Citizen science drives restoration, preservation in Tahoe-Truckee
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Volunteer citizen scientists working with the League to Save Lake Tahoe conducted surveys of Donner and Spooner lakes to detect aquatic invasive species, and restored native wetland habitat in Johnson Meadow in September. Both efforts are aimed at preserving the Tahoe-Truckee region’s unique ecology.
“The role for citizen scientists in protecting the Tahoe-Truckee environment is huge,” said Emily Frey, citizen science program coordinator for the League. “With the help of passionate volunteers like these, the scientific and conservation community is able to do so much more to Keep Tahoe Blue. And the people who love these lakes and meadows become personally invested in protecting them.”
Citizen science, research conducted in whole or in part by volunteer, non-professional scientists, is playing an increasingly important role in expanding scientific understanding of ecological threats to the Tahoe-Truckee region’s environment and helping address those threats.
Given that boaters, anglers and paddlers frequently move between Donner, Spooner and Lake Tahoe, it’s important to determine if harmful invasive weeds are present and could spread between them. At Spooner and Donner, citizen scientists from the League’s Eyes on the Lake program surveyed the entire circumference of both water bodies from kayaks, paddle boards and on foot.
Over two separate survey days, they covered a combined 10 miles of shoreline and nearshore environments. Fortunately, no aquatic invasive plants were found in either lake. The surveys were conducted in coordination with the Nevada Division of State Lands, Nevada State Parks, California State Parks, Loch Leven Lodge and the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District.
The ongoing restoration work in Johnson Meadow is the continuation of an effort led by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District to return natural ecological function to the wetland ecosystem. During two Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days at Johnson Meadow in 2020, the League’s volunteers removed 235 T-posts and 1,800 feet of fencing left over from historic ranching operations, stabilized 225 feet of crumbling stream banks to prevent fine sediments from flowing into and clouding Lake Tahoe’s waters and removed 135 conifers encroaching on meadow habitat.
“Volunteers are critical to advancing restoration here in Tahoe,” noted Andrew Schurr, Restoration Program Manager for the Tahoe Resource Conservation District. “To protect this environment into the future, we’ll rely on volunteers more and more. The encouraging thing is that once people volunteer, they keep coming back. There’s a deep satisfaction that comes from restoring natural places you love.”
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