Sue Davies- Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator
I’m Sue, the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS). I grew up in New Zealand, surrounded by both the stories and the reality of invasive species like European rabbits, which in the worst affected areas in New Zealand, can be so thick on the ground that the ground literally moves with them. I have always been committed to preventing the spread of invasive species, and my work at CSISS allows me to work closely with both the authorities and the public in order to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasives into our beautiful BC lakes and rivers.
I spend my time sampling some of the many water bodies in the Columbia Shuswap region, looking for potential infestations of invasive mussels and other invasive species. A day sampling usually starts with packing up the gear I will need for the day, then a long drive! I start early, often driving as much as 2 hours before getting to my first location of the day. When at the lake, I usually sample from available dock structures. I throw my sampling net, which has a very fine mesh (64-micron mesh to be precise) and collect a plankton sample from several net tows at each site. The sample is condensed into a small sample bottle and preserved with isopropyl alcohol, ready to be shipped off to the lab for analysis. I also check the underwater dock surfaces to see if any settled mussels are in evidence; the surface would feel gritty to the touch, like fine sandpaper if they were there. Finally, I test the water temperature and pH (acidity) and lower a Secchi disk into the water to get an idea of clarity of the water by seeing how deep the disk goes before I loose sight of it. I enter all the data onto my iPad GIS system.
Doing all this standing on a dock with various people enjoying their day at the lake often prompts people to ask questions about what I’m doing. I always carry information with me, resin encased samples of invasive mussels, information sheets, and even some give-aways like chamois cloths, so that I can explain what I’m doing, and why, and also to ask their help in preventing the spread of invasive species by cleaning, draining and drying their watercraft.
I often sample multiple sites on a single lake, but if I move to a new lake, I must be very careful not to spread any invasive species on my gear. I have several sets of sampling gear, and always use a new set on each new lake. The gear then gets thoroughly disinfected at the end of the day, with a two step process that involves a vinegar soak to dissolve any mussel shells, and a short soak in bleach to kill any potential aquatic hitchhikers. The gear is then hung on a line to dry before being used again.
This is such a rewarding job! It’s great to spend my days visiting these beautiful lakes, and talking to people, but by far the best bit of my day is the feeling that I’m helping to protect the lakes and rivers we all love so much.