Becoming The Fruits Of Your Own Labor

By Brud Holland, Chef and owner of Finger Lakes Made

Brud Holland

Brud Holland

When I decided to attend New England Culinary Institute, I always felt like I’d come back…back to the Finger Lakes. After working a couple seasons at one of the first wineries on Seneca Lake and just before I headed up to Vermont, it seemed like there was so much potential here. I remember thinking to myself, some day I’ll move back and probably work for another winery. And I did. And not just one, but two of the regions finest wine producers: Red Newt Cellars, and Fox Run Vineyards—which is where you’ll find me these days.

Someone once told me that when you’re young and you want to grow up and be a fireman—and you really want to be a fireman—you’ll just do the things that will make that happen. You’ll go to school, get some training, you might even start by just hanging out with some firemen. But all the choices that you make will help steer you down that path. Then one day, you’ll wake up and realize, “Wow, I’m a fireman”. In a sense, becoming the fruit of your own labor.

Working as a chef for almost 30 years, the fruits of my labor these days usually result in some pretty delicious food that requires a lot of help to make. Interestingly, it wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for the many farmers who are stewarding the land, growing some of the tastiest crops, and in some cases, producing some of the best products that I’ve that I ever used. From chicken to arugula; from raspberries to leaf parsley; from sweet corn to shiitake mushrooms- the fruits of our labor here in the Finger Lakes are plentiful. I’m always a little surprised, however, that I don’t see more of them on restaurant menus. Perhaps it’s a distribution issue, a scale issue, a reliability issue? I’d like to know why. For more than a few years I’ve been intrigued by the amount of marketing materials centered around supporting local foods, only to go out and see tomatoes in June, strawberries in September and salmon featured as local seafood. Hmmm.

Brud Holland, Natalie Munderville, and Sarah Meyer making a donation of parsley to Fox Run Cafe.

Brud Holland, Natalie Munderville, and Sarah Meyer making a donation of campus farm-grown parsley to Fox Run Cafe. Basil, kale, and parsley were donated to Fox Run Vineyards throughout summer 2015.

More recently, I’ve been working with Sarah Meyer at the Finger Lakes Institute, helping her with various growing projects at the HWS Farm by using the herbs, greens and other products that they grow partly as an outlet (so they don’t just get composted) but also as a way to understand the dynamics of our local food system. What appears on the surface to be fairly simple—grow it, people buy it, people eat it—is in fact, not the case. It’s quite complex. There are a multitude of facets that contribute to the health and robust nature of a food system, and it seems that, within a culture addicted to “big box” suppliers, super-sized portions and sugar-filled drinks, things like organically grown vegetables, pasture raised meats and locally made cheeses can be a tough sell against “cheap, big and filling.” Like a handful of other colleges around the country, HWS is working to both understand and contribute to the dynamics that encourage and support the growth of the local food system. Over the coming months and perhaps years, I look forward to collaborating with Sarah, the FLI and the projects that will give us greater insights into the ways that, as a community, we can foster continued and greater support for the local Finger Lakes Foodshed.


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Joining a Community Farm For the Good of Many

By Rachel Newcomb, AmeriCorps member, Community Action Committee’s Beardsley Community Farm of Knoxville-Knox County

Rachel Newcomb WS'15

Rachel Newcomb WS’15

My preconceived idea of a community farm before acquiring my own experiences involved a small plot, typically, with several people or families who like the idea of gardening and providing food for themselves more than actually putting in the necessary work. When learning about a new project, most people will be highly motivated at first; but when realities set in about difficulties and time commitments, they tend to gradually lose interest. Sustaining interest is such a challenge that I did not view community gardening as a truly sustainable practice until I’d spent two months working on a community farm.

Since early August, I have been employed as an AmeriCorps member at the Community Action Committee’s Beardsley Community Farm of Knoxville-Knox County in East Tennessee. I love my job and I feel so fortunate to be doing what I am doing because; before I arrived here, I admittedly had very little clue to what my daily life would resemble. As an AmeriCorps member I experience the immense opportunity to be public service for ten and a half months for my everyday work, which makes me happy because I get to do something that makes a difference each and every day. Before my arrival to Beardsley, the most knowledge I had about farming I received from Professor Robin Lewis’ Environmental Studies 301 capstone course at HWS where my classmates and I grew vegetables on the campus farm for the Community Lunch Program in Geneva. After that class, I knew I wanted to continue with farming in a meaningful way, and luckily for me, I found Beardsley. I knew community farming was going to be much different than gardening alongside my classmates, and I was curious to learn how feasible it was going to be. Already, the purpose and spirit of this community farm have already begun to create a lasting impact on my opinions of community farming in general; and even more so expanding my ideas of sustainable farming.


