Hydrilla. 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.
Every year, my coworker Lenny Croote and I survey a lake selected by APIPP to make sure waters are invasive free. Invasive plants disrupt the ecosystem, devalue shoreline property, interfere with fishing and swimming, and are expensive to manage. We attend APIPP’s annual summer training sessions to learn about new invaders on the horizon and fine tune our identification skills. At the June session, APIPP’s Erin Vennie-Vollrath and Scott taught a packed house the adverse impacts, pathway vectors, and biology of aquatic invasive plants.
Erin explained that invasive species are one of the top threats to the quality and health of Adirondack lands and waters and the livelihoods of the communities they support. Early detection of invasive species infestations provides the best opportunity for successful management and control. The APIPP Aquatic Invasive Species Project provides a search and report method to document aquatic invasive species in the Adirondack region.
Scott highlighted a few high priority invasive plants. An up and coming invader, Hydrilla, is a serious threat. Currently found in the Erie Canal, Ithaca, and a few other New York State waterbodies, Hydrilla is the Godzilla of invasive plants and clogs waterbodies. Reproduction occurs through tubers that survive freezing and dredging. In a laboratory setting, the plant grows a foot a day.
Lenny and I made our way over to picnic tables that displayed aquatic invasive plant specimens. We examined each plant and honed our ID skills. Specimens were floated in containers to show off special features. This was an excellent refresher for us. At the end of the training, we caught up with Erin and she selected Limekiln Lake in Inlet for our survey.
Fast forward to a frigid, showery day in late August that Lenny (ahem!) chose as our survey date. We piled into the motor boat with a rake, GPS, map of Limekiln Lake, plant identification books, and a bucket to float suspicious plants in for a better look. We took turns navigating the boat along the shoreline in a zig-zag pattern. We used the rake toss method for our survey. A rake attached to a length of rope was repeatedly tossed into the water, hoisted back into the boat, and tines were inspected for invasive plants.
We pulled in a lot of clams that day. Too bad I didn’t think to bring the mini grill. Or my rain coat.
The majority of the lake was surveyed before we had to head back to the office. We were thrilled that we did not find any invasive plants. A little slow on the uptake, I finally got around to filling out the data sheets in October and Lenny created a survey area map that we sent to APIPP for their records.
I asked Erin how this year’s volunteer monitoring season went. She said the data for this summer is still rolling in, but so far 106 volunteers have surveyed 72 lakes. Every summer, APIPP typically has had over 200 volunteers survey over 100 lakes for aquatic invasive species.
Erin also said how grateful she is for APIPP’s dedicated group of volunteers, lake associations and partners who keep watchful eyes out for new aquatic invasive species infestations. The number of ‘invasive-free’ lakes surveyed by APIPP volunteers and partner staff is more than two times that of infested lakes. A real opportunity exists in the Adirondacks to protect widespread degradation by aquatic invasive species.
The survey data provides information about the waterbodies that invaders have and have not invaded, and infestation severity. This data is important when prioritizing what species to manage, selecting specific management techniques, and implementing rapid response plans that involve passionate citizens and partner organizations to stomp out invasive species from the Adirondacks.
I look forward to our lake survey every year, even when the weather is crummy. It feels awesome to be part of this group of volunteers who are passionate about protecting their lakes from aquatic invasive plants. What makes things even sweeter is when rake tines are completely void of invaders.
Tips For Stopping The Spread of Aquatic Invasives
* Check, Drain, Dry:
– Check boat, motor, trailer, and gear for invaders before leaving the boat launch and remove all plants, animals, and mud. Throw away in the garbage or on dry land away from the water body.
– Drain bilge water, live wells, bait buckets, motor, and ballast tanks at the launch.
– Dry boat, trailer, and gear for at least 5 days before launching into another water body. If possible, hose everything down with a high pressure washer or at a boat or car wash.
* Visit a boat inspection and decontamination station and have your watercraft checked for invasives and washed by a steward of the Paul Smith’s Adirondack Watershed Institute.
* Sign up for APIPP’s volunteer monitoring program by contacting Erin Vennie-Vollrath at 518-576-2082 x 119, [email protected].
* Learn more about Hamilton County’s aquatic invasive plants by contacting the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District: 518-548-3991, www.hcswcd.com.
Photos: Above, Limekiln Lake; middle, Caitlin Stewart checks Limekiln Lake for invasive plants by tossing a rake attached to a length of rope into the water, hoisting it back into the boat, and inspecting the tines for suspicious plants; and below, Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Lenny Croote inspects a rake for invasive plants during a survey of Limekiln Lake.