New York Sea Grant's Launch Steward Program: STOP AQUATIC HITCHHIKERS!



New York Sea Grant's Launch Steward Program: STOP AQUATIC HITCHHIKERS!

The New York Sea Grant (NYSG) managed Launch Steward Program teaches boaters how to look for, remove and properly dispose of aquatic hitchhikers to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. NYSG Launch Stewards are stationed at select boat launches along Lake Ontario from Wayne County to Jefferson County and inland on Oneida Lake and the Salmon River Reservoir.

This blog will provide a glimpse into steward activities while providing boaters with tips to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 NYSG Waterfront Launch Stewards Educating Boaters on Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention (By Kara Lynn Dunn)

Eight New York college students interested in environmental science careers have finished working with the New York Sea Grant (NYSG) Launch Steward program. This past summer the launch stewards educated boaters about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS). The stewards have demonstrated watercraft inspection at sites along the Lake Ontario shoreline from Sodus Bay to Henderson, the Oswego River, Little Salmon River, Salmon River, Sandy Creek, Stony Creek, and Oneida Lake from Bridgeport to Brewerton.

The 2014 New York Sea Grant Launch Stewards are, front row from left, Rob Bucci,
Brittney Rogers, Ashleigh Grosso, and Jordan Bodway, and, back row from left,
David Newell, Rob Tornatore, Jake Barnes, and Jeremy Galvin. Photo by: NYSG

Brittney Rogers of Mexico is serving as Chief Steward with responsibilities for coordinating scheduling and overseeing steward activities, which include collecting data on how often boaters are practicing aquatic invasive prevention practices on their own. She is a 2013 SUNY Oswego zoology graduate who worked with the New York Sea Grant Launch Steward Program in 2013, completed an externship with the Wildlife Center of Virginia earlier this year, and is a Kindred Kingdom Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc. volunteer.

Jake Barnes, a junior at Cazenovia College, is studying environmental biology. :As an angler, I have grown to care about the aquatic ecosystem. Working with the New York Sea Grant Launch Steward program offers the opportunity to provide anglers and boaters with information about how they can help protect our water resources," says Barnes.

Jordan Bodway, a junior at the State of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, is studying environmental science. “I am interested in protecting the integrity of our water resources. Working as a New York Sea Grant Launch Steward has provided me with valuable experience in public outreach through interacting with boaters and visitors to the launch areas about how they can help slow the spread of aquatic invasive species,” says Bodway.

Robert Bucci of Pennellville is a SUNY Plattsburgh graduate with a degree in Environmental Science/Ecology. He brings experience as a Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve naturalist and an environmental educator at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Ecology Camp to his role as a Launch Steward. "I am interested in building my aquatic species knowledge as a Launch Steward and helping to ensure healthy ecosystems for future generations by interacting with boaters with a goal of becoming an Environmental Conservation Officer," says Bucci.

Jeremy Galvin of Oswego is a sophomore studying Environmental Science Systems at Le Moyne College. "My interest is in environmental engineering. Working with the New York Sea Grant Launch Stewards was a great opportunity to interact with the community and encourage a positive attitude toward conservation," says Galvin.

Ashleigh Grosso of West Monroe is a Cayuga Community College freshman studying Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Science. GIS use photographs and images from satellites, GPS waypoints and other data sources to create interactive maps for decision makers in environmental, government, law enforcement and other fields. "I have begun to explore career options related to the environment, environmental education and technology. I enjoyed working as a Launch Steward to help educate boaters about aquatic invasive species and how to slow their spread," says Grosso.

David Newell, a junior at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, is studying Natural Resources Management. "I am interested in working as an Environmental Conservation Officer and the New York Sea Grant Launch Steward program has given me the opportunity to network with environmental professionals and interact with the public about aquatic invasive species," says Newell.

Rob Tornatore, a senior at the College at Brockport, is studying Environmental Science with a career goal of becoming an Environmental Conservation Officer. “I have enjoyed working as a New York Sea Grant Launch Steward and helping to keep our lakes healthy for future generations. The Steward program allowed me various learning experiences for both the stewards and the boaters who participate in the watercraft inspection demonstrations,” says Tornatore.

The stewards provided a voluntary service for operators of motorized and non-motorized boats, and shared information on the easy-to-implement Clean, Drain, Dry method that boaters can use to help slow the spread of aquatic invasive species such as European water chestnut, Hydrilla, Waterfleas, European frog-bit, Asian clam, and Rusty crayfish.

