By Maggie Newell, Backcountry Water Monitoring Trip Leader
What are you looking for in a paddling trip? Do you prefer to meander up winding rivers or to pond hop through the St. Regis canoe area? When I started paddling Adirondack waters, I reveled in mountain views across open lakes and listening to the call of my favorite aquatic companion: the common loon. This season, however, my focus has shifted from looking across water to underwater as a guide for ADK’s (Adirondack Mountain Club’s) Backcountry Water Monitor Project (BCWMP).
The BCWMP surveys backcountry ponds and lakes for aquatic invasive species (AIS). Species become invasive when they are introduced to areas where they were not previously found. This can wreak havoc on an ecosystem, as these species are often transported without their natural predators and diseases, so they are able to grow unchecked in their new home. As a result, they outcompete native vegetation, damage the food chain, and can grow into dense mats across lakes, making them unpleasant to swim or boat across. Once an AIS has taken over a lake, it is very labor-intensive and sometimes nearly impossible to remove.