Conservation Journal Alex

The Lakes Region Conservation Corps (LRCC) is an AmeriCorps service program that develops skills and experiences for conservation professionals. LRCC members are the driving force behind the Squam Lakes Association’s conservation efforts. The program provides hands-on conservation work experience and numerous certifications over a broad range of areas, which ensures that LRCC members are capable of independently approaching a variety of tasks in the environmental conservation field. Members remove invasive species from the Squam watershed, manage and act as caretakers at our backcountry campsites, maintain the SLA’s 50+ miles of trails, educate the public on local and regional conservation initiatives, spearhead reports on conservation efforts, lead SLA volunteer crews and ensure the daily functioning of the Squam Lakes Association’s programs. Click here to learn more about the LRCC program.

July 11, 2019

Scuba (scu. · ba): An apparatus utilizing a portable supply of compressed gas (as air) supplied at a regulated pressure and used for breathing while swimming underwater.

This is an accurate although dull definition of a device that allows you to explore a mysterious realm that would otherwise be inaccessible. This is good for multiple reasons. One is that it allows you to spend ample time underwater removing and surveying for variable milfoil, an aquatic invasive species here in the Squam Lakes region. A good deal of our AmeriCorps service during the summer months is devoted towards eradicating this plant for both ecological and recreational benefits. The second is that it allows you bask in that peculiar underwater world without the sense of urgency to return to the surface; a unique experience for us humans who are not adapted to such an environment.

Breathing underwater has been a new experience for me. Although I have always enjoyed swimming and being around bodies of water, I have never considered myself to be much of a water creature. During our last dive day, I had a particularly profound experience that brought me closer to becoming one.

As a four-person dive crew, we were surveying Evans Cove on Little Squam. John and I were below the surface while Heather and Danielle looked after us from above. The sun was shining bright down through the water column, except where it was blocked from objects on the surface. I was weaving through an obstacle course of rusted poles and boats when I approached a nearly opaque a wall of darkness hanging below a dock. As I continued into the unknown, I found myself floating through a dark tunnel with little room between the sediment below and the dock above me. It was a surreal sensation to say the least.

In my daze, I scrutinized the vegetation below me. Lots of bladderwort, a native plant which looks similar to milfoil but can be distinguished by small bladders that allow it to be carnivorous. As I approached the end of the dock and was about to emerge from the ominous tunnel I had just surveyed, I was greeted by two rather large silhouettes. The figures came into light, and as they did, I could see the mouths and markings of smallmouth bass. Although being underwater does play tricks on your eyes, these were some of the largest smallmouth bass I have ever seen.

To my surprise, these creatures were not afraid of me. In fact, they appeared to be quite inquisitive, and their curiosity was matched by my own. We stared at each other in silence, aside from the rhythmic sound of inhales and exhales bubbling from my regulator. Realistically, this moment did not last more than a minute or two, but in that moment, it felt like an eternity. Being face to face with these creatures as we observed one another was a gift of an experience.

As we continued diving that day, we finished with a grand total of zero milfoil plants being removed. Upon first impression this may sound like a rather unproductive day, but it is actually a reflection of how effective the efforts of the Squam Lakes Association have been. The fact that we can go out for dive days and not find a single milfoil plant in areas that had previously been infested is a testament to the fact that our efforts really do make a difference. It also serves to show that we are that much closer to reaching our goal: a milfoil-free Squam. It is with great pleasure that I get to be a part of the process, for the benefit of both those on shore and those beneath the surface alike.

Alex is a full-time member with the SLA who has been heading up our terrestrial invasive removal plan for the summer. You can read more about Alex here. 

Join our Conservation Corps members for weekly guided hikes, volunteer opportunities, and environmental programs. Learn more by clicking here.