The Launch Stewards are seen overlooking the lake at Beaver Lake Nature Center located in
Baldwinsville, New York. The time spent at Beaver Lake Nature Center was spent learning more
about the native flora and fauna species, along with the many unique adaptations these species
 have. The Launch Stewards pictured from left to right are Anthony Tornatore, Canastota; Robert Bucci,
Pennellville; Jordan Bodway, Sylvan Beach; Chief Steward, Brittney Rogers, Mexico;
 Jeremy Galvin, Oswego; Ashleigh Grosso, West Monroe; David Newell, Henderson;
Jake Barnes, Wolcott. Photo by: NYSG

The students hired as the 2014 New York Sea Grant Launch Stewards have been trained by New York Sea Grant, which has developed the New York State Watercraft Inspection Steward Program Handbook for the Cornell University Statewide Invasive Species Outreach Program. The handbook is funded in part by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

New York Sea Grant Coastal Community Development Specialist Mary Penney serves as the Launch Steward Program Coordinator. New York Sea Grant coordinates the Steward Program in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; New York State Parks; the Towns of Henderson, Scriba, and Sodus; the City of Oswego; and Onondaga County Parks. Funding is through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Finger Lakes-Lake Ontario Watershed Protection Alliance.

For more information, contact Mary Penney at 315-312-3042. New York Sea Grant offers an RSS news feed, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links online at www.nyseagrant.org.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Water Chestnut Control: Start Early and Continue; Pull performed July 13, 2013 (By New York Sea Grant Launch Steward Nick Spera)

Plants are good for the environment, right? Not always.

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) in local watersheds and ecosystems are negatively impacting native plants, animals and habitat. An invasive species is defined by the federal Executive Order 13112 that establishes a National Invasive Species Council as a species that is non-native to the ecosystem of interest and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

Locally, European water chestnut (WC), scientifically known as Trapa natans, is an AIS causing problems in Oneida Lake, the Salmon and Oswego Rivers, and some embayments of Lake Ontario.

Closeup of water chestnut rosettes during a WC pull in Sodus Bay.
 Photo by: Brittney Rogers, NYSG 
Originating from Europe, Asia and Africa, WC has made its way to North America over the years and now grows, and, often thrives, in freshwater habitats such as nutrient-rich lakes and slow moving or stagnant rivers.

Without control efforts, WC plants form dense floating mats that severely limit light and oxygen availability for native species. Water chestnuts easily outcompete native species by overcrowding to dominate waterways and increase the potential for fish die-off. Large colonies of WC also negatively affect boating, fishing, swimming and other aquatic recreation.

With such a quickly-reproducing species, control methods can be quite difficult. If not kept in check, WC will flourish and thrive until it clogs one area and begins to spread to surrounding waterways.

How do we manage something that has the ability to spread so rapidly?

The answer is through concern, persistence, and dedication. We're able to manage this with the help of environmental professionals, communities and volunteers who come together to raise public awareness of AIS and take on the challenge of AIS management.

Management and control methods vary depending on the location, level of invasiveness, AIS population size, and local conditions, such as the size of the water body and surrounding ecosystem.

Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager John DeHollander says the goal of treatment depends on the site characteristics and density of the WC population.

Hand pulls are done with groups of volunteers, with the goal of removing as much of the WC as possible. Still, some plants can be left behind.  Therefore, it is more reasonable to maintain control over a smaller infested area to prevent the WC from spreading further.

This volunteer is seen with baskets full of water chestnuts collected 
during a handpull event in 2012. Photo by: Nick Spera, NYSG
NYSG Launch Steward Brittney Rogers collects water chestnuts at a local handpull
Photo by: Megan Pistolese, NYSG
When conditions of a WC infestation are not conducive for a hand pull, other alternatives such as mechanical and/or chemical treatment may be considered.

Mechanical harvesting machines cut and collect the aquatic plants, removing them from the water by a conveyor belt system. The plant matter is then stored in the harvester until the AIS can be removed and disposed away from water. This method works well on large communities of WC that have spread beyond control for mechanical harvesting.
                                       
Weeds harvested mechanically in Sodus Bay.
Photo by: Mary Penney, NYSG
"Speaking from years of experience with mechanical harvesting at the same site (Ox Creek) annually for four years, then skipping the fifth year, we saw the water chestnut move right back in, making it look like the site had never been treated,” DeHollander says.

