Lakes and (some) People Who Love Them

WatershedWarriorPatchFINALAfter a long bout of writer’s block, I am back on the blog again, mostly prompted by the desire to share the great opportunity I’ve enjoyed over the past six months as a Program Assistant for New Hampshire Lakes Association ( After being away from the cadre of lake protectors for many years, it felt great to be working with others who care as much as I do about protecting our water resources.

It fell into place serendipitously. Eager to make my way back into the environmental field, I quit my full time job and arranged to interview several organizations to find the best opportunity for a part time, un-paid, self-designed internship. Yes, a non-traditional intern, but an intern nonetheless – a lot has changed since I last work as a biologist / environmental educator. After meeting with five environment-focused nonprofits (what fun it was to choose the groups I wanted to work with, and being much more relaxed during the interview) I narrowed it down to two choices. Just as I was preparing to make my list of “Pros and Cons” for the two organizations, I received a phone call from NH Lakes indicating that they just got word that they were approved for the grant that would fund the project we discussed during my interview, and they offered me a paid internship! That made my decision so much easier.

I was strongly leaning towards NH Lakes, anyway. When I was first planning this internship, I made the decision that I would dedicate it in memory of my mentor and friend, Jody Connor. Jody was the director of the Limnology Center at NH Department of Environmental Services, where I had my first full-time professional role as a Biologist. I learned so much from Jody, and shared many, many laughs with him and my fellow limnologists. Jody was dedicated to protecting New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds; he put his heart and soul into his work. Sadly, in 2011, Jody died unexpectedly, leaving a huge gap in the lake community. He is deeply missed by many. Although I’m sure that Jody would have approved of me interning for an organization that focuses on rivers, estuaries or the ocean, it was always lakes that Jody held near and dear to his heart. Like me, Jody grew up spending summers in the Lakes Region. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I watched from the boardwalk as Jody won many water ski races on Weirs Bay in Lake Winnipesaukee. Dedicating this internship to him is a small gesture, but I feel his spirit with me as I do my work, even as I enter data for “just one more lake” before leaving for the day.

My role at NH Lakes is two-fold. The grant I spoke of is funding a new watershed protection curriculum called Watershed Warriors, a circuit of integrative learning stations geared for children aged eight throughWatershed Warrior Iris twelve. Since 2002, NH Lakes has been doing a fine job of reaching out to adult audiences, with their Lake Host program, and high school students, since 2009, with their Summer Youth Employment Program. With the Watershed Warriors program, NH Lakes made it a priority to reach out to school aged children to encourage stewardship in those who will be making future decisions that will affect our environment.  How perfect – I am able to tap into my experience, education and knowledge gained from my days as a limnologist and as an elementary school teacher. The circuit addresses topics such as lake formation, the water cycle, aquatic food webs, watersheds, nonpoint source pollution, and aquatic invasive species. At the end of the circuit, children choose from the many “take action” suggestions provided at each station. They make a pledge to adopt this action – a new behavior or daily practice – and by doing so, become a Watershed Warrior. They receive a fancy certificate and a nifty patch. I had so much fun designing the patch – on top of working in the environmental field, I got to use my creative abilities as well.

My other role is the Lake Host Program Assistant. This position has been an important part of the program for many years, as we collect a lot, no – a huge amount – of data on boaters and their knowledge and practices in regard to aquatic invasive species (AIS). We hire and train about 250 paid lake hosts each summer and 500 volunteer lake hosts. What a great expe20140713_084732rience that was – training all those people! We offered five training sessions throughout the spring, each one was a little different, mainly due to the attendees and the questions and experiences they shared during the sessions. Many of the volunteer lake hosts have been with the program since its inception. I also had the privilege of visiting boat ramps all around the state, throughout the summer. The purpose of the Lake Host Program is to educate boaters about AIS and the Clean, Drain and Dry method, and to conduct courtesy (i.e., not mandatory as in some other states) boat inspections.  Most people know about aquatic plants, such as milfoil, but we now have the problem of aquatic invasive animals. Their introduction into many New England waterbodies is a serious problem, making imperative the consistent practice of cleaning, draining and drying, preferably dry for five days, to prevent their spread into new bodies of water.  And it’s not just your boat! You must be diligent about cleaning your fishing gear, boat lines, scuba gear – anything that comes in contact with the water. This is especially important due to the nasty little spiny water flea, which has recently been confirmed in Lake Champlain. To can learn more about AIS and the Lake Host Program click here

I have about three more weeks before my internship comes to an end. What a joy it has been working with Andrea LaMoreaux and the other NH Lakes staff members. Aandrea is also among the many lucky NH lake enthusiasts who flourished under the guidance of Jody Connor; it is poignant to have that connection with her. Andrea has added so much to my previous knowledge of volunteer management, non-profits, technology, and trends in the control and prevention of AIS, among other things. And what a great sense of humor! It is going to be hard when the time comes to leave. I think it’s safe to say that it will not be the best of times for NH Lakes, either. I have never been much of a bragger, but Andrea has given me lots of positive feedback and she wishes they had funding to keep me on staff. I feel so fortunate, and am very grateful for the experience I’ve gained as I continue on my journey into the next great adventure. I’m optimistic for good things to come!




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A July Afternoon on the Lamprey River

Great Blue Heron

A beautiful summer afternoon. My favorite bird, the great blue heron, greeted me with a landing across the river just as I was launching my kayak at the Riverside Cemetery on Packers Falls Road in Newmarket, NH.

