Volunteers Community Partners

Volunteer Opportunities

We are actively looking for volunteers to help the fight against invasive species and we want you to be a part of it! You’ll help us by serving as additional ‘eyes on the ground’, identifying target species in our region. Without your help these invaders might go undetected. Plus, early detection allows for rapid response of high priority invasive species that cause significant damage to native ecosystems.

We don’t just want you to help us, we want to help you, too! In this program, you’ll be able to learn more about the environment around you with the help of professionals! Get a close look at what plants are growing beneath the surface of the water, or along your favorite hiking trail.

Where does this take place?

Anywhere within the Finger Lakes-PRISM region! If the spot you’re thinking of is within the 17 counties that we cover, then you’re in. There is no waterbody too small, and any hiking trail, or field even, with plants will do.

Finger Lakes PRISM Counties: Broome, Cayuga, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Tompkins, Tioga, Steuben, Wayne, and Yates.

Who can join?
Do you recreate in the Finger Lakes? Do you live near or have access to a waterbody? Do you have a favorite hiking trail? Then this program is for you! Our program consists of regular sampling, and you do not have to own property to participate.

Details for each program area below.

Water Chestnut Pulls

Water chestnut (Trapa natans) is a prolific invader of our waterbodies, and we’re looking for people to help us get rid of them! Water chestnut can be easily removed by hand and is a great activity you can do to enjoy yourself out on the water and help the environment!

Pulls typically start at 9 am and last for about 3 hours. Kayaks are freely provided for volunteers so there is no need to bring anything equipment of your own. For a schedule of our planned pulls, follow the link below!

Register Here: Water Chestnut Pull Schedule

Terrestrial Survey (Trail Survey Program)

As part of our trail survey, volunteers are asked to hike a local trail and record what invasive species they see with the iMap Invasives app. This is a completely voluntary program, and participants are encouraged to search for invasive species wherever, whenever, and however they want! Whether you’re only interested in hiking one trail to look for one species, or you want to hike all the trails in your area and identify as many species as possible, either will work!

Garlic Mustard – a common invasive plant along trail sides

The process itself couldn’t be simpler!

  1. Choose a trail to survey.
  2. Approximately every 50 feet (or about every 23 paces), look around in an imaginary circle with a 50 foot radius.
  3. Take note of each of the invasive species you see with the iMap app, and how large the infestation is, and there is no need to go off the trail!
  4. Repeat the process every 50 feet or so.

We offer trainings on how to identify common invasive species and how to use the iMap app, both in person and online. If you’re interested and don’t know where to begin, we have around 20 target invasive plant and animal species that we suggest to our volunteers. There is no minimum or maximum amount of species you need to look for, but some common species of concern include Japanese Knotweed, Spotted Lanternfly, Phragmites, and others.

Typically, we ask volunteers to hike their local trails three times during the summer, once a month in June, July, and August. This will help you identify invasive plant species as they flower throughout the season.

If you’re interested, you can register here: https://forms.gle/Xcfacg1kBSW7S4YK9 or email gallo@hws.edu.

Aquatic Survey (Macrophyte Survey Program)

The Macrophyte Survey Program provides citizen scientists with the information and supplies needed to sample for key invasive aquatic plant species in waterbodies near them. Participants attend a training online (or in person) to learn how to identify aquatic plants and report your findings using the iMap invasive species app on your phone or tablet. While we will provide ID guides for any native or invasive plants you may find, we really focus in on three high-priority invasive species: Hydrilla, Starry Stonewort, and Water Chestnut.

This program will run from mid-June to October, and volunteers are asked to take samples once every two weeks. However, if you can only commit to a certain time period, just let us know!

Curious about what the sampling process entails? It’s easier than you think! The photo to the right shows what the rake toss method of sampling entails—this is the same thing that you will do (though perhaps from your dock, a pontoon, paddleboat, etc.). You simply throw our sampling tool (two rakes fixed together) into the water and identify what plants are attached when you pull it back up. For a better visual, check out this short video:


The MSP has seen a lot of growth since its launch in 2017, and we want to make 2021 the best season yet! In 2020, the program had 31 volunteers across 28 waterbodies, and that’s not even including the 15 FLI Watercraft Stewards that sampled at their launches weekly. The map below shows the extent of the program in 2020, as well as the ratio of native to invasive submerged macrophytes by waterbody found last year.

To sign up, fill out the form at https://forms.gle/Xcfacg1kBSW7S4YK9 or email your contact information to mharris@hws.edu

Water Chestnut Hydrilla Starry Stonewort