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Volunteers Search For Invasive Clams In Lake George

Lucas Willard
Dave Wick searches for Asian clams in Lake George

In knee-deep water at the Norowal Marina in Bolton Landing, Dave Wick, Executive Director of the Lake George Park Commission, is sifting sediment with a circular screen.

Credit FUND for Lake George

“You dig the sieve into the sediments and then it’s basically panning for gold after that,” says Wick.

Wick is demonstrating how he and his volunteers have been searching more than 200 spots throughout the lake for invasive Asian clams.

“That is an Asian clam shell. They’re about thumbnail size and their max size is about a mid-range, but something this big is considered a breeder and will have most likely baby Asian clams in the gills. So the clams will actually put out fully formed baby clams, and each of the clams can put out several hundred babies.”

Wick says without controls, the invasive pest can take over a shoreline.

“That hasn’t happened on Lake George and we’re hoping it never does.”

The Norowal Marina is the first spot on Lake George that the clams called home. They hitchhike on boats and vehicles – that’s why the Lake George Park Commission requires all vessels and trailers entering the lake to be inspected and washed.

While they’re found at the marina, Wick says the clams really like spots with less traffic.

“A few sites on Lake George, we were out at one yesterday, Cotton Point, where we were finding 10-15 clams per sieve, so that equates to, probably, about 500 to 1000 clams per square meter. There’s a couple sites in Lake George that were upwards of three or four thousand clams per square meter. Once you get up around those levels that’s where you start to see concerns for the ecology of the lake and water quality.”

And if a die-off occurs, neighbors and beachgoers probably wouldn’t be too happy to see thousands of dead and dying clams on the shore.

Volunteer Kelly Smith lives on Assembly Point in the southern portion of the lake and has spotted the pest near her home.

“Not exactly where we’re at but close enough that I have some concerns, so I’m just trying to help out and keep them away.”

By pinpointing spots preferred by the clams, organizations can help inform the public on ways to prevent the spread of the animals. Kristen Rohne is the Education Director for the Lake George Association.

“So the big thing we’re finding is they are moving around on the anchors of the boaters. Ss when you’re anchoring in a bay, if you’re not cleaning off that anchor when you’re moving somewhere else, you can move those Asian clams. So knowing where they are, we can better target our education.”

When colonies are located, the Park Commission brings in divers to lay plastic mats along the lake bottom to smother the clams. The technique can be very successful, but it can’t get them all.

Wick says the Park Commission is working with RPI’s Darrin Freshwater Institute, which is studying how a type of worm found in Lake George may impact clam populations.

“Turns out these little worms, which appear to be native, go and burrow into the clam and they eat the juvenile clams out of the adult and can wipe out a whole size-class of those clams. Ss they’ve been studying that for a year now. They’re expecting to have some reports coming out in the next few months. So that would be great to have some natural predators for the clams in the lake.”

In the meantime, you can do your part by keeping your boat clean, drained, and dry.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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