Living on the Lake: Lessons learned by an AIS coordinator
Late August is a bittersweet time for an aquatic invasive species (AIS) coordinator, especially this AIS coordinator. I love summer, I love being in and on the water, and I love not having to put my shoes on when I take the dogs out at night. I love driving to and from work in daylight, helping turtles cross the road and attending county fairs. What’s not to like about summer? On the other hand, all the planning and scheming I did during the winter months as an AIS coordinator comes to pass in a couple of short summer months. Yes, summers are short in northern Wisconsin, and summers are intense for a resource manager that works with water, but intensity aside, I have learned a lot during the summer of 2013.
1. To engage others, you must be willing to be the first one into the muck.
Early in the summer, I had a county board member ask, “Why wasn’t the lake association helping you pull out those invasive yellow iris?” I quickly answered, “Because we were there to first see how large the problem was, then map the area and finally try an experiment on a small segment of the population.”All true, but I did agree with the gentleman who asked why the lake association wasn’t more interested. I didn’t spend a lot of time fretting over the issue; I was there to experiment on a control method, not annihilate the yellow iris population.
But later this summer, my team was trying to annihilate a purple loosestrife stand on Channel Road in Sugar Camp. It was here where I learned that to engage others, we must be willing to be the first ones in the muck! Yes, sometimes not all walks in the muck attract volunteers (remember the yellow iris event?), but to never take the field is to never win a game. When my team began working on the stand, a local property owner who initially reported the stand was eager to help bag and transport the cut flower heads. Soon, another property owner stopped by to see what was happening. It wasn’t long before they put on some boots and grabbed a pair of clippers. Before long, another neighbor became involved! On this particular day, my AIS team and Oneida County hit a home run by being the first ones into the muck!
2. Timing is everything.
Curly-leaf pondweed (CLP) was discovered in the Rhinelander Flowage during the summer of 2011. Since the flowage has no lake association – no advocacy group, in other words – the CLP has gone untreated. During the summer of 2013, I thought it time for my team to visit the stand and map the extent of the bed. I knew we had to survey for CLP early in the summer due to the growth patterns of this invasive. You see, CLP starts its life very, very early in the spring. When other aquatic plants lay dormant, CLP begins its cycle. This also means CLP is one of the earliest aquatic plants to die back in the year. For my team to search for it in August would be fruitless.
So on a calm, beautiful June afternoon, my assistant and I slipped quietly along the backwaters of the Rhinelander Flowage. Each paddle stroke took us past one more landing, looking, waiting, expecting the CLP to rear its ugly head. We witnessed brand new growth of wild rice beds, soaring eagles, and a muskrat that sat and ate a lily pad root as we glided within feet of it. We observed claspingleaf pondweed, a look-alike of CLP, but no CLP. We began to tire and grow weary of the directions given to us. Were we to find this invasive species today?
As we neared an ancient stump in the shallows of the flowage, a wondrous sight appeared to us. Hundreds upon hundreds of dragonfly larvae were crawling out of the water onto the exposed old-growth stumps that dotted the waterscape. They broke from their larval skins, wings curled and still wet. The sunlight played off of their wings while they slowly unfurled their new appendages as they dried. Every now and again, one would alight into the breeze, beginning its new life as one of the fiercest winged predators on this planet. On that day, we thought we had our timing right to locate curly-leaf pondweed, but what timing gave us instead was something most wondrous and magical: the gift of life.
3. Are you smarter than a 5th grader?
Many of you have seen the invasive species question and answer segment on TV Channel 12 of Rhinelander. The segment originated from an invasive species “question box” at Central School in Rhinelander. When Ben Meyer of Channel 12 sent the student questions over to me, I was amazed at how tough some of the questions were. In fact, I actually had to study up on some of them!
Each time I step into a classroom, host a class on a pontoon boat or participate as an educator on a field trip, I know I will be stumped by a student. Guaranteed. I well remember the time that a student asked me, “What should I say to my mom and dad when they won’t take weeds off their boat and trailer?”
I thought to myself, why, this is an easy question, and gave my answer.
The student replied, “But, what if they still don’t listen”?
I thought a bit more and answered thoughtfully again. Smug that I had given them another way to help convince Mom and Dad to remove vegetation, I was shocked to hear a meek “What if they still don’t listen?!”
Yep, once again stumped by a student, I answered, “Send them to me.”
Michele Sadauskas is the Oneida County AIS Coordinator and can be reached at (715) 365-2750 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact her to arrange AIS presentations and/or workshops, report any suspicious plant behavior, or find out more about any of the above mentioned projects. She welcomes all questions.