Eradication is very rare, but may be possible if the WC population is small; however, it would be necessary to continue treatment efforts for several years.

Suppression and containment are more reasonable goals for AIS treatment, particularly for larger AIS populations in isolated ecosystems.

With WC being such a rapidly spreading plant, it is sometimes necessary to control the spread of this AIS using chemical treatment. This sort of “shock” method is used to stop the growth and spread of the AIS so it hopefully becomes possible to regain control of the spread. It is important for local efforts to identify WC invasion early, so control efforts can be made early to prevent having to chemically treat the invasive spread and risk damaging other species in the surrounding ecosystem.

To learn more about organizing a local resource, please reference the "Steps and Procedures to Help Organize an Invasive Plant Removal and Disposal" online at http://www.seagrant.sunysb.edu/ais/pdfs/CCD-StewSperaWaterChestnutFactSheet1012.pdf.

In partnership with Oswego County Soil & Water Conservation District (OCSWCD), St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (SLELO PRISM), and the Oswego County Guides’ Association, the NYSG Launch Steward Program assisted in educating participants in AIS prevention and helped stop the spread of aquatic invasive species on July 13th, 2013. Approximately 38 participants (many of which included local volunteers) were in attendance; more than 530 pounds of European water chestnut were removed from the Salmon River during this event. Volunteers were required to bring their own personal flotation devices and boat (kayak or canoe worked as well).

For more information on protecting native habitats against invasive threats, contact New York Sea Grant at 315-312-3042, SGOswego@cornell.edu.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Can We Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers? Here’s How (By New York Sea Grant Launch Steward Clinton Whittaker)

Aquatic Invasive species (AIS) are non-native species that cause harm to the environment, the economy or human health. AIS are an increasing problem threatening ecosystems all over the United States. Locally, the eastern and southern shores of Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake are being affected by Eurasian water milfoil and European water chestnut. These AIS can reduce property values, harm ecosystems, reduce native habitats where young fish grow, and damage the overall quality of fishing by making entire areas impossible to fish.

Groups including local state and federal agencies, Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), and extension programs, including New York Sea Grant (NYSG), implement or educate the public about several methods to prevent or slow the spread of AIS.

Different types of AIS control include prevention, and physical, mechanical, chemical, and biological means.

Photo:  The mechanical aquatic weed harvester operated by the Sodus Bay
 Improvement Association. Photo: Mary Penney, New York Sea Grant

Prevention involves outreach and education that aims to keep pristine areas free of AIS and to contain AIS infestations to only the infested waters. 

With the goal of prevention in mind, the NYSG Launch Steward Program teaches boaters how to prevent the spread of AIS through voluntary watercraft inspections. The launch stewards are stationed at select boat launches located on Lake Ontario; Oneida Lake; the Oswego, Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers; and Sandy and Stony Creeks to offer voluntary education to boaters on how to look for, remove and properly dispose of unwanted aquatic hitchhiking debris, including AIS. 

Through this outreach, the stewards are empowering the public to self-inspect watercraft, and by implementing watercraft inspection the boaters are helping to prevent the spread of AIS.

Physical control uses manpower to manage AIS. Hand pulls to remove water chestnut from infested waters are typically done by groups of people. On Oneida Lake water chestnut hand pulls have been co-organized by the Oneida Lake Rotary Club and New York Sea Grant, and the Finger Lakes PRISM with local Bass Masters. 

The Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District’s hand pull efforts on Oneida Lake are focused at Big and Muskrat Bays. 

Those interested in organizing a local hand pull will find a how-to tutorial by NYSG Launch Steward Nick Spera online at www.nyseagrant/ccd/stewards

Mechanical control uses machinery to cut and remove AIS. The Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District runs a mechanical harvester on Sodus Bay in an effort to control aquatic weeds. The aquatic harvester is used annually to control the water milfoil and curly leaf pondweed there. 

Chemical control is an expensive, last-resort means of control that uses aquatic pesticides and requires appropriate training and certification. Chemical treatment to control water chestnut in the Oswego River has resulted in a smaller and less robust water chestnut population compared to years when the chemical control was not used.

Biological control introduces an invasive species’ natural predator into the aquatic environment. Years of controlled laboratory research are completed on biological control methods before a release is tested with diligent monitoring in a water environment. One concern with this method is that the biological control species, e.g., introduction of Pacific salmon to consume alewives in Lake Ontario, should not out-compete or prey on the local natural species. 

