I don’t remember the first time I heard the expression, aquatic invasive species, but after interviewing river steward Liz Metzger, I have a much better idea of why it is so important that we all help prevent their intrusion into our waterways in the Adirondacks. Liz couldn’t be a better ambassador for the Ausable River Association, whose mission is helping communities protect streams and lakes, and to help care for the Ausable River watershed, an area that encompasses some 512 square miles in the Adirondacks. Liz’s duties as a river steward are primarily outreach and education, and fortunately for Liz, these take her outdoors and allow her to interact with the public. She’s often accompanied by her “assistant” Otis (pictured above, photo by Liz Metzger).
Whether it’s conducting visual checks for invasive species, refreshing the wader wash stations, or surveying anglers, Liz is able to use her education in a practical way. Science has always been a challenge for me, and I found Liz remarkable in how she could make some of the most significant concepts re river conservation understandable. I have now learned about the risk of invasive species, both those that grow in the water, for example, Eurasian watermilfoil, and those that are found growing on land, and about the danger invasive species pose to ecosystems.
Liz grew up in Central Pennsylvania with a family who had a strong connection and enjoyment of the outdoors. That meant family camping trips, canoeing, and even an annual Father’s Day fishing derby with her extended family. Liz now has a B.S. in Environmental Science from Juniata College in Central Pennsylvania. When she first started college, Liz took science courses with an eye towards a possible medical profession. But after a semester in Aquatic Ecology at the Raystown Lake Field Station in 2016, Liz decided to get her degree in Environmental Science. The Raystown Field Station was established by Juniata College and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1974 to provide special opportunities for environmental research and education at the 29,000-acre Raystown Lake Project.
Liz also spent an educational semester abroad at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, a positive experience that brought her into contact with students from around the world and helped give her a global perspective of the profession. After graduation, she spent the summer of 2019 as a stream barrier technician with the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, in Keene Valley, New York, and then in 2020, she worked as a fisheries technician for the Wyoming Fish and Game in Sheridan.
On a glowing fall day in October, I was able to watch Liz check and then replenish the wader station that is located near the popular Quarry Pool. The station provides anglers with an opportunity to clean their waders in salinized water, to make sure that they are not bringing any invasive species into the river. It’s a relatively simple process that can make all the difference in the world to the health of the river. Fortunately, most of those who travel to the Adirondacks or live in the region, appreciate the importance of maintaining the river’s integrity. I wasn’t able to meet Otis that day, but I have since learned that he is a youthful Golden Retriever and that he seems to love the outdoors as much as Liz. I was also pleased to learn that Liz has found her college studies and the hands-on experiences from Juniata College to be useful.
While she’s been a River Steward for the Ausable River Association these past months, Liz explained to me that, “working for a small non-profit, that is doing big work, has given me a different perspective of the field that I haven’t seen before. As someone who is just starting out in this field, I am still trying to figure out what area I’d like to pursue. The Ausable River Association has given me the opportunity to experience several different aspects of the field from outreach and education, to invasive species work, to water quality monitoring, to environmental DNA sampling, and even a peek into river restoration.”
From what I have observed, the Ausable River Association is fortunate to have Liz on board, and we are all fortunate to have an organization such as the Ausable River Association.
For more information on the Ausable River Association, go to: https://www.ausableriver.org.
Photos of Liz Metger and Ausable River by Linda Friedman Ramirez