Lake Champlain currently has 51 known aquatic non-native and invasive species of plants, fish, mussels, and other freshwater dwellers. Invasive species are both non-native, or introduced to an area outside the range in which they evolved, and nuisance, or disruptors of the ecosystem into which they were introduced. Zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, and water chestnut are all invasive species found in Lake Champlain.
Humans have the greatest influence on the spread of invasives—hitchhikers need a ride to get to where they’re going, and humans are highly-mobile hosts that give rides knowingly through deliberately releasing fish into waterways or flushing exotic aquarium plants down the toilet, and unknowingly on watercraft. Fortunately, humans can also play a key role in early detection and spread prevention. That is why LCC started a new community science project: the Champlain Aquatic invasive Monitoring Program (CHAMP!) with funding from the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
Through CHAMP, LCC recruits, trains, and supports volunteers to survey for aquatic invasive species (AIS) at sites throughout Lake Champlain. Volunteers paddle or walk along a shoreline site, rake in samples of aquatic life (with a literal rake), and report their findings to LCC three times during the summer and fall. With the data gathered by dedicated CHAMP volunteers, management professionals can identify populations for rapid response and build a database of information on where they aren’t established. Surveys also aid in early detection -- we train volunteers in identification of “watch list” invasive species that have been reported in the Hudson River and other nearby waterbodies, but not yet found in Lake Champlain.
LCC rolled out CHAMP this past summer with a cadre of dedicated volunteers and plans to expand the program further in 2024. “Being a CHAMP volunteer has helped me learn more about the plants and animals in the lake and form a deeper bond to it, while also playing a role in protecting Lake Champlain from invasives,” says CHAMP volunteer Sandy Montgomery who surveys Missisquoi Bay near Philipsburg QC.
How To Become a CHAMP
If you have time to spare in the warmer months, you can help us cover more territory by joining CHAMP. LCC will provide training in AIS identification, an aquatic rake and a toolkit for surveying, and support throughout the season. Volunteers choose the sites they want to assess and conduct and submit three surveys for target AIS during the monitoring season which runs from July through October.
“Getting involved in CHAMP is a great way to learn more about what lives in the lake—both native and invasive species—while playing an active role in stewardship,” notes LCC Education & Outreach Associate Eileen Fitzgerald who oversees the program. To learn more about CHAMP and sign up for the 2024 season, fill out LCC’s CHAMP Interest Form or contact Eileen at eileenf@ and firstname.lastname@example.org. lakechamplaincommittee.org