Over the past year, the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges has received more than $1 million in funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the USDA Forest Service and the Great Lakes Research Consortium to study a range of significant environment issues across the region.
The largest grant, from the EPA, is for $598,960 for the control of Hydrilla verticillata in Cayuga Lake. The grant covers an extensive list of activities, ranging from a survey of high-risk invasion sites and the implementation of protocols and resources to do the actual work of eradicating the invasive water plant from 30 acres of Cayuga Lake. According to FLI Director Lisa Cleckner, more than 1,100 community members, students and citizen scientists will be engaged in the project across multiple outreach platforms, from surveys to workshops.
The dangers of hydrilla infestation are many: it can interfere with boating, swimming and fishing, and cause clogging of water control pumping stations. It chokes out native plants and dense infestations can alter water chemistry. “The prevention and control of highly invasive hydrilla leads to long-term ecological benefits for the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem,” says Cleckner. “There are benefits to HWS students, as well. Students will be engaged in experiential learning that supports both project-based learning and modeling community service throughout the program period and beyond.”
An additional grant for $299,474 from the EPA will be used to develop a plan for addressing starry stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa) an invasive macroalgae, in the Great Lakes region. “We’ll be accomplishing this by utilizing the resources and expertise of partners to develop management strategies and disseminating this information to federal, state and regional partners,” says Cleckner. “Outputs include the identification of best management strategies, refinement of control techniques, and working with state and federal partners on prevention, reporting, rapid assessment, and student and citizen engagement.”
In addition, Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forests of the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, has provided support to the FL-PRISM for invasive plant management in an effort to work across landscapes to restore native vegetation and water quality.
A grant from the U.S. Forest Service for $39,999 will go toward the Finger Lakes Forest Invasive Species Roundup. The funding will train field crew members and volunteers to survey, remove or treat, and monitor invasive species, as well as restore native flora along trails in the Finger Lakes National Forest. “Specifically, this project targets Japanese barberry, Japanese knotweed and pale swallow-wort, three highly invasive terrestrial species that are of major concern to riparian zones and water quality in the Great Lakes Basin,” says Cleckner.
A second U.S. Forest Service grant for $40,000 will focus on removing invasive species and restoring native species at a culturally significant location—Ganondagan State Historic Site. Forty acres of the site will be restored with native flora and additional acreage will be treated chemically and manually for invasive plant species.
The goal of both U.S. Forest Service grants is to protect water resources in the Great Lakes basin by enhancing riparian and upland vegetation zones, which help to mitigate runoff and pollution loading to lakes and streams. These grants are awarded to invasive species management units across the United States and HWS is eligible to apply because the Finger Lakes-Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (FL-PRISM) is based at the FLI.
Finally, $25,000 has been awarded to the FLI by the Great Lakes Research Consortium to study the role of nitrogen in the frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms (HABs). “The ability to predict and prevent HABs is impeded by gaps in our understanding of their causes,” says Cleckner. “This project will address a key unknown in the Finger Lakes.” The scientific and management information gathered from this study will help determine causes and remediation strategies for HABs, which are a main threat to water quality and water supplies.
Since being established in 2004, the FLI has received more than $13 million in federal, state, foundation and private funding to conduct aquatic research and educate the next generation of environmental scientists. The Institute’s launch marked the beginning of key research and information dissemination about aquatic ecology, water quality, and invasive species management throughout the region’s 11 lakes.