This mural on the side of our tractor shed was painted by a volunteer. It is modeled after the current Tennessee agriculture license plate. Photo credit: Rachel Newcomb.

Beardsley Farm is a special place because all of the produce grown is donated to different shelters and food pantries in the surrounding area (the only food item that the farm profits from is the annual honey sale from their two hives). There are several different local food pantries and rescue shelters that we give our produce to on a weekly basis. Last year, Beardsley donated over 10,000 pounds of fresh produce to those in need. Keep in mind, this is a six acre community farm that uses all organic practices as well, and anyone who is familiar with farming will understand how impressive that is. The farm has been able to grow more throughout the years with greater financial support from the community, and without this support it would not have been able to bloom and grow as it has. However, it’s not just money that has made a difference for Beardsley. The farm has been around for about seventeen years now, and in that time has created a respectable name for itself and in the process has also accrued an extensive volunteer following. Hundreds of volunteers ranging from elementary students, to college groups, to local businesses, to devoted individuals come out on a regular basis. New groups frequently visit the farm, and some of them become regulars. There is not a week that goes by where we do not have volunteers. Because of this assured knowledge of weekly help, the farm is able to get much more accomplished every week knowing there are volunteer laborers who donate their time and bare hands to get things done.

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What is it about Beardsley that results in the same people coming back month after month to volunteer? This is something I have thought about during my time here. Beardsley is truly the community’s farm, and that is what makes it such a sustainable place. There is an ownership that community members feel when they visit and volunteer for a couple hours. When they leave knowing that they helped pull tomato stakes in one bed so that Asian greens can be planted there for the fall season, the next time they visit they will see those greens in full bloom and know that they were a part of that. As one of five staff members at Beardsley, I have already begun to develop personal connections with several volunteers, and I am impressed with each of them. Many are college students who have free time and took their own initiative to come out and volunteer on a regular basis. But why? I think they enjoy spending time outside and getting their hands dirty, but I believe the main reason they keep coming out is because they feel good working for a higher purpose. Unlike most community farms that are either for profit or the community members who volunteer are involved in a CSA workshare where they receive some of the crops from the week in exchange for their work (Beardsley also has a few CSA members), Beardsley gives their food away to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access fresh produce due to finances or due to their geography of being located in a food desert. I know that I am lucky to work here because truly, I have only encountered good-hearted people who want to contribute to those less fortunate.

There are still many mysteries of this community farm that I am hoping to uncover as I become more connected to it, but for now I am convinced that it’s a holistic system that is sustainably managed. It really does take a village to grow sustainable food when everyone has other responsibilities, but that is the beauty of it. The communal effort by many makes the workload for each very small, but the emotional fulfillment for everyone very large. ​


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Research: Songbirds As Sentinels Of Mercury In Terrestrial Habitats Of Eastern North America

Allyson Jackson, PhD candidate in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon

Allyson Jackson

Allyson Jackson

When most people think about mercury, they think about fish and the human health implications from eating contaminated fish. If you are an informed consumer, you probably already know to avoid certain fish or certain waterbodies. Although understanding the pathway of mercury from fish to humans is of critical importance, mercury contamination does not stop at the edge of a water body. Recent research has shown that mercury can move through food webs that span the interface between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. For example, many invertebrates— like mayflies and dragonflies—spend half of their life cycle in the aquatic environment before emerging as terrestrial adults. These emergent insects are a critical food source for many critters living in the terrestrial ecosystem – but they also export contaminants, such as mercury, into the terrestrial food web.

Many different critters ranging from spiders to bats rely on this flux of emergent aquatic insects as a food source. My research, however, has focused on songbirds (Order Passeriformes). Songbirds are especially interesting to me for several reasons:

1) They are found in almost every ecosystem on earth, making them interesting for comparative studies.

2) They are tough – I’m constantly amazed by the energetic feat that it is for a 10 gram warbler to migrate from your backyard in New York to South America every year.

3) No one really thought to worry about the effects of mercury in songbirds until recently, meaning there is still a lot we don’t know about mercury in this entire group. Instead of using one particular species, I’m interested in how we can use the suite of songbird species found in a community to understand the threat of mercury contamination on land.

The Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is a sentinel species of mercury contamination in the Finger Lakes Region. Photo credit: A. Jackson.

The Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is a sentinel species of mercury contamination in the Finger Lakes Region. Photo credit: A. Jackson.

Why should we be worried about songbirds? While not an important food source for humans, the health of songbird populations is something that we all should be concerned about. Besides being concerned about the biodiversity implications of losing these charismatic little guys, songbirds also offer important pest management and pollination services that keep nature running smoothly. Songbirds already face a variety of stressors that can impact their population levels, such as habitat loss, migration impediments, and climate change. As a neurotoxin, mercury affects both reproductive success and behavior. Populations of birds cannot survive without successfully producing young each year and so it is important to understand what the added stress of mercury exposure may cause.

Our most recent paper in the journal Ecotoxicology compiled 8,446 mercury samples from songbirds across eastern North America to try to determine what factors impact mercury exposure. These samples were collected by a network of collaborators throughout eastern North America working with the Biodiversity Research Institute. All of these samples were collected non-lethally through blood collection, which allows us to sample many individuals with no impact on the sensitive populations. We found two important results.

  1. Birds living in wetland habitats (both freshwater and saltwater) generally have higher mercury concentrations than those living in upland (dry) habitats. This is likely because birds living near wetlands are eating more of those emergent aquatic insects than their upland counterparts (who likely eat terrestrial bugs such as caterpillars and beetles).
  2. Invertebrate-eating (called invertivore) songbird species generally have higher mercury concentrations than omnivorous species. This is likely because mercury biomagnifies through food chains, so birds that eat more animal matter are eating at higher trophic levels than those birds that eat mainly seeds and fruits.

Using this information, we identified that it was important to take into account both diet and habitat use when comparing songbird mercury exposure. We recommend using sentinel species to characterize an area and understand whether mercury exposure is high or low. We defined sentinel species in the broadest terms as “a species that has the ability to accumulate a contaminant and can provide a baseline for understanding contaminant risk in a community or ecosystem.” Sentinel species allow us to make comparisons between different areas and focus future efforts for sampling. Because species vary in geographic areas, we used broad ecoregions to group sentinel species. The Finger Lakes region is set in the Atlantic Mixed Woods Plains. Our dataset indicated four relatively common species in this area that bioaccumulate high levels of mercury and should be monitored in the future: Tree Swallow, Red-winged Blackbird, Hermit Thrush, and Song Sparrow.

Ecoregions included in Allyson Jackson’s study. The Finger Lakes region is set in the Atlantic Mixed Woods Plains. Photo credit: of A. Jackson.

Ecoregions included in Allyson Jackson’s study. The Finger Lakes region is set in the Atlantic Mixed Woods Plains. Photo credit: of A. Jackson.

What about birds that don’t show up in our dataset? Although we accumulated a lot of samples, we are still missing samples from many species for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, we don’t have samples from rare or threatened species, but this does not mean they are not of concern. Species such as the Rusty Blackbird and Olive-sided Flycatcher, which are going through range-wide population declines, should be the focus of future studies. Although it is likely a variety of factors that lead to these population declines, mercury could be another potential stressor on reproductive success.

Mercury continues to be an issue for many water bodies and terrestrial habitats across the country. With the fate of the EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule still somewhat in peril, it is even more important that we establish baseline mercury concentrations in terrestrial food webs. With the help of the songbird sentinel species outlined in our paper, we have taken the first step in understanding mercury contamination within terrestrial ecosystems.

Author’s note:
Allyson Jackson is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. This research was conducted while she worked at the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland, Maine. She is still concerned about mercury and songbirds, just working on a different coast. You can find out more information about Allyson’s work on her website

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Sustainable Communities: The Sustainable Community Development Program- Reflections from Within

By Robin A. Lewis, Assistant Professor Environmental Studies and Chair of Sustainable Community Development, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Robin headshot

Robin A. Lewis

The Sustainable Community Development (SCD) Program was established in 2011 with support from the Isabel Foundation. In response to both growing student interest and public recognition of the need for communities to address a myriad of social, economic and ecological challenges, we developed the SCD Program to better prepare our students for careers in economic development, social justice, and stewardship of the natural environment. In our classes, we strive to provide hands-on, experiential learning experiences that provide our students with the opportunity to collaborate with community members in order to brainstorm solutions to some of the community’s most pressing issues. Since 2012, students in our capstone course have worked with the City of Geneva and Town of Canandaigua on issues related to urban green spaces and brownfield redevelopment and multimodal transportation and stormwater management, respectively. Meanwhile, the 11 summer interns with Finger Lakes Community Development Center (FLCDC), the co-curricular partner to the curricular-based SCD Program, have undertaken projects such as developing bike paths and education signage for Sampson State Park with New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, supporting the City of Geneva in the development of a parks master plan, and developing a sensory garden for members of the Ontario ARC programs at its Canandaigua facilities, among others.


