Vermont Invasive Patrollers (VIP), a volunteer monitoring program of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, provides a critical line of defense against invasive species that threaten our lakes and ponds. Volunteers or VIPs are trained to identify and distinguish between native and invasive aquatic plants and animals, and to conduct surveys for aquatic invaders like Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, and zebra mussels. VIPs survey a lake or pond twice each summer and submit their surveys and any suspicious findings to VT DEC.
A workshop on aquatic invasive species biology, identification, spread prevention, and survey techniques is scheduled for Friday, August 2nd, 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock. Those who complete the workshop can sign up to be a VIP on their favorite water-body, although commitment to become a VIP is not required to attend the workshop. The workshop is offered at no cost to participants and will include both time in the classroom and on the water. Participants need to have a canoe or kayak for the field portion of the workshop.
In addition, participants will learn about the Vermont Boat Access Greeter Program, a network of trained individuals that inspect incoming and outgoing watercraft for plant and animal material at more than 25 Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department Access Areas. Greeters also share spread prevention techniques with access area users.
Aquatic invasive species have several common characteristics. They reproduce abundantly (for example, aquatic invasive plants can often form a whole new plant from just a fragment) and lack natural predators and other control mechanisms. And if we’re not careful, they also tend to be skilled hitch-hikers, hitching rides on boats, fishing gear, and other recreational equipment as we travel from one lake to another.
Once established, they can reduce species diversity, out-compete native species that support fish habitat, and disrupt the ecosystem balance. They can also be hard on our pocket-books. For example, zebra mussels can attach to and clog intake pipes, and water chestnut can grow so dense it makes boating all but impossible, which can hurt recreation-based tourism.
With Vermont’s more than 800 lakes and ponds, Greeters and VIPs play fundamental roles in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, and detecting them before they become well-established, before eradication and even control can simply be too difficult and costly. Only if we know where invasive species are can we take the necessary steps to manage them or prevent their spread to other water-bodies.
For more information and to register, visit http://www.watershedmanagement.vt.gov/lakes/htm/ans/lp_VIP.htm or contact Bethany Sargent at (802) 490-6129 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited and the deadline to register is Monday, July 29th.
Contact: Bethany Sargent, (802) 490-6129, email@example.com