The VLMP works to promote and support citizen-based early detection efforts in areas of the state where such activities are currently lacking through a unique program called Invasive Plant Patrol Jump-Start. The objectives of IPP Jump-Start are to:
1) Organize a survey team (comprised primarily of seasoned volunteer Invasive Plant Patrollers, supported by VLMP staff) to conduct a comprehensive invasive aquatic plant screening survey and native plant inventory on the target waterbody; and
2) To help “jump-start” a locally sustainable citizen-based monitoring program in the region through outreach, training, and more spontaneous forms of interaction between team members and the host community.
IPP Jump-Start was piloted on one of the most highly-valued and more vulnerable lakes in Maine (also the state’s largest lake): Moosehead.
If such a project could succeed on this grand scale, it was likely that it could succeed anywhere in the state. This first-ever, volunteer-powered aquatic plant survey of Maine’s largest lake, Moosehead, was completed in 2013. The entire shoreline of the 74,000-acre-plus lake was methodically screened for aquatic invaders. NO invasive species were detected.
A high percentage of the volunteers who participated in this project over its six year timespan remained active throughout, which helped to create a cohesive, highly-competent team. The logistics of surveying a lake the size of Moosehead are challenging to say the least—challenges ranging from where the team will make base camp and how will meals be organized, to the more critical issues of access, on-lake communication, and safety. Each challenge was deftly handled by the team, with volunteers team members taking on key roles in all phases of the project . . . planning, facilitation, technical support, training, outreach, survey activity, plant identification, documentation, reporting, follow-up, etc.
Here is a summary of the Moosehead team’s accomplishments:
· The shoreline of Moosehead Lake, including the islands, measures 281 miles. If one takes into account deployment of boats over significant distances (often with larger motorized boats, towing smaller paddle craft) and the methodical travel back and forth along transects that is required to survey fertile coves and extensive shallows, the actually scope of the survey was substantially greater. The survey was done in short annual increments and took six years to complete. Actual time on the water however was remarkably short: 23 days!
· During this time the team carefully screened the littoral zone of Moosehead Lake for all eleven invasive aquatic plants legally listed as imminent threats to Maine lakes, as well as other potential aquatic invaders such as Chinese mystery snails and zebra mussels, finding no invasives present. Moosehead Lake now has a “clean bill of health” from which future monitoring efforts can proceed.1
· During the course of the survey, the team also documented all of the native plants found growing in the lake. A whopping 110 plant species have been documented. Thirty plant specimens of note have been submitted to the Maine State herbarium.
· Work on the second jump-start goal— assisting with the development of a locally sustainable citizen-based monitoring program in the region—is off to a promising start and continues to gather momentum. Through outreach conducted by team members, the VLMP has formed a broad coalition of local partners who will be meeting next spring onboard the Katahdin in Greenville to discuss next steps for the region. The Hunt of Aquatic Invaders, a documentary featuring this Moosehead jump-start project, will have its regional premier at this event. (For more on The Hunt, please see page ?? Please stay tuned for more on the Katahdin Lake Monitoring Forum.)
· A project on this scale, were it to have been done by professionals, would have been extremely costly, with a price tag in the tens of thousands–a cost prohibitive to most state agencies, municipalities and non-profit lake conservation groups. Volunteer engagement not only enabled this project to happen, it showed that high-quality survey could be done, efficiently and effectively, by volunteers.
Studies conducted throughout the country have consistently shown that information collected trained citizen scientists is equivalent to, and indistinguishable from that of professional scientists, at a fraction of the cost. This groundbreaking project on Maine’s largest lake serves as a powerful case in point!
1 The VLMP survey team did not monitor the lake for invasive fish. Two non-native fish species are known to be established in Moosehead Lake: small mouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), and white perch (Morone americana). Both were the result of illegal introductions.
Click here for the list of Moosehead Lake Survey Project Contributors.
The Hunt For Aquatic Invaders – The Moosehead Jump-Start story was captured by videographer Steve Underwood in extraordinary high-definition footage.
DVDs of the Hunt are available for $10 plus shipping and handling. Contact the VLMP to order yours today! 207-783-7733 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please click here for the most recent update on the Moosehead Lake IPP Survey.