The Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges has been awarded funding to hire 20 seasonal watercraft stewards to help safeguard the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes from the harm and impact of aquatic invasive species. The FLI Watercraft Steward Program has been ongoing since 2012 and is funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Watercraft stewards are seasonal employees who provide research and education about aquatic invasive species to recreational boaters. Although the most visible role of a steward is to inspect boats entering and leaving boat launches, the stewards also educate boaters on the practice of Clean, Drain and Dry to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species in waterbodies.
Since 2012, FLI watercraft stewards have inspected more than 160,000 watercrafts and interfaced with over 380,000 individuals. Through this program, HWS hires at least 20 seasonal employees, typically college students who are home in the Finger Lakes for the summer. These are full-time, 40-hour-per-week positions that last about 12 weeks. Stewards gain excellent professional experience in natural resources, public speaking and interpersonal communication. In addition to recruiting from HWS, watercraft stewards hail from several regional academic institutions such as Cornell, Finger Lakes Community College, SUNY Brockport, SUNY ESF, Cayuga Community College, and more.
Viewed as a great investment of public dollars, several lake associations, county planning boards and conservation districts have provided additional monetary and in-kind support totaling more than $100,000 over the past several years.
The watercraft steward program is the longest running funded program at the FLI and has been a springboard for the pursuit of other invasive species projects and programs including the New York State funded Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Management based at the FLI. These programs illustrate the FLI’s role in the region by connecting HWS to several community members and stakeholders to protect and promote the environmental quality of the Finger Lakes.
If you are an HWS student or someone looking for a Watercraft Steward position, or have any other questions about the program, please contact FLI Program Manager, Sam Beck-Andersen (firstname.lastname@example.org).