Prior to the introduction of Pacific salmon in Lake Ontario, the alewife population experienced major die-offs in the summer months. As a result of the Lake Ontario Pacific salmon stocking program by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the alewife population has been reduced to manageable numbers. 

AIS impact us all. While it may be possible to contain, suppress, and, in some rare cases, eradicate AIS infestations, management takes considerable time and money. Because some control methods can be expensive and labor intensive, education methods, such as the NYSG Launch Steward Program, are important as cost-effective ways of engaging the public in helping to prevent and slow the spread of AIS. 

For more information on protecting native habitats against invasive threats, contact New York Sea Grant at 315-312-3042, SGOswego@cornell.edu

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What is That on Your Fishing Line & How Do You Report It? Identifying and Reporting Unknown and Aquatic Invasive Species (By New York Sea Grant Launch Steward Brittney Rogers)


If you are among the anglers who enjoy fishing on the Great Lakes, have you ever caught something you had never seen before? If you answer yes, you are not alone. More than 180 aquatic invasive species (AIS) in the Great Lakes are disrupting food webs, degrading aquatic habitats, and displacing native species. Do you know what to do if you find an AIS at the end of your fishing line?

To limit and, in some cases, prevent the spread of AIS and protect the health of popular fishing spots and recreational waterways, it is important for the public to be able to accurately identify and report AIS. Once AIS have become established, it is more difficult to remove or manage them, which is why tracking their distribution range is vital for early detection and controlling the spread of the unwanted species.

The first step after encountering what you think may be an AIS is to try to properly identify the species. The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse is a useful tool to help you distinguish between AIS and native lookalikes. To help you identify your ‘catch,’ the Clearinghouse website consists of photos, species-specific characteristics (size, color, etc.), range, and tips for limiting AIS spread.

If you cannot confidently identify your ‘catch,’ a sample of the species can be delivered to your local Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) representative for identification. Contacts for local PRISMs can be found at www.nyis.info.

When collecting samples, be sure to seal the specimen in an airtight package, e.g., a sealable plastic bag, and include the date; the location, including GPS coordinates; and your name and contact information.

This round goby, an AIS, was not what an angler hoped to hook on a recent Lake Ontario fishing trip.
Photo: NYSG Launch Steward Megan Pistolese
Terrestrial and aquatic invasive species observations can be reported to New York’s online database www.iMapInvasives.org, managed by the NYS Natural Heritage Program. This tool is user-friendly and field-ready with a smartphone application.

To upload data to iMapInvasives, you must receive a username that is generated when you attend a free training session, typically offered by PRISMs in the spring.

After completing training you are ready to begin adding your observational data to the iMapInvasives database. The site provides step-by-step instructions and currently has six different data forms for use: observation, assessment, survey, treatment, infestations, and projects. The site also has species distribution maps, tables, and reports by species/areas.

If possible, take a well-focused, up-close photograph of the species and of the habitat where the species was found. The photograph can be sent electronically to local experts and may be needed for archiving purposes. Photographs are also suggested as collected specimens can lose their color.

Once iMapInvasive/PRISM experts receive a reported finding, they will confirm or correct the sighting using the specimen, photographs, and/or site visits.

The confirmed observational data provided by citizens help PRISM partners develop and implement management strategies for AIS.

Through species identification and iMapInvasives training, you and natural resource managers gain knowledge about which areas/habitats are at greatest risk of invasion, which species pose the greatest threats, and which areas are the most pristine so you can implement preventative practices to help keep these areas clean of AIS.

It’s not too late to make a difference in the fight against AIS. For more information on protecting native habitats against invasive threats, contact New York Sea Grant at 315-312-3042, SGOswego@cornell.edu.

This is part of the NYSG Launch Steward article series that was published in local newspapers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Help Prevent AIS Spread BEFORE We Pay for Their Management (By NYSG Launch Steward Ryan Thompson)

An Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) is an organism introduced to an ecosystem that disrupts the native habitats of the region.  These organisms are spread a number of ways including accidental dispersal by humans.  AIS are becoming a persistent problem for waterways in New York State (NYS), clogging boating channels, disrupting the natural food webs, and impacting taxpayers.  The impacts of AIS on local economies include AIS management costs, and the potential to decrease shoreline property value.

