In the ongoing effort to address environmental issues across the region, particularly regarding invasive species, Hobart and William Smith Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) staff and Congressman Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) recently discussed how nearly $900,000 in grants awarded to the Colleges from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are being used to support research, programs, outreach and education.
Reed, who helped secure the EPA funding, visited the FLI to talk about programs and tour the facilities, including the Baker Water Quality Laboratory. The larger of the two grants – $598,960 – is for the control of Hydrilla verticillata in Cayuga Lake. The grant covers an extensive list of activities, ranging from a survey of high-risk sites and the implementation of protocols and resources to eradicate the plant from 30 acres of Cayuga Lake. Hydrilla infestations can change the chemistry of the water, choke native plants, and interfere with water management and recreation.
“Invasive species is an indirect thread for almost every issue in the Finger Lakes,” said Hilary Mosher, coordinator for FLI’s Finger Lakes-Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (FL-PRISM). “Our mission is really about research and education. We ask the questions, find the solutions and bring it to the audience; there is no benefit for answering those questions without delivering it to the people who are able to effect change.”
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.
“I find this so informative, and because the Finger Lakes obviously is the heart of an economic engine of who we are as a people, so I appreciate the update as to what the threats are and what are the opportunities and how you are addressing them,” Reed said.
Reed asked a range of questions about the health of the Finger Lakes, from the top environmental threats to the region and what kind of measures people can take to stop the spread of invasive species, to program outcomes. Mosher said some of the most problematic issues facing the Finger Lakes’ environment are nutrient loading into the watershed, the spread of contaminants and invasive species.
To prevent the spread of hydrilla, Mosher said best practices, for example, call for cleaning, draining and drying watercraft. She also noted FLI’s Watercraft Steward program, which has helped address the local spread.
Mosher noted HWS students have significant experiential learning opportunities to study the Finger Lakes environment and make a real difference through areas such as research, projects, coursework and outreach. “We are trying to get projects and secure funding for our students so they can get professional development and go out in the community, work with what they know, work with the experts and even stay here and keep that expertise here,” Mosher said.