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PSU looking for volunteers to patrol for aquatic invaders
Author: John Kirkland
Posted: June 11, 2014

Oregon Lake Watch, a Portland State University program that monitors invasive species in the state’s lakes, ponds and reservoirs, is looking for volunteers.

Each volunteer will adopt a body of water of his or her choice and submit water sample data to the organization twice during the summer. The work is important because it helps keep tabs on a problem that could potentially disrupt the region’s economy and cost many millions of dollars to correct, according to Mark Sytsma, PSU professor of environmental sciences and the university’s associate vice president of research.

Oregon Lake Watch will hold three training sessions for volunteers:
•    Saturday, June 14, at Rooster Rock State Park, located 20 miles east of downtown Portland on I-84; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for new volunteers; 1:30 to 3:30 for returning volunteers.
•    Saturday, June 21, at the Yoncalla Community Center located between Eugene and Roseburg off I-5; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for new volunteers; 1:30 to 3:30 for returning volunteers.
•    Sunday, June 22, at the Bend Central Library in downtown Bend; noon to 6 p.m. for new volunteers; 3:30 to 5:30 for returning volunteers.

No experience is necessary to volunteer, although having access to a boat is helpful. Each training session will last about six hours, and will cover identifying invasive aquatic species, monitoring water quality and choosing sampling sites. Sampling equipment will be provided to each volunteer.

See Oregon Lake Watch’s web site, www.pdx.edu/oregon-lake-watch, to sign up.

Invasive species are any non-native living thing with the power to proliferate and disrupt ecosystems. Nearly all coastal lakes in Oregon have been invaded by nonnative plants, and nonnative fish are probably in every water body in the state, Systma said. They get from one place to another on pleasure boat hulls and trailers, ship ballast water, and other means.

Zebra mussels top the state’s “most wanted” list of invasive species because of their potential to damage endangered salmon runs and the region’s hydroelectric system.  They aren’t present in Oregon yet, Sytsma said, but if they arrived they could cost untold millions in damage to aquatic ecosystems in the Northwest, and would require more than $25 million a year to manage their impacts on Columbia River dams.

“The fact that we don't have some of the more damaging species yet is one reason the Oregon Lake Watch program is so valuable. It provides the eyes and boots on the ground that we need for early detection of new invaders,” Sytsma said.

“Early detection of new invaders is critical to cost-effective and successful prevention of new invasions. Our first goal is to prevent their introduction into Oregon, but if one slips into the state we want to find them as soon as possible so we can stop them from establishing and spreading,” he added.

All natural resource agencies in Oregon have a role in preventing the establishment of new aquatic invasive species, including the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon State Marine Board. The agencies are coordinated through the Oregon Invasive Species Council. PSU is a founding member of the council, and Sytsma is the chair this year.