According to a study by the Anderson Economic Group, AIS have a huge economic impact on the Great Lakes region.  The study states that it is “likely that the overall aggregate level of cost (to industry, consumers, and government) to the Great Lakes region is significantly over $100 million annually.”

The economic weight of AIS has been felt locally.  In 2011, Hydrilla, an aquatic invasive plant, was discovered in the Cayuga Lake inlet in Ithaca, NY.  Hydrilla posed three main problems to the economy of the surrounding area: hindering boating experiences, compromising flood control measures, and lowering property tax revenues.

Efforts to suppress the waterweed have proved to be effective, yet costly.  James Balyszak, project manager of the Hydrilla Task Force of the Cayuga Lake Watershed, states that the project is currently in year three of a ten-year plan.  Balyszak estimates the expenses of the Hydrilla removal project at $400,000 for 2012. He expects the cost to remain in the $400,000 to $500,000 range per year for the remainder of the project.

AIS can adversely affect recreational activities, such as boating, fishing, swimming, and lower the overall aesthetics of a property, and have the potential to decrease shoreline property value.  There is no definitive estimate for the impact AIS have on property values, however, heavy growth of aquatic weeds, including AIS, can decrease shoreline property values by up to 20 percent, says Invasive Species Specialist Chuck O’Neill with Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, NY.  O’Neill stresses that, “even a 10 percent drop in waterfront property values can be a big hit to a local community.”

Suppressing AIS to maintain water and habitat quality is tough work.  NYS residents can watch for opportunities to participate in local citizen programs, such as water chestnut pulls.  Educational outreach programs, such as the New York Sea Grant (NYSG) Launch Steward Program, are a valuable source of information about AIS, prevention measures, and management efforts for coastal residents, boaters, anglers, municipality leaders, and service groups.

Shoreline property owners and recreational users can be proactive in protecting their own property from AIS and the associated costs.  To help reduce the impacts of AIS on your property and at recreational areas, report any new AIS plant or animal to your local Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) coordinators; find offices via www.nyis.info.

Those who fish, boat, kayak and canoe are advised to inspect their watercraft and equipment after every use and properly discard any aquatic hitchhiking organisms or debris or collect a specimen for identification by iMapInvasives (http://imapinvasives.org/nyimi/map) and/or local PRISM experts.


Look for, remove and dispose of vegetation on trailers, boats and other surfaces that come into contact with the water.
Photo by: Clint Whittaker, NYSG

NYSG Launch Steward inspecting boat for aquatic hitchhikers.
Photo by: Mary Penney, NYSG

Help nip AIS in the bud before they nip us in the pocketbook. For more information on protecting native habitats against invasive threats, contact NYSG at 315-312-3042, SGOswego@cornell.edu. To learn more about the NYSG Launch Steward Program visit: http://nysglaunchsteward.blogspot.com.

This is part of the NYSG Launch Steward article series that was published in local newspapers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Glance at the Aquatic Profile of Sodus Bay (By: NYSG Launch Steward Sophia Oliveira)

The New York Sea Grant Launch Steward Program has expanded to include Sodus Bay, the largest sheltered bay on Lake Ontario. A popular recreational and tourism area, Sodus Bay is an excellent place for the New York Sea Grant Launch Steward Program to be educating the public about the importance of preventing and slowing the spread of harmful aquatic hitchhikers.
Boaters enjoying a day on the water at Sodus Bay.
Photo by: Sophia Oliveria, NYSG

Beautiful day at Sodus Bay
Photo by: Sophia Oliveria, NYSG
                                           
       "A sunset view of a watercraft on Sodus Bay"
               Photo courtesy of: Wayne County Tourism office
  

With an average depth of 18 feet and a maximum depth of about 48 feet, Sodus bay provides habitat for fish and other freshwater aquatic organisms. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Sodus Bay covers a surface area of about 3,357 acres and is located in the Towns of Sodus and Huron in Wayne County.

This extensive bay supports an abundance of fishing, making it a popular year-round fishing destination with the local and out-of-county anglers. Summer bass fishing, ice fishing for perch, and spring bullhead fishing are popular angling activities.