Dragonflies and damsesflies were abundant and the water was smooth and calm as I paddled downstream towards the maze of bends, coves and inlets that make this section of the Lamprey River such an enjoyable paddle.

I was surrounded by so much life and activity and many plants were in bloom; Yellow and white water lilies, pickerel weed and the lovely bright red cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis.

Yellow water lily, Nuphar lutea

White water lily, Nymphaea odorata

Pickerel weed, Pontederia cordata

Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis

Insects have difficulty maneuvering the shape of the cardinal flower so it relies on the hummingbird for pollination. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of  a visit from a hummingbird while I was enjoying this brilliant plant.

It was a hot day and I encountered several groups of children jumpining off of rope swings and swimming in the cooling waters of the river. A few anglers were trying their luck, and though I saw some jumping fish, they appeared to be on the small side, maybe sunfish.

I was pleased to come upon a piece of land protected by the Nature Conservancy. I pulled my kayak up on the shore and took a quick walk and looked around. I found… beauty.

I paddled along for over an hour and there was still much of the river I didn’t get to explore, but I thought it best to turn around and head back as the sun was strong and I didn’t want to get too much of a good thing. Enjoying the shade along the river’s edge, and meandering through overhanging branches I came across some very strange looking stuff. At first I thought it might be amphibian egg masses, but upon closer inspection I guessed that it was some kind of a gelatinous algae. I was wrong. A little bit of research when I got home and I learned that its not a of plant or egg mass, but a freshwater bryozoan, a colonial filter feeder. Many bryozoans are found in marine ecosystems; the one freshwater form is in a class called phylactolaemata.

A freshwater bryozoan. Class phylactolaemata, order plumatellida

Freshwater bryozoan, a gelatinous colony of filter feeders

Life on and in the Lamprey River is not all pretty flowers and dragonflies! I also came across this active wasp nest where I took a quick photo and quickly went on my way!

Paddling back toward the cemetery I thought how fortunate I am to have this beautiful river in my town. Previously, I have enjoyed the tidal portion of the river, below the McCallen Dam on Main Street and continuing right out to Great Bay. However, my childhood summers on Lake Winnipesaukee and my years as a limnologist have provided me with experiences that have given me an affection and a sense of wonder and respect for freshwater ecosystems. I look forward to my next visit with the Lamprey River and its flora and fauna, the good, the bad, and the ugly!


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Nature’s Spin Art

May 3, 2011

Early morning walks are one of the positive changes that have come into my life as a result of adopting a dog. I may not be feeling this way in the middle of January, but in the first week of May it’s pretty nice! Just as the sun was coming up in the horizon, Luna and I approached the river in awe. OK, maybe Luna didn’t notice the beauty of the sunrise, but she was happy. We sat and watched dawn’s light show (well, I sat and watched, Luna strolled and sniffed). The colors in the sky and on the water’s surface blended from orange to pink, yellow, blue, and purple in a quiet stillness that calmed me to my soul.

Living near a body of water provides a dynamic and ever-changing scenery, from the colorful tranquility that I experienced this morning, to a gray chaotic turmoil on a blustery day. Like people, rivers have moods that greatly affect those around them.  I am drawn to the peacefulness of the calm waters, just as I am drawn to gentle and calm people. I also know to keep a respectful distance from stormy waters until the frenzied energy is released and the serenity welcomes me back again.

I am looking forward to observing the changing moods of the river and the seasonal changes in the woods along the way as we move through spring into summer.

Luna on the Lamprey River at dawn

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Bidding Winter a Fond Farewell

These geese and mallards are from rugged stock! We had a frigid winter here in New Hampshire; sub zero overnight temps and single digits during the day, yet these birds, and about 50 others, lingered at the launch area in my town. A smaller stream provided constant open water and food as it flowed into the Lamprey River,  and the birds seem to find comfort by staying somewhat close, but not quite huddled, together. Nonetheless, I was always amazed as I walked by them bundled up in my wool and down. I suppose they were bundled up in their own down, but still, I marvel at their ability to linger here in the inhospitable winter rather than flying south to more friendly climes.

Often, when the chilly winds of January are howling outside my windows, I feel concern for the wild animals out there fending for themselves through blizzards, ice storms, and freezing temperatures. I fully understand that wildlife are well-suited to survive in the environment in which they live, but I can’t help but feel badly for them when the weather is bad. It really is a wonder of nature, how animals in the wild adapt so well to the changing seasons.

And, thankfully, the seasons change! Fallen leaves and acorns litter the ground in anticipation of the warmth of the spring sunshine, with promise of the mighty oak to come.

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My First Post

This is all new to me, so I am sort of floundering around, trying to figure out how this works.

My plan for this web log is to write about the sights, sounds and observations I encounter as I explore the natural areas in my town and beyond. Living near the sea, yet close enough to mountains, forest, and fields, gives me so many rich environments in which to immerse myself. I have always been a person who likes to stop and smell the roses, who enjoys the journey, and doesn’t really care too, too much if I don’t make it to the top of the mountain. In the spirit of Thoreau, who inspired the title of my blog, I am anticipating that giving my full attention to a single bird, flower, or tree will lead me to slow down and become more aware and mindful, in general.

The rain has stopped, the sky is clearing, inviting me to go out for a walk. Which brings me to another wonderful Thoreau quote, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

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