With a passion for environmentalism and aquatic restoration, Haley Norrgard ’15 recently completed a summer research internship with the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (FL-PRISM), a collaborative program designed to address the threat of invasive species.
In her role, Norrgard was involved with supporting scientific professionals in early detection efforts of invasive species, and working in the field to identify native and non-native organisms, including plants and invertebrates while documenting her findings for future investigation and use.
“All of the research I have done so far has revealed new things to me, so it’s all very interesting and exciting to learn about,” says Norrgard, who recently graduated with a B.S in geoscience and double minors in biology and environmental studies.
Norrgard had previously worked for FL-PRISM during the academic year, opting to continue her efforts into the summer under the guidance of Hilary Mosher, FL-PRISM coordinator. FL-PRISM is housed under the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
This week, Norrgard hopes to see the community join the conversation around invasive species by participating in this year’s Invasive Species Awareness Week, from Sunday, July 12 to Saturday, July 18. Several events will be held throughout the Finger Lakes region to provide opportunities for community members to learn about the most threatening species and how to prevent and manage their spread through a wide variety of activities.
Noting the adverse effects that invasive species pose in their new environments, Norrgard emphasizes the significance of being proactive in prevention and early detection efforts.
“A good example is the recent finding of aquatic hydrilla in Cayuga Lake,” Norrgard says. “Since they discovered its presence so early on, they are able to confine it. It is much easier to deal with a small patch of invasives rather than a large patch.”
She says for many invasive species the focus is on stopping and reducing the threat, but eradication in extremely challenging. She says the root systems of invasive plants such as Canada thistle affect how the species develops, and sometimes pulling or removing a plant can make a problem even worse.
“The research and risk analysis that I conducted this summer, which heavily involved outreach and prevention efforts, is really important for understanding how invasive species can be prevented and managed in the future,” she says.
As a part of FL-PRISM, Norrgard has also been working with the FLI Watercraft Steward Program, which aims to educate and inform the public about the best practices for preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. Watercraft Stewards are stationed at boat launches throughout the eastern seven Finger Lakes as well as three southern Lake Ontario bays, assist watercraft users in inspecting their boats for any aquatic invasive species while helping remove any latched-on organisms. With the readily available data collected by the stewards, Norrgard was able to compare her samples of invasive species obtained through water raking methods to the data collected by the stewards to further develop her research.
Looking ahead, Norrgard plans to travel to Texas to produce a water impact study for G2X Energy, a gas company “dedicated to converting abundant, low-cost natural gas resources into liquid fuels.” Until then, she will finish her summer in Geneva as a second year staff member for the annual Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute program, which includes a trip to the Adirondack Mountains.