Launch Stewards Serve Up Another Season of Educating Boaters on Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention
Great Lakes Aquatic Invasive Species - Watercraft Inspection - News

Compiled by Paul C. Focazio, New York Sea Grant

The 2014 New York Sea Grant Launch Stewards were (front row from left): Rob Bucci of Pennellville, NY; Chief Steward Brittney Rogers of Mexico, NY; Ashleigh Grosso of West Monroe, NY; and Jordan Bodway of Sylvan Beach, NY; and, standing from left, David Newell of Henderson, NY; Rob Tornatore, Jake Barnes of Wolcott, NY; and Jeremy Galvin of Oswego, NY. Photo: NY Sea Grant

Oswego, NY, December 16, 2014 - Eight New York college students interested in environmental science careers worked with the New York Sea Grant (NYSG) Launch Steward program this year. Their main objective, as outlined by the program, was to help prevent or slow down the spread of aquatic hitchhikers by educating boaters and the general public about aquatic invasive species and the detrimental effects these invaders have on the ecosystems where they are introduced.

For a period of about 16 weeks beginning around Memorial Day, the launch stewards demonstrated watercraft inspection at sites along Lake Ontario's eastern shoreline from Sodus Bay to Henderson, the Oswego River, Little Salmon River, Salmon River, Sandy Creek, Stony Creek, and Oneida Lake from Bridgeport to Brewerton.

"The stewards provide this voluntary service for operators of motorized and non-motorized boats and share information on the easy-to-implement Clean, Drain, Dry method that boaters can use to help slow the spread of aquatic invasive species such as European water chestnut, Hydrilla, waterfleas, European frog-bit, Asian clam, and rusty crayfish," said New York Sea Grant Coastal Community Development Specialist Mary Penney, who serves as the Launch Steward Program Coordinator.

Local fisherman points to area on his trailer where AIS are commonly found. Photo: NYSG/Brittney Rogers

As observed in previous summer seasons, the highest trafficking seen was during July and August as the temperatures were most ideal for boating. Stewards performed optional surveys at the launches with boaters, collecting data on subjects including, but not limited to, invasive species awareness, previous water bodies and preventative methods. The data collected is used to help determine awareness of invasive species and this program. It is also used to determine how the invasive species are currently being spread.

The students hired for this year's program were trained by New York Sea Grant, which developed the New York State Watercraft Inspection Steward Program Handbook (a screen shot from which is pictured above) for the Cornell University Statewide Invasive Species Outreach Program.

"This new steward program development handbook is an important tool for use in fighting the running battle with aquatic invasive species," said Chuck O’Neill, New York State Invasive Species Clearinghouse Director and Cornell University Extension Invasive Species Program Coordinator. Funding for the 81-page illustrated training manual was provided in part by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

NYSG Launch Steward Brittney Rogers shakes hands with boater after showing him how to inspect his boat for aquatic hitchhikers. Photo: NYSG/Megan Pistolese

(Photo at left) NYSG 2013 Launch Steward Nick Spera and SLELO’s Shelby Degato remove water chestnuts from a canoe to be weighed at the Water Chestnut Hand Pull held at Pine Grove Boat Launch; (Photo at right) NYSG Launch Stewards learn AIS identification at AIS training. Photos: NYSG/Brittney Rogers

This Year's Stewards Reflect on Their Experiences

Brittney Rogers of Mexico served as Chief Steward with responsibilities for coordinating scheduling and overseeing steward activities, which include collecting data on how often boaters are practicing aquatic invasive prevention practices on their own. She is a 2013 SUNY Oswego zoology graduate who worked with the New York Sea Grant Launch Steward Program in 2013, completed an externship with the Wildlife Center of Virginia earlier this year, and is a Kindred Kingdom Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc. volunteer.

Jake Barnes, a junior at Cazenovia College, is studying environmental biology. "As an angler, I have grown to care about the aquatic ecosystem. Working with the New York Sea Grant Launch Steward program offered me the opportunity to provide anglers and boaters with information about how they can help protect our water resources," said Barnes.

Jordan Bodway, a junior at the State of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, is studying environmental science. “I am interested in protecting the integrity of our water resources. Working as a New York Sea Grant Launch Steward provided me with valuable experiences in public outreach through interacting with boaters and visitors to the launch areas about how they can help slow the spread of aquatic invasive species,” said Bodway.

Robert Bucci of Pennellville is a SUNY Plattsburgh graduate with a degree in Environmental Science/Ecology. He brought experience as a Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve naturalist and an environmental educator at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Ecology Camp to his role as a Launch Steward. "I came in with an interest to build on my aquatic species knowledge as a Launch Steward and to help ensure healthy ecosystems for future generations by interacting with boaters with a goal of becoming an Environmental Conservation Officer," said Bucci.

Jeremy Galvin of Oswego is a sophomore studying environmental science systems at Le Moyne College. "My interest is in environmental engineering. Working with the New York Sea Grant Launch Steward program was a great opportunity for me to interact with the community and encourage a positive attitude toward conservation," said Galvin.

Ashleigh Grosso of West Monroe is a Cayuga Community College freshman studying Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Science. GIS use photographs and images from satellites, GPS waypoints and other data sources to create interactive maps for decision makers in environmental, government, law enforcement and other fields. "I am beginning to explore career options related to the environment, environmental education and technology. So educating boaters about aquatic invasive species and how to slow their spread as a Launch Steward is something I found very rewarding," said Grosso.

David Newell, a junior at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, is studying natural resources management. "I am interested in working as an Environmental Conservation Officer and the New York Sea Grant Launch Steward program offered the opportunity to network with environmental professionals and interact with the public about aquatic invasive species," said Newell.

Rob Tornatore, a senior at the College at Brockport, is studying environmental science with a career goal of becoming an Environmental Conservation Officer. “Having an interest in helping to keep our lakes healthy for future generations, I found that the Steward program offered great learning experiences both to me as a steward as well as the boaters who participate in the watercraft inspection demonstrations,” said Tornatore.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NSGCP engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources. Through its statewide network of integrated services, NYSG has been promoting coastal vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources since 1971.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links. NYSG also offers a free e-list sign up via for NY Coastlines, its flagship publication, which, in 2014, merged with the program's e-newsletter, Currents. NY Coastlines is published several times a year.

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