Students from Assistant Professor Robin Lewis’ and former FLCDC Program Manager Jim Ochterski’s “Sustainable Community Development Tools and Methods” course present their proposals for a multimodal transportation plan to residents of the Town of Canandaigua in April 2015. Photo credit: Jim Ochterski.

Since an academic minor in SCD was approved two years ago at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, we have graduated 11 undergraduate students with another 13 students anticipated to graduate with a minor in SCD next spring. As Chair of the SCD Program, I recently reached out to our 2014 and 2015 graduates for their thoughts on how the SCD Program, in terms of its courses/curriculum, the academic skills it stresses, and the community-based research experience, may have helped them to prepare for (or decide on) their next step in life. Two of our 2014 graduates report that they are now pursuing graduate studies in related fields of study due to the interests they developed in the SCD capstone course. As one current graduate student who puts it, “experiences in Geneva planning were actually quite unique and put me ahead of the game.” Likewise, students from our 2015 cohort, like the person who now serves as a viticultural technician in Napa Valley, report a feeling of being able to “think differently about the issues that face our planet.” As one 2015 graduate who now serves as a FoodCorps service member in New England explains, “SCD helped me realize how important it is to be an engaged an active member of community [and] that with a solid group of people working toward potential areas for improvement…and actively seeking opportunities for improvement, there is immense capacity for change.”

When reflecting on the SCD capstone experience itself, a former student who now works as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Detroit, MI articulates a sense that participating in the SCD program “opened up so many doors for me and allowed me to think of communities on different scales, what those communities need, and how to interact with people who inhabit those spaces.” In reflecting on such sentiments I cannot help but think that the SCD Program is beginning to live up to its goals. Not only are our students getting hands-on experience working alongside resident on issues their communities deem important but they are also gaining a new perspective on their roles in their own communities. While we certainly continue to learn about how our nascent program can most effectively give back and contribute to our community/ies, it is clear that SCD students leave our program embodying many of the tenets, responsibilities, and skills we hoped to instill upon them during their short time in our classrooms.

Author’s Note:
Robin first joined the Colleges in August 2011 and started a tenure-track Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies three years later. She currently serves as the Chair of the Sustainable Community Development (SCD) Program for which she teaches several service-learning courses such as the SCD capstone. Her interests include sustainable consumption, food and farming in the Finger Lakes, and education for sustainable development. Contact Robin at

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The Green Hand: HWS Among Sierra’s Greenest Schools

By HWS Daily Update

Back in the national spotlight for successes in environmental leadership and sustainability, Hobart and William Smith Colleges have again been named to Sierra magazine’s annual list of the greenest colleges and universities, moving ahead 63 spots since first appearing on the list in 2009.

This year, HWS ranked No. 53 on Sierra’s “Cool Schools” list, earning the highest possible rating in the categories for co-curricular sustainability programs and initiatives, as well as innovation in sustainability. Year over year, the Colleges advanced a total of 32 places in the Sierra rankings.

Professor of Economics Tom Drennen, who is the former chair of the environmental studies department and who serves as co-chair of the President’s Climate Task Force overseeing environmental issues on campus, believes the significant increase highlights the myriad of steps taken by the Colleges to become an environmental leader. Widespread efforts kicked off in 2007 when President Mark D. Gearan signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, making HWS a charter member of a national effort to reduce emissions of the gases responsible for global warming. In 2010, the Colleges launched the HWS Climate Action Plan, placing a 2025 deadline on campus climate neutrality and advancing immediate actions to make a tangible difference.

“We continue to make progress in our goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, thereby showing leadership in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases,” Drennen says. “We now buy 100 percent of our electricity from wind farms and are exploring major solar initiatives. And we continue making progress in our waste minimization efforts. We now compost more than two tons per week from the dining halls.”

Now in its ninth annual year, Sierra’s “Cool Schools” list ranks colleges and universities in individual categories such as academics, water conservation and waste management. Published by the Sierra Club-the country’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental group-the magazine reaches more than one million people.

