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ADK’s Backcountry Monitoring Projects to Explore Invasive Species in Remote Areas

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has partnered with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP), the New York State iMap Invasives Program, and the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) to lead Adirondack Backcountry Water Monitoring trainings this summer as part of their backcountry citizen science invasive species monitoring program. The goal of this LCBP funded project is to attain a better understanding of the distribution of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in far less frequented and remote water bodies of the Adirondack Park. Since most if not all of these backcountry waters exclude motorized access and have little to no shoreline development, it is suspected that the majority of them are still free of AIS. Confirmation of this will provide APIPP with valuable information to bolster the case for regional AIS prevention by addressing key pathways of spread.

The first Backcountry Water Monitoring training session took place on July 16th at the Adirondack Loj on Heart Lake in Lake Placid. A full class of fifteen gathered to familiarize themselves with some of the most common AIS, learn monitoring techniques, and also how to report their findings. The morning session focused on the basics of AIS and the threats they pose. Erin Vennie-Vollrath of APIPP discussed the negative impacts of AIS and briefed the crowd on some of the most common AIS in the Adirondacks, as well as species on the watch list, or ones that may arrive soon. Afterwards, Brent Kinal of the NYS iMap Invasives Program provided a demonstration of how to use iMap Invasives, a citizen science invasive species mapping program, and encouraged participants to input their findings into the statewide database.

APIPP and Paul Smith's College provided native and invasive samples for participants to familiarize themselves with.

APIPP and Paul Smith’s College provided native and invasive samples for participants to familiarize themselves with.

In the afternoon, Sean Regalado of the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute and crew leader for APIPP’s AIS rapid response team provided a comprehensive presentation on AIS identification. He and Erin brought sample specimens of both native and invasive species so that attendees could see how the plants would appear when they are out in the water. Afterwards, Erin provided instructions on survey techniques and reporting. Participants are required to monitor a backcountry waterbody at least once by the fall and submit their findings to APIPP and ADK. Paul Gallery and Cathy Pedler of ADK showcased the new inflatable backcountry boats purchased for this project. The pack boats are small enough when deflated to be backpacked in on monitoring excursions. The pack boats as well as all survey tools are available to rent through ADK.

Erin reviews survey techniques and supplies with the group before hitting the water.

Erin reviews survey techniques and supplies with the group before hitting the water.

Trained Backcountry Water Monitors then had the opportunity to practice their survey skills on Heart Lake which had never been surveyed for AIS. Equipped with their survey tools, the monitors used canoes and kayaks to explore the aquatic vegetation of the lake. The trainers recommended paddling in a zig-zag pattern along the shoreline when surveying to be sure to sample a variety of depths. Participants completed vegetation sampling across the lake and found no AIS.

Participants practiced rake tosses, a technique used to sample underwater vegetation when surveying.

Participants practiced rake tosses, a technique used to sample underwater vegetation when surveying.

The day concluded with the assignment of lakes to be surveyed. Priority lakes to be surveyed were selected in the Lake Champlain Basin and were identified by ADK staff by analyzing various AIS and recreational pathways. Each participant adopted at least one waterbody to monitor by mid-September.

The next and last Adirondack Backcountry Water Monitors training for the summer will be held on August 30th again at the Adirondack Loj in Lake Placid (to RSVP, click here). ADK and APIPP will also be holding a Backcountry Forest Pest Monitoring workshop on Saturday, August 29th at the Adirondack Member Services Center in Lake George (to RSVP, click here). Registration is required for both events. Please contact Paul Gallery at [email protected], Cathy Pedler at [email protected]/(518)-449-3870, or Erin Vennie-Vollrath at [email protected]/(518)-576-2082 for more information.

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