More than $1 million pumped into Finger Lakes Institute over the past year is funding several big projects to protect area waterways. Among those: Eradicating invasive species and controlling algae.
The funds flowing to the institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges will bolster research, education, and methods of tackling these threats to wildlife, water quality and human health.
The biggest chunk of funding, $598,960 from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, will fight the invasive water plant, Hydrilla verticillata, in Cayuga Lake. The goal is to eradicate the plant from 30 acres of the lake. Institute Director Lisa Cleckner said more than 1,100 community members, students and citizen scientists will be involved in everything from surveys to workshops.
“The prevention and control of highly invasive hydrilla leads to long-term ecological benefits for the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem,” stated Cleckner. Hydrilla infestation chokes out native plants; can alter water chemistry; can interfere with boating, swimming and fishing; and clogs water control pumping stations.
An additional $299,474 from the EPA will be used to develop a plan of attack against another invasive species, starry stonewort, in the Great Lakes region. The institute will work with state and federal partners on prevention, reporting and rapid assessment, with students and citizens also taking part. As part of the effort, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help in landscape management to restore native vegetation and water quality.
From the U.S. Forest Service, $39,999 will go toward the Finger Lakes Forest Invasive Species Roundup — training field crews 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.
The project targets three big threats to the Great Lakes Basin: Japanese barberry, Japanese knotweed and pale swallow-wort.
The U.S. Forest Service is also kicking in $40,000 to remove invasive species and restore native species to Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor. 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 overall goal of both U.S. Forest Service grants is to protect water resources in the Great Lakes basin — by improving upland and riverbank areas to mitigate runoff and prevent pollution from entering lakes and streams.
An additional $25,000 will come from Great Lakes Research Consortium to study the role of nitrogen in the frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms. “The ability to predict and prevent HABs is impeded by gaps in our understanding of their causes,” stated Cleckner. “This project will address a key unknown in the Finger Lakes.”
A press release states that the Finger Lakes Institute has, since its 2004 establishment, 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,” the release states.