Now that the summer is upon us and people are enjoying the region's prominent attraction, the Delaware River, members of the National Park Service have teamed up with volunteers and a biology professor from SUNY Oneonta to teach people about invasive aquatic species.
With the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership, members of the Park Service realized that with their kiosks stationed at four river access spots along the river, it was an opportunity to educate people through a Watershed Stewards program about species that may affect this region.
Biologist Jamie Myers, said programs like the Watershed Stewards aren't new, and the idea is so people will be stewards of the water body that they're protecting. Through the program, the volunteers have learned what species exist and what people can do when the organisms attach to fishing gear and boats to prevent the creatures from spreading from one body of water to another.
The stewards, are at the different locations, talking with people and asking questions about the plants, tiny muscles or clams, along with fish and spiny water flees and a more prominent creature, the fresh water algae didymo that is also known as rock snot because of its look. Myers said the program is important because at this time in the Upper Delaware, there are a very limited amount of aquatic invasive species. She said the "Upper Delaware is known for its exceptional water quality, clarity and we really want to help keep it that way."
Through early detection and rapid response, she said hopefully visitors will be able to identify the species so they will be able to, "nip it in the bud, before it becomes a bigger problem."
The didymo was first found last year at the head waters in Hancock, New York. But they were also found all the way in Trenton, New Jersey. It has been found again this year, and because the waters near Hancock are popular destinations for fly fishermen, Myers said it is important that they learn how to clean their equipment so the algae doesn't spread to other waters.
The didymo is not like green algae that is slippery and slimy. Instead, it looks brown and feels like wet wool, that grows on the rocks. Myers said if someone were to take a big clump of it and pull it out of the water, it looks like snot.
Page 2 of 2 - Other aquatic species include the water chestnut that comes to the surface and grows like a lily pad because it grows and spreads on top of the waters surface. Ultimately though, because of how it spreads out, it affects the water's dissolved oxygen.
Invasive fish species, Myers explained, are very aggressive and can eat native fish species. The invasive fish, she said, have adaptions and characteristics that make them faster reproducers and growers to where they can out compete native species. Fortunately though, she said, there aren't any known invasive fish species in the Upper Delaware at this point.
Removing the species isn't an easy task, Myers said, because their means of reproduction are very efficient and, "you can almost say they're sneaky." She explained that the water chestnut produces a sharp nutlet that encompasses the seed and the nutlet has the capability to survive the sub-straight for up to 12 years. As for killing plants, she said that is difficult because of how spread about the roots are underground.
A lot of the invasive species, Myers said, are coming from Asia, China and Europe. She said the issue comes from across the continents because of how easy it is for humans to travel, so that they can, "just bounce all over the place."
Aside from humans transporting the aquatic invasive species, animals including deer and water fowl can transport the species by carrying seeds. The river system, Myers said, is a "dynamic system where water is constantly flowing, constantly moving downstream, with natural current and then flood situations which is a natural process that we're not able to control." All of that, she said, plays a role in the movement of the species from one area to another.
Boy Scouts have taken advantage of the didymo's presence, by working with the Park Service and going into areas to clear areas of the algae. Working together, Myers said the scouts have been able to earn Service to America badges.
The Stewards will primarily be at the accesses Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and if people are interested in volunteering, they still can. The only qualifications, Myers said, people need to be able to talk to others and enjoy spending time outdoors. Call Myers at (570) 729-7842 for more information.