Recent efforts in the Colleges longstanding commitment for sustainable practices and environmental leadership include the launch of the Sustainable Living and Learning Program in which first-year students live and take classes together in the same residence hall to help improve co-curricular opportunities, build community and better link the classroom to daily life, while emphasizing the relationship between local actions and global effects.

“Our launch of a first-year program last year-‘Sustainable Living and Learning Community’-showcases our efforts to more directly integrate sustainability into our curriculum,” Drennen says.

Among the Colleges’ campus-wide sustainability efforts are the successful implementation of the EcoRep program, the HWS “Caught Green Handed” campaign, participation for the past five years in the national recycling competition RecycleMania, as well as the Green Room Certification and Green Office Certification programs.

“Sierra’s recognition of Hobart and William Smith as one of the nation’s leading green institutions is indicative of the outstanding, collaborative work carried out by students, faculty and staff each year,” says Adam Maurer, the HWS sustainability manager. “Through the environmental leadership that’s taking place at HWS, the Colleges continue to offer opportunities for all to join in fostering an even more sustainable campus and environmentally mindful community.”

At HWS, there are a number of student organizations working toward creating more sustainable residential areas and spearheading initiatives on campus to reduce the school’s environmental impact, as well as students collaborating with the greater Geneva community on various environmental projects. From water quality to sustainable economic development, the Colleges’ Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) has been integral in coordinating and facilitating meaningful sustainability student projects that connect HWS with individuals and institutions from the Finger Lakes region.

As part of the Colleges overall efforts around sustainability innovation, FLI has worked collaboratively to launch and facilitate: the Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, the Sustainable Community Development Program, and the sustainable efforts and engagement opportunities occurring at the HWS Fribolin Farm.

“It’s gratifying to see many of the innovative sustainability programs at HWS being recognized through national rankings such as Sierra Cool Schools,” says Lisa Cleckner, director of the FLI. “Similar to the establishment of the FLI, these projects require support from many offices across campus including the President’s Office and the offices of the Provost, Finance, Student Affairs, and Buildings and Grounds. We are most grateful for their continued backing.”

Continuing to put HWS in the national spotlight, this year’s Sierra “Cool Schools” recognition follows a number of other recent accolades that praise the Colleges for leadership in sustainable and environmentally sound practices, including as one of North America’s most environmentally responsible schools featured in the 2015 edition of The Princeton Review‘s “Guide to 353 Green Colleges.” The annual guide lauds colleges and universities with the most exceptional commitments to sustainability based on academic offerings and career preparation, campus policies, initiatives and activities. This is the fourth consecutive year the Colleges have been honored.

Earlier this year, the Colleges were named a 2014 Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota. It was the third consecutive year that the Colleges have obtained the recognition. Tree Campus USA is a national program that was launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota to honor colleges and universities for their leadership promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation. The Colleges were also named a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Club, an elite group of institutions that are demonstrating exemplary environmental leadership.

HWS was recently ranked #16 in Money magazine’s list of the nation’s best liberal arts colleges. The list, which highlights the 50 “leading schools for a traditional undergraduate education,” also named HWS one of only three institutions to earn a “Value-Added Grade” in the A’s.

This summer, the Colleges again were named among the nation’s top colleges with outstanding academic programs in The Princeton Review’s 2016 edition of “The Best 380 Colleges.” The annual guide features profiles on each of the top-rated colleges and universities, scoring the schools across several different categories. Citing student feedback, the HWS profile also praises the Colleges for strength in key areas such as quality of education, personal attention from faculty, preparing students for life after graduation and a sense of community. Earlier this year, the Princeton Review named HWS as one of only 200 institutions in the nation profiled in the new book, “Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Best Value Colleges and What It Takes to Get in – 2015 Edition.”

During the 2014-2015 academic year, HWS was also recognized nationally as one of only four institutions named as finalists for the President’s Award for Education Community Service in a recent Honor Roll of nearly 800 colleges and universities considered for the prestigious recognition. Over the past 13 years, the Colleges also have advanced 15 spots in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the best “National Liberal Arts Colleges.”

For more information about HWS Sustainability efforts, please visit the Office of Sustainability webpage,

Please also feel free to contact the Office of Sustainability via or 315.781.4380.

