By August 21, 2015 0 Comments Read More →

A Day on the Lake with Guy Middleton

Recently, APIPP’s aquatic coordinator Erin Vennie-Vollrath and I had the opportunity to tag along with Guy Middleton, Lake Manager for the Upper Saranac Lake Foundation (USF) as he patrolled for aquatic invasive species (AIS) out on the lake. As Upper Saranac’s Lake Manager, Guy’s responsibilities focus on maintaining the lake’s water quality. The management of AIS plays a vital role in accomplishing this.

Our monitoring day was calm and clear, ideal conditions for spotting EWM under the surface.

Our monitoring day was calm and clear, ideal conditions for spotting EWM under the surface.

While Eurasian water milfoil (EWM) is currently present and of most concern in the lake, Guy is always looking ahead to prevent future infestations of other AIS. One way he accomplishes this is through volunteer monitoring programs for species that he knows to be on their way. New this year is the volunteer Asian clam monitoring project. Asian clam threatens waterbodies by displacing highly vulnerable native mollusks that are often already threatened, reducing biodiversity and altering the food chain. On Upper Saranac, the survey project covers 10 high-risk locations on the lake. All of the survey areas are shallow with a sandy bottom and are known to have high levels of motorized boat traffic.  These high risk areas are surveyed for new introductions of Asian clam using survey kits composed of sieves, data sheets, and non-viable Asian clam examples.

Another species that Guy is keeping an eye out for is the spiny water flea. Spiny water flea is a large carnivorous zooplankton that is not eaten by native fish populations, yet voraciously consumes zooplankton, an important part of the diet of native young fish. While patrolling the lake with Guy, Erin performed spiny water flea surveys in two locations. Using a specialized filtering net, Erin conducted plankton tows in the deepest, coldest parts of the lake, where spiny water fleas would likely dwell during the day if they were present in the lake. In both areas, the tows retrieved plenty of native zooplankton, but no spiny water flea – good news for Upper Saranac Lake.

Erin performs a survey for spiney water flea at one of the deepest parts of the lake.

Erin performs a survey for spiny water flea at one of the deepest parts of the lake.

Just zooplankton in this test! Spiney water flea is not known to be present in Upper Saranac Lake.

Just zooplankton in this test! Spiny water flea is not known to be present in Upper Saranac Lake.

Even our EWM sightings that day were few and far between. Most of the infestations that were spotted consisted of only a handful of EWM plants that appeared bright green just beneath the water’s surface. Guy believes that Upper Saranac’s success in managing EWM is due to this surface spotting technique. He patrols the lake almost daily, searching high risk locations such as shallow waters and native plant beds. When he spots EWM plants, he tosses a numbered, anchored buoy into the water, which marks the location for response divers who return within a day to hand harvest the newly discovered plants. The divers are employed by Aquatic Invasive Management, LLC (AIM), an AIS removal business formed by Paul Smith’s College graduates.

Members of Aquatic Invasive Management have been focusing on EWM removal at Upper Saranac Lake but keep an eye out for other AIS during their work.

Members of Aquatic Invasive Management have been focusing on EWM removal at Upper Saranac Lake but keep an eye out for other AIS during their work.

AIM and USF have a long history of working together to control EWM on Upper Saranac Lake. AIM’s founders formed the company after working on a research project as students under the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute. Their research study focused on EWM control techniques on Upper Saranac Lake. While EWM control techniques range from benthic matting to the use of bio controls, AIM has found hand harvesting to be the most effective method. Hand harvesting allows for increased precision and assures that few plant fragments escape during harvesting efforts. AIM keeps an eye out for other AIS while diving, but mostly focuses on managing the buoy-marked sites that Guy has previously located. This allows the dive team to pull more plants in a season and increases the efficiency of the survey and management process. When AIM first started managing Upper Saranac for EWM in 2004, they had 10 divers harvesting plants on the lake from early summer to mid-fall, where they removed 18 tons of EWM. As of last year, only 3 divers were needed to harvest approximately 400 lbs. Guy predicts these positive trends to continue in 2015 and beyond.

Kyle of AIM and Guy analyze a fresh-picked sample of EWM.

Kyle of AIM and Guy analyze a fresh-picked sample of EWM.

While Guy attributes the lake’s AIS management success to  ongoing early detection and rapid response efforts, he also emphasizes the importance of  providing education on the threats and impacts posed by AIS and what Upper Saranac Lake shore owners can do to help. There are approximately 600 shore owners on Upper Saranac Lake, with a growing number of year-round residents. USF’s funding is raised entirely from these private shore owners, totaling nearly $3 million over the past 15 years. Guy and APIPP provide education through AIS monitoring and management trainings, presentations and meetings, and hands-on water workshops for all ages. Guy also welcomes lake survey ride-alongs from curious residents who would like to learn more. During our visit he escorted not only Erin and me but also a father and daughter who were interested in invasive species and how USF was managing them on the lake. After spending the morning getting an up close look at the process and the species, they felt more comfortable knowing what to keep an eye out for and how to help.

Guy marks EWM sightings with these anchored buoys and then AIM will harvest the milfoil within a day.

Guy marks EWM sightings with these anchored buoys and then AIM will harvest the milfoil within a day.

By the end of the day, we had tossed out almost 10 new buoys marking EWM plants to be harvested. So far this summer Guy and the AIM crew have removed approximately 120 lbs. of the plant. As long as conditions allow, Guy and AIM will be out on the water nearly every day throughout the rest of the summer adding to that count. While the process is intensive, the results are demonstrating tremendous success. The continued vigilance of Guy and AIM will be necessary to continue to control EWM and prevent other AIS from establishing in Upper Saranac Lake.

If you are interested in volunteering for Upper Saranac Lake or APIPP, please contact Guy Middleton at [email protected] or Erin Vennie-Vollrath at [email protected]. More information including previous year’s milfoil maps and weekly reports can be found on the Foundation’s website at http://usfoundation.net/.

 

 

 

Posted in: Posts

Post a Comment