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 the iMap Invasives 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 iMap Invasives. 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

Signup link for virtual trainings: https://forms.gle/fWJu7HqNLQKsAuAZ7

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


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. 

This program runs annually from June to October, and volunteers are asked to sample once every two weeks. However, if you can only commit to a certain time, just let us know! 

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 thing that you will do (though perhaps from your dock, a pontoon, paddleboat, etc.). You simply throw the sampling rake into the water and identify what plants are attached when you pull it back up. 


The MSP has seen a lot of growth since its launch in 2017. This past field season we had 37 volunteers and 8 watercraft stewards that contributed to the database. Through the cumulative efforts of everyone involved in 2022, we covered 17 waterbodies, identified 6 aquatic invasive species and 12 aquatic native species. The map below shows the total spread for the program in 2022.  

Signup link for virtual trainings: https://forms.gle/TmyVKJVc1UKjfk9D6

For more information reach out to aslentz@hws.edu

Water Chestnut


Starry Stonewort


Water Chestnut Pulls

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

During the 2022 season, we pulled over 13,000 pounds of water chestnut at 14 locations across the Finger Lakes region! We couldn’t have done it without all the volunteers and partners that joined us throughout the field season. 

Currently, water chestnut hand pull events are planned to run through the month of July, before the plants mature and begin to reseed. Note that each pull starts at 9 am and lasts for about 3 hours. Kayaks or canoes are freely provided for all volunteers, based on registration. 

In 2023, we hope to remove over 7,500 lbs across our region! Registration is now available for the following dates:

Wed, July 12—Montezuma Audobon Center: https://forms.gle/J48EZ1bDCdEm7Vig6
Thurs, July 13—Hector Falls Creek: https://forms.gle/LVqtJikwbpHxJYuM9
Wed, July 19—Montezuma NWR: https://forms.gle/enU5d18JRCJDQdEN8
Wed, July 26—West River, High Tor WMA: https://forms.gle/wAsj6MDNVn3n5faa6

Email aslentz@hws.edu for more information on the upcoming season. 

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Survey

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 better understanding of where HWA is, we can better plan efforts to limit its spread, and treat it before its too late.

If you’re interested email gallo@hws.edu for more information.