students Get An Invasive Species Lesson

3Young students knock my socks off with their ability to grasp new concepts! I delved into the world of the emerald ash borer, a nasty invasive insect, with third, fourth and fifth graders of Piseco’s After School Program. When I asked how many students heard of the emerald ash borer, none raised their hand. By the end of the interactive program, they understood its life cycle, listed invasion clues, and knew how to stop its spread. Talk about a class of intelligent students!

The program kicked off with some nitty gritty definitions. I asked the students what they thought the differences were between native and invasive species. They knew that native organisms are ones that have been in the Adirondacks for a long period of time, and invasive organisms are ones that cause harm to the environment, economy, or society. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Invasive Insects: Checking The Trees for Invaders

Surveying trees for signs and symptoms of invasive insects.Back in November, Tom Colarusso of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service asked me if I would like to join forces to organize and host an invasive insect forest survey workshop.

I thought this was an excellent idea. I whipped-up some posters and sent some promotional emails.  Fourteen concerned land owners and agency professionals came from as far away as Albany and Ray Brook for the workshop held at the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District’s office in Lake Pleasant.
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Invasives: An Asian Longhorned Beetle Scare

I remember sifting through my work emails on a morning in June when my eyes popped to the subject, “Possible invasive Asian longhorned beetle spotted.”

The email was sent from Kavya Pradhan, the summer intern at the Irondequoit Inn in Piseco, NY who I had the pleasure of meeting earlier that week.  As a college student, Kavya is interested in invasive species, and scheduled a meeting with Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District staff to discuss partnership opportunities.  I assembled a packet of invasive species educational materials for her. » Continue Reading.


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