The Squam Conservation Internship provides skills and experience for future conservation professionals while working as the driving force behind the SLA’s conservation mission. This volunteer internship provides hands-on conservation work experience and certifications over a broad range of activities. Interns serve as campsite hosts and caretakers at our backcountry campsites, work toward the eradication of variable milfoil, help preserve loon populations on Squam, engage both youth and adults in environmental education, and perform other conservation duties such as shoreline restoration and trail maintenance and construction. Squam Conservation Interns also regularly write about their experiences in the Squam Watershed. Learn more about the internship program here.
July 25, 2016
Well, there’s just about a month left. It’s unbelievable how fast time has flown by this summer and I’m really not looking forward to the end. However, because of this sudden realization of how little time is left, I’ve been trying to do more and more with each of my days off. Sunset paddle boarding, learning how to sail, and exploring the unique, surrounding towns are just some examples.
My favorite aspect of this internship has definitely been the scuba diving. We spend the day about 10 feet below the surface with our hands in the mud to eradicate the invasive beast that is variable milfoil. It’s extremely important to not just pick the plant by the stem because leaving any main roots gives the plant a second chance to take over the lake (milfoil can sprout completely new plants from just a root or even a tiny plant fragment floating through the water). Because of this, it can be a bit time consuming to pick each plant one by one, however our equipment helps speed up this process. Our milfoil removal boat, fittingly named Millie, is equipped with hoses upon hoses that work as a kind of underwater vacuum. They transport the carefully plucked milfoil from the diver’s hands to a mesh table on the boat which allows the topside crew to sort through it and pack it into bins to later be composted. Together, this system is known as DASH, or Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting, and makes our job much more efficient, although sometimes trying to wrestle with the huge hoses underwater reminds me of my Florida days wrestling alligators. Since 2008, the Squam Lakes Association has already removed well over 18,000 gallons of milfoil from Squam, and the difference this has made on the lake’s water quality and biodiversity is enormous. Without milfoil outcompeting every plant in the lake, the diversity of plant and fish species is flourishing. This is very apparent every time I dive, being followed by countless curious fish or weaving through forests of thriving native plants. It’s amazing going back to areas we first visited towards the beginning of the summer and seeing the difference we have already made in milfoil removal. It really shows how just a handful of divers who are passionate about conserving this beautiful area can truly make a difference in such a short amount of time.
Olivia is from Florida and is a rising senior at Florida State University pursuing a biology degree.