Stemming the Tide

On a hot, humid day in August at the Broadalbin boat launch, Nick Georgelas has a job to do – inspecting boats going in and coming out of the lake as part of a college program to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Georgelas is part of the Watershed Stewardship Program, a project through Paul Smith’s College. The program is designed primarily to educate the public about aquatic invasive species issues pertaining to specific watersheds. Stewards interact with visitors at boat ramps and perform watercraft inspections intended to prevent the transport of AIS.

Kathleen Wiley, assistant director of the program, said the Adirondack Watershed Institute uses the WSP as an education arm for the agency.

“We have approximately 35 stewards that are stationed at boat launches across the Adirondacks this summer,” Wiley said.

The program will be stationed at the Northampton, Northville, Day and Broadalbin boat launches until Labor Day, Georgelas said. It began on Memorial Day.

“Research has shown that the largest contributors to [AIS] movements is recreational boats [being transported overland],” Wiley said.

These species can cling to the boat and spread to other bodies of water. Invasive species located in the Great Sacandaga Lake include the spiny water flea and Eurasian water milfoil. Other invasive species in the state’s waters include the water chestnut, zebra mussel, asian clam and hydrilla.

Georgelas, who grew up near Great Sacandaga Lake, said the program has been going well.

“I wanted to protect the lake I live on, and to be able to do that is awesome,” Georgelas said.

Members of the program educate people heading out onto the lake about the invasive species, as well as perform watercraft inspections. Through these inspections and speaking with boaters, the stewards also collect data on where boaters have traveled lately, including what bodies of water they have been in. Through this, Georgelas said it was possible to track ways these species could spread.

Wiley said the stewards are encouraging boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats to control the spread. Stewards are even willing to help clean the boats.

Boaters have been very receptive, Georgelas said, even striking up conservations with the stewards.

Jeff Wayman, a boater on the Sacandaga for 15 years, said he felt the program was important.

“[People] definitely need awareness,” Wayman said. “We know the Mohawk is infested with [invasive species].”

However, Georgelas said he does not spend all day out in the sun. One day per week, he is expected to perform a service project. Examples include invasive species mapping and control, loon monitoring, trail maintenance, writing a newsletter, holding informational meetings, updating social media, environmental education with all ages and presentations.

Writing reports is a large responsibility for the stewards, who submit their findings and their interviews with individual boaters to the college.

Those signed up for the program either completed or are currently pursuing a degree in natural resources, biology, environmental studies, science or a related field, the program’s website said.

The program will continue until Sept. 1.