Conservation Journal Dani and Julia

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 31, 2019 Danielle (Squam Lakes Association)

I think I was in New Hampshire for all of two days before hearing that this is the home of the worst weather in the world. The worst. In the whole world. No hurricanes, typhoons, or tornadoes define New Hampshire’s seasons, yet of everywhere in the world, I’m supposed to believe that this little New England state, found in a temperate climate zone, has the worst weather??? Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical. Since then, I’ve heard it countless other times. Even a quick google search of the worst weather in the world reveals Mount Washington as the reigning champion—“The lowest temperature ever recorded at Mount Washington’s summit is -46 °C. Only the South Pole is colder.”

Despite the fact that this is the home of the worst weather in the world, I rather enjoy how the daily functioning of the SLA places us out in the middle of the day’s atmospheric happenings. Granted, on a given day it can be particularly hot, humid, or rainy, but barring a severe thunder storm, that doesn’t stop us.

On a particularly soggy day, one of those where the rain starts and just keeps on coming, I was scheduled for Islands. On Islands, you start as the campus gofer, basically just doing any tasks that may need to be done for the day (splitting wood is almost always a safe bet, a pretty common need here at the SLA). Later, you load up a boat with fire wood and head out to our campsites, to restock woodpiles and get campers checked in. Despite the downpour, my spirits weren’t dampened—sometimes you just have to embrace the fact the you’re going to be soaked to the bone. And I was glad to be out in the rain—because of the weather’s supposed dreariness, no one else was out enjoying the lake. With the lack of boaters, and a virtually windless day, the surface of the lake lay completely flat, its stillness broken only by raindrops smattering against the surface.

The land resembled the water that day, each campsite I visited proving to be deserted, a ghost town despite a moderate amount of reservations for the day. Without the normal traffic that can be found on land and water on a sunny summer day, it was easy the imagine the lake as it may have once lived, undisturbed but for the rain and the occasional wavering call of a loon announcing its presence. Nothing beats a peaceful rainy day out on the lake.

Not every rainy day spent on the water ends up being so peaceful, though. Last week, Cole, Alex and I woke up early for a dive day and were met with heavy showers and a chilly 60 °F morning. While 60 °F in the middle of winter may feel as inviting as a balmy spring day, on this July morning it was met with far less enthusiasm. Decked out in layers and rain gear, we set out for the Bennet cove dive site, a small stream leading into the lake that is home of the coldest water we dive in at Squam. After a miserable boat ride through the cold sheeting rain that left fingers cold and numb, Cole geared up to get in the water first, with Alex tending at the surface in the kayak.

Upon first getting in where the stream met the lake, Cole popped his head out of the water and marveled at how warm it was before the mouth of the stream, practically warmer than the air. When he swam back to the boat where it was anchored in the cove, however, after an hour long dive in the streams cold water, Cole said the water here now felt like a hot tub. 

And so New Hampshire’s worst weather in the world struck on a Tuesday in late July, with an unusually frigid day. Despite the rollercoaster of weather that keeps you on your toes, makes you check the weather every morning before getting ready for the day, being able to help conserve this paradise of New Hampshire for years to come is an experience I will always be grateful for.

On any day of the week, you may find Dani dreaming of dinosaurs, going the distance for icecream, or getting minorly injured and and having a good laugh about it with friends.  You can read more about Dani here.

July 30, 2019 Julia (NH LAKES)

“Don’t forget to hold on tight,” said Shane Brandt, water quality researcher at UNH, at the exact moment that I forgot to hold on tight. The spool of string I was grasping whipped out of my hand with incredible force as Hollyn chucked the collection device out across the lake with all of her might. The group stared into the water in absolute silence for about twenty seconds, the spool and net floating gently on the surface. As the net dipped beneath the water, the laughter started.

“Oops,” I said. Hollyn and I were at a cyanobacteria training in Wolfeboro, learning all about the various species, how to identify a bloom, what causes them, and more. We had volunteered to demonstrate for the group how to get a water sample. The device was a funnel shaped mesh bag, with mesh that was only micro meters thick, so as to trap the tiny cyanobacteria. A short yellow hose protruded from the bottom to release the gathered water into a collection cup, in order to look at it under a microscope and count the cyanobacteria. The standard for declaring a bloom is seeing greater than 70,000 parts (cyanobacteria) per milliliter.

Cyanobacteria are practically everywhere in the world, from deserts to tundra to lakes, and while they aren’t necessarily a bad thing, in high concentrations, certain species can be toxic to humans, which is why beaches and lakes are often shut down once a bloom has been detected. Climate change, including changes in rain patterns, is a large driver of the increasing numbers of blooms we are seeing, along with nutrient loading, human development alongside water bodies, and low oxygen conditions. I’d learned all of this and more prior to releasing the collection device into the cold lake water.

Shane sighed and good naturedly started to roll up his pants and take off his socks. The water at the end of the dock was about waist deep, and the net was almost at the bottom, the string I was supposed to be holding onto with dear life waving gently in the current. He assured me that this happened a lot, with all sorts of the equipment he uses to demonstrate water sampling to people. Someone at the back of crowd finds a long metal pole, however, before Shane can do anything heroic. Hollyn digs around underwater with the pole until she hooks the string, and we manage to pull it back out. This time, we switch positions, with me throwing and Hollyn holding on to the string. We are much more successful, and everyone crowds around to look, even though the (mostly) clear water we’ve collected won’t show us anything until we get it under a microscope.

All in all, it was a successful training, and I learned a lot about what makes New Hampshire’s lakes tick. I also learned a little something about paying better attention to my surroundings! As part of Lakes Region Conservation Corps with NH LAKES, I learn something new each day, and I’m excited to pass this knowledge along to anyone who comes to NH LAKES events.

 Julia recently graduated from the University of Vermont with a major in biology and a minor in art.  You can read more about Julia here. 


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