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 these programs, you’ll 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 in the FLX!

Who can join?


Details for each program area below.


Terrestrial Survey (Trail Survey Program)

As part of our Trail Survey, participants are asked to hike a local trail and record what invasive species they see with a mobile app. By taking part in our Trail Survey, you not only help the environment by helping us track invasive species, but you give yourself a chance to learn new skills!

Trail Survey Goals:

  • Find where invasive plants are growing along our trails by surveying with your smartphone
  • Use the collected data to prioritize invasive species removal

What would I be doing?

Garlic mustard, a common invasive plant.

Volunteers will be hiking a trail of their choice once a month during the summer (June, July, and August). While hiking, you will note the invasive species you find using an app on your phone called iMapInvasives. There are two projects one can take part in for the Trail Survey – our Trail Trackers and our Trail Masters. The difference in these projects will be your skill level. Read more below for more details.

Trail Tracker: A Trail Tracker will learn how to identify six invasive species in a 30-minute training. Once trained, volunteers will be asked to hike one trail of their choosing in June, July, and August to search for two of those species each month. Become a Trail Tracker if you are just starting out, aren’t very knowledgeable about invasive species, or don’t have much time!

Trail Master: A Trail Master will learn how to identify over twenty different invasive species in a one-hour training. They will then survey the same trail once a month in June, July, and August, and will record invasive species observations every 50 feet along the trail. Become a Trail Master if you are knowledgeable about invasive species, participated in the Trail Survey previously, or are just eager to learn!

Benefits to joining the Trail Survey:

  • Help the environment by stopping our worst invasive species!
  • Learn new skills! Learn how to identify invasive species and use reporting tools on your phone
  • Be more active! By getting outside and hiking on trails, you can exercise without having to go to the gym
  • Get outdoors! Research shows that we spend 93% of our time indoors, and that being outside and interacting with nature can significantly help lower stress

We have completed all of our Trail Survey trainings, but they are available to watch on our YouTube channel!

2024 Virtual Training Recordings:

For more information reach out to caceci@hws.edu.


Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Survey

HWA ovisacs on a hemlock branch.

Hemlocks are under threat! We are seeking dedicated volunteers to join us in the fight against one of our most destructive (and smallest) invasive species, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA). This tiny insect is wreaking havoc on our hemlock trees across the Finger Lakes. You can help us fight HWA by joining us in scouting for it, either on your own in trails and parks in your area, or by attending one of our workshops. With a greater understanding of where HWA is, we can better plan efforts to limit its spread, and treat it before its too late!

Types of Events:
  • Presentations – A discussion of HWA, hemlocks, and their importance, with no volunteer component.
  • Trainings – Learn over Zoom how to survey for HWA and identify hemlocks on your own time.
  • Workshops – Hands-on field session to learn how to survey for HWA and identify hemlocks with the help of our team.

The 2024 HWA Survey has concluded, but you can check out a recorded training from January here.

Email caceci@hws.edu for more information.


Aquatic Survey (Macrophyte Survey Program)

The Macrophyte Survey Program provides community scientists with the information and supplies needed to sample for invasive aquatic plant species in waterbodies near them. Participants attend a training prior to the start of the program to learn how to identify aquatic plants and report findings using a phone or tablet. We provide identification guides that cover a wide range of species but we focus on three high-priority invasive species: Hydrilla, Starry Stonewort, and Water Chestnut. The program runs annually from June to October, and volunteers are encouraged to commit to a schedule that works best for them; though sampling on a bi-weekly basis is ideal!

Curious about what the sampling process entails? It’s easier than you think! The video linked below shows what the rake toss method of sampling entails—this is the same procedure volunteers will perform (though perhaps from a dock, a pontoon, paddleboat, or kayak). You simply throw the sampling rake into the water, and identify what plants and other organisms are attached when you pull it back up.


The MSP has seen a lot of growth since its launch in 2017! During the 2023 season, we had 52 volunteers sampling on over 30 different waterbodies. Learn more about the program and how to join our dedicated team of volunteers by emailing AIS Program Manager Amy Slentz at aslentz@hws.edu.

Registration for the 2024 season has launched!
Click here to access the registration form.

Water Chestnut (Trapa natans)

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)

Starry Stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa)


Water Chestnut Pulls

Water chestnut (Trapa natans) is a high priority aquatic invasive species in the Finger Lakes and we’re looking for passionate people to help us control it! Water chestnut can be removed by hand and is a great outdoor activity that helps protect the environment. 

In 2022 season, we pulled over 13,000 pounds of water chestnut at 14 locations across the Finger Lakes region; and in 2023, we removed 7,500 pounds pounds of plant material. This was made possible with the help of all the dedicated volunteers and partners that joined us throughout our field seasons. 

Currently, water chestnut hand pull events are planned through the end of June and the month of July, before the plants mature and begin to reseed. In general, each pull starts around 9 am and lasts roughly 3 hours. Kayaks or canoes are freely provided for all volunteers, based on registration. 

Registration for 2024 events coming soon!

Email AIS Program Manager Amy Slentz at aslentz@hws.edu for more information on the upcoming season.