by Alex Gatch, FLI 2013 Watercraft Steward
Community outreach is one of the most important aspects of the Steward program. Collecting and disposing of samples is a necessary part of the job, however, enlightening and teaching the community about invasive species plays just as an important role. I have had the opportunity to serve in two community outreach events this summer. These included the Finger Lakes International Dragon Boat Festival and the Celebrate Cayuga Lake Event at the Ithaca Farmers Market, of which both were held on Cayuga Lake.
The FL International Dragon Boat Festival on Cayuga Lake is a festival in which dragon boats are raced through the canal by local and non-local paddle teams. The eight dragon boats that were rented and used in the race came from Philadelphia. Thus, not being “native” boats, myself and fellow steward Kristen, were given the task to inspect the boats as they were taken from their trailer and launched into the Cayuga Inlet. The boats ended up being clean of any invasive species. While we found nothing of concern on or in the dragon boats, it was still a valuable experience to inform the surrounding crowd, as well as the company who supplied the boats, as to what we were doing and why it was important.
The Celebrate Cayuga Lake Event at the Ithaca Farmers Market offered a bit of a different experience. At the event, FLI WSP Intern Hilary Gove and I were able to provide community outreach by way of posters, informational handouts, and by conversations. Hilary and I talked to the community about various invasive species, how to prevent them from spreading, and how to identify them. Talking to locals on the canal that holds the world’s worst invasive (Hydrilla), was time well spent. Locals seemed to have abundant knowledge about the invasives and were motivated to get involved.
Though the FLI Watersteward Program has served as a summer job for me, it was also a fundamental step in my education and in the understanding of the relationship between the environment and the community. Without the natural environment, the quality of our community would be hindered. Thus, through community outreach and engagement, we as Water craft Stewards are able to provide a critical link between the community and the environment.