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By January 5, 2015 0 Comments Read More →

Research Students Contribute to Regional Understanding

Lisa Cleckner, Ph.D.

Director, Finger Lakes Institute


During the summer of 2014, the Finger Lakes Institute hosted three research students who worked on a number of invasive species-focused projects in collaboration with the Finger Lakes Partnership for Invasive Species Management (FL-PRISM).

Sam Burrell, Hobart ’15, focused his efforts on early detection of Hydrilla in the Finger Lakes.  For his project, Sam surveyed the northern ends of Cayuga and Seneca Lakes’ for aquatic plant species distributions at 20 pre-determined locations using the rake-toss method. In addition to looking for what invasive aquatic plant species were present, Sam measured the native plants present at each site and their relative biomass.  Site-specific information such as location, depth, and water quality data was also collected. Invasive species (Myriophyllum spicatum) on Seneca made up 26% of the total occurrences of all plants.


Sam Burrell, Hobart ’15, sampling on Cayuga Lake. Photo credit: Lisa Cleckner.

For Cayuga Lake, invasive species (Myriophyllum spicatum and Potamogeton crispus) made up 12.2% of the total occurrences. Overall, it was important to complete a systematic macrophytes assessment in the northern parts of the lake as this work has not been completed in several years, and Sam’s work contributes to the Finger Lakes macrophytes record.


Abby Dylag, WS ’16, investigated the identification of two different swallow-wort species entered into NYS’s iMap database. Two species, pale swallow-wort (Cynanchum rossicum or Vincetoxicum rossicum) and black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae or Vincetoxicum nigrum) are commonly misidentified as each other. Pale swallow-wort tends to have longer roots and is relatively easy to remove while black swallow-wort has a shorter root system but reproduces vegetatively with an underground rhizome, making it harder to remove. There is also a genetic difference between the two species that would make biological control methods different. Abby re-visited several locations where swallow-wort had been entered into the iMap database and verified which species was present. This surveillance work is essential for determining distributions of organisms which in turn informs and helps to prioritize control and eradication efforts.SummerResearch 026

Abby Dylag, ’16, sampling for pale swallow-wort in the Finger Lakes region. Photo credit: Abby Dylag.

Joe Sylvia, H ’16, combined field work and GIS experience to explore the issue of whether emerald ash borer (EAB), a highly destructive insect, follows major transportation routes as its invasion path. Emerald ash borers infest ash trees, and ash trees comprise 16 to 30 percent of the trees in many counties of Upstate New York. Counties were prioritized based off of their location to the Finger Lakes Institute, the ash percentage (a GIS layer received from the NYs DEC) and the accessibility we had to the property. The five counties surveyed were Wayne, Ontario, Cayuga, Steuben, and Onondaga. For the actual survey, Joe surveyed transects for ash trees, and when present, examined the bark, looked for woodpecker damage, canopy decline, and epicormic sprouting. Each tree was also located by a GPS waypoint. In conclusion, determining whether or not EAB follows human designed transportation routes was difficult to do because of the timing of the project. During the summer months, EAB is at its adult stage of life, so finding it in the ash trees is unlikely. But with the data collected from the surveyed areas, highly probable areas or places where invasions are likely to occur were determined to help prioritize areas that may be infested first based on ash tress populations and proximities to transportation routes.

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Abby Dylag, ’16, sampling an ash tree for EAB infestation. Photo credit: Joe Sylvia.

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