The NYSDEC monitors the fish species in the bay by implementing lake creel surveys, gill net sampling, and electrofishing. Field biologists are evaluating whether or not walleye stocking is effective, along with monitoring fish species and community populations. The bay supports a vast variety of fish including longnose gar, bowfin, northern pike, chain pickerel, channel catfish, brown bullhead, white perch, rock bass, pumpkinseed, bluegill, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, black crappie, walleye, yellow perch, gizzard shad, and pugnose shiners. According to International Union for Conservation and Nature, pugnose shiners are a threatened species due in part to habitat degradation.

While the bay provides suitable habitat for native fish and plants, a number of factors, including AIS, are decreasing the water quality and suitability of the ecosystem to the natives. AIS such as Eurasian water milfoil, curly leaf pondweed, and European water chestnut are becoming nuisances to native plant species by outcompeting for resources.


Wayne County Soil & Water Conservation District's Weed harvesting Program at work in Sodus Bay. 
Photo by: Sophia Oliveria, NYSG

Sodus Bay is a tourism gem of the southern Lake Ontario region, important to both the environment and economy. Stewardship, research, education, outreach, and citizen awareness and interest are all important ways to help support Sodus Bay as a valuable resource for fishing, boating, swimming, and vacationing as well as  its role in the local and Great Lakes ecosystems.

This summer please take the opportunity to meet the NYSG Launch stewards at Sodus Bay, Port Bay, and elsewhere in the shoreline region to learn about the voluntary watercraft inspections that help with AIS management.

NYSG Launch Steward Brittney Rogers shakes hands with boater after showing him how to inspect his boat for aquatic hitchhikers.
Photo by: Megan Pistolese, NYSG
For more information on protecting native habitats against invasive threats, contact New York Sea Grant at 315-312-3042, SGOswego@cornell.edu.

This is part of the NYSG Launch Steward article series that was published in local newspapers.   

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Reaching Out with Outreach

One of the chief responsibilities of the New York Sea Grant (NYSG) Launch Stewards is educating the public about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. In addition to launch site education that focuses on teaching boaters how to look for, remove and dispose of aquatic hitchhiking debris and organisms, the launch stewards also provide attendees of local outreach events (festivals, fairs, tradeshows, etc.) and formal outreach events with AIS prevention tips. The 2013 NYSG Launch Stewards have attended a variety of outreach events and participated in hands-on AIS control events.  

DUNE FEST
The season was kicked off with Dune Fest (organized by NYSG, NYSDEC and NYS Parks) on May 30th, at Southwick Beach State Park. Launch Stewards educated nearly one hundred 7th graders from Belleville-Henderson and Sandy Creek Middle Schools on the aquatic food web of Lake Ontario and impacts of AIS. A game that simulated the interactions between different species in aquatic ecosystems was used to show students how the introduction of AIS significantly disrupts the food web and affects the ecosystem.
The food web diagram above was used to develop the game.
Diagram compliments of NOAA

Instructors of each group of students stood in the middle of a circle of students and Launch Stewards and acted as the sun. Stewards explained how the sun provides the necessary energy for the lower level of the building blocks of the wood web (primary producers). Students selected and wore a picture and description of a native species that is found in Lake Ontario. The stewards wore AIS pictures. To represent the species interactions  a ball of string was thrown from the sun (the instructor), to native species beginning with primary producers (algae, phytoplankton and aquatic plants). The string was held onto by each person while the ball was thrown to various species throughout the trophic (energy) levels in the ecosystem creating a food web. Once each student had a place in the food web, AIS were introduced by the Stewards who tugged on various parts of the food web demonstrating which native species were affected by the introduction of AIS. The game was a fun interactive way to show students how AIS change the food web. Students learned that everything in nature is connected and that the introduction of AIS changes the food web.

SAVE OUR SODUS CITIZEN SCIENCE EXPO
On June 22, Launch Stewards participated in the Citizen Science Expo held by Save Our Sodus (SOS) at the Sodus Bay Yacht Club. The event helped attendees learn how they can get involved and help prevent and/or slow the spread of AIS.  AIS specimens were presented and a discussion was given about the different AIS that are impacting Sodus Bay and Lake Ontario. These specimens were used to show attendees how to properly identify AIS. Attendees also learned how they can prevent the spread of AIS by following the Clean, Drain, Dry messaging.

NYSG Launch Steward Sophia Oliveira teaches a family about some of the AIS in Lake Ontario.
Photo by: Mary Penney, NYSG
 

NYSG Clean and Safe Boat.
Photo by: Mary Penney, NYSG
In addition to the NYSG Launch Steward display there were other organizations there to provide valuable information about science of Sodus Bay. Some of the other organizations in attendance included Save Our Sodus, NYSG Clean and Safe Boat, SUNY ESF researcher Dr. Greg Boyer, Wayne County Soil & Water Conservation District, and Wayne-Monroe CCE. It was a great day and event. Thanks to SOS for inviting us and putting this event together to provide the residents of Sodus Bay information about various science efforts going on in the bay.







Weather station buoy deployed by Dr. Greg Boyer, SUNY ESF.
Photo by: Mary Penney, NYSG
 
SAVE OUR SODUS WATER QUALITY EVENING: WATERCRAFT INSPECTION


On July 11th Launch Stewards were invited to speak to teach people about watercraft inspection and common AIS and native lookalikes. A discussion about what Launch Stewards do and how they interact with boaters as well as a boat inspection demonstration was given. Ideas about how to better improve the water quality of Sodus bay were presented. This event was organized by Save Our Sodus, Arney’s Marina and NYSG.  

EUROPEAN WATER CHESTNUT HAND PULLS
The Launch Stewards participated in a number of European water chestnut hand pulls throughout the season. Hand pull locations included the Salmon River (Pine Grove Boat Launch, Oswego County, NY),  Emerald Point in Sodus Bay (Wayne County, NY), and Oneida Lake. European water chestnut is a common AIS that has become established in many local waters in high densities limiting boating access and impacting the aquatic food web. Physical removal the plant by kayakers and boaters is one of the ways to reduce their populations and help slow their spread. Weed harvesters have also been used throughout Sodus Bay and other parts of the Lake Ontario watershed to help control aquatic invasive plants.

NYSG Launch Stewards at the Pine Grove Water Chestnut Pull
From left to right: Nick Spera, Brittney Rogers, Megan Pistolese and Clinton Whittaker

NYSG Launch Steward Brittney Rogers pulling water chestnuts
Photo by: Megan Pistolese, NYSG


One of Wayne County Soil & Water Conservation District's Aquatic Weed Harvester in Sodus Bay.
Photo by: Mary Penney, NYSG


 
OSWEGO TRIATHLON
On June 15th, Launch Steward Ryan Thompson manned a NYSG and AIS informational display at the finish line of the Oswego triathlon. Triathlon organizers are becoming more interested in AIS prevention education at their events because the aquatic leg (swim or paddle) is a potential vector for the spread of AIS. Many attendees admitted they had not thought about their wetsuit, booties, and other triathlon swim gear being a vector for the spread of AIS. During this event participants and onlookers learned about AIS and tips to prevent the spread of aquatic hitchhikers. Attendees were interested in learning about the current status of AIS in Lake Ontario. Anglers in attendance shared stories with Ryan about their experiences with AIS and expressed concern about the potential impacts of AIS on sport fish populations. Events like this allow Launch Stewards to share the Clean, Drain, Dry messaging.

WEAR IT CAMPAIGN
On July 29th, Launch Steward Heather Dunham attended a Wear It event at Wright’s Landing. Similar to other events, information about AIS and the NYSG Launch Steward
Program was presented. People were also encouraged to wear life jackets as part of the Wear It event.

EMPIRE FARM DAYS
August 7th -8th, Launch Steward Megan Pistolese accompanied Dave White, NYSG Recreation and Tourism Specialist, at the 26th annual Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls, NY. The event is the largest outdoor agricultural show in the northeast, filling 300 acres with displays of the latest agricultural equipment, educational seminars, demonstrations and opportunities to ask experts about just about anything that has to do with farming. During the event an informational table was displayed showing viewers examples of AIS. NYSG spoke with attendees about the impacts of AIS and how implementing the Clean, Drain, Dry messaging can prevent their spread. Dave White gave demonstrations on the various life jackets that can be worn and the Clean and Safe boat was loaded up with different types of boater safety equipment.

Dave White discusses AIS issues with a colleague at Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls, NY.
Photo by: Megan Pistolese, NYSG


AIS information table at Empire Farm Days
Photo by: Megan Pistolese, NYSG

NYSG Clean and Safe Boat Display
Photo by: Megan Pistolese, NYSG

Although a few weeks remain, we hope you will take the chance to stop by and visit with us at future outreach events. The NYSG Launch Steward Program would like to thank all of the organizations that have invited us to participate and partnered with us in these outreach events.