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Food and Field Notes: Putting a Lid on Summer- Canning, Fermenting, and Pickling to Preserve the Harvest

By Mekala Bertocci, William Smith College ’14

Mekala Bertocci

Mekala Bertocci

At the height of late summer, there’s nothing our taste buds swoon over more than the chin-dribbling juiciness of a tree-ripened peach, the quintessential intersection of tart and sweet hidden in a jumbo heirloom tomato, or the dark chlorophyll-packed crispness of rainbow chard. But the looming coolness of fall brings finitude to this summer’s bounty. Cherry tomatoes and the other heat-loving crops in our gardens continue to blush into peak ripeness, but soon they will begin their descent into winter. Now is the time to preserve the fruits of summer, so that in the coming months we might be reminded of those otherworldly cherry tomatoes and juicy August peaches that abounded in the dog days of summer. Although methods like water bath canning and proper fermentation may seem like daunting tasks, they’re actually relatively simple processes that are actually kind of fun to ‘check in’ on as they continue to age. Moreover, from an advocacy standpoint, a common criticism of the ‘eat local’ movement is that it can’t sustain us year-long. But with preservation methods like canning, fermenting, and pickling, eating out of your own garden or preserving the harvest of your local farmers can last even as our garden plots are buried under a thick blanket of snow.

I’ve only just begun to experiment with fermentation, an old world art form that seems to be making a comeback these days. I was always a little hesitant about the idea of growing bacteria on purpose, but now it seems like the natural processes of making sauerkraut and maintaining a sourdough starter are much safer and good for you compared to the world of preservatives and expiration dates that we’ve grown accustomed to.

Fermentation is the process by which bacteria or other microorganisms (like yeast) break down a substance. The ‘good’ bacteria contained in fermented foods and drinks help us digest food, regulate bowl functions, and balance the acids in our stomach. Fermented foods are easier for us to digest because the probiotic bacteria have already begun breaking down the structure of the original food, allowing us to more efficiently absorb its nutrients. Lactic acid fermentation is a type of fermentation that requires only salt, vegetables, and water. The brine kills bad bacteria but allows lactobacilli to flourish. These lactobacilli convert the sugar and starch in vegetables into lactic acid and give them that signature tangy taste in kimchi, dill pickles, and sauerkraut.

The following are some recipes I’ve found to work for me since I began experimenting with fermenting.

My first pass at sourdough ciabatta rolls. Photo credit: Mekala Bertocci.

Kimchi. Photo credit: Mekala Bertocci.

Basic Kimchi
Adapted from Alex Lewin’s Real Food Fermentation.
(yields about 1 pint)
1 lb Chinese or Napa cabbage
¼ c plus 2 tbs kosher salt
1 c water
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 inch section of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp sugar
¼ c hot pepper flakes
1 bunch chives, cut into 1 inch sections


  1. Cut the cabbage into bite-sized pieces. In a large bowl, dissolve the salt into the water and add the cabbage. Cover and let the cabbage and brine rest on the counter for at least 4 (up to 12) hours.
  2. Drain the brine off the cabbage, rinse the cabbage in cold water and squeeze it dry. Return the cabbage to the bowl.
  3. Make the pickling paste by pureeing the onion, garlic, and ginger in a food processor. Add just enough water to form a paste. Add in sugar and pepper flakes and puree again to combine. Stir in the chives.
  4. Add the paste to the cabbage and stir until well combined. Pack firmly into a large glass jar and cover loosely with a lid (as the cabbage starts to ferment you want the gases to be able to escape).
  5. Let the kimchi ferment on the counter for 12-24 hrs. When you like the taste (I like about 16 hours of fermentation), refrigerate, still loosely covered. It will continue to ferment over time.

Basic Sauerkraut
2 medium heads green cabbage (about 2 lbs)
1 tbs kosher salt


  1. Cut the cabbage into quarters, removing the solid core. Then cut the cabbage crosswise into fine shreds. You can also use the shredding blade on a food processor, if you have one.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the shredded cabbage with the salt. Massage and pound the cabbage until it starts to soften and release its juices.
  3. Pack the cabbage into your pickling crock. (If you don’t have a crock, wide-mouth half-gallon mason jars are a good substitute). Pack the cabbage in tightly to eliminate air bubles. The cabbage will create its own brine and the liquid should cover the shreds. If you need more liquid to cover the shreds, make some additional brine by dissolving 1 tsp salt into 2 cups water.
  4. Cover the crock or jar loosely with a lid. If your crock is very full, the kraut might bubble over so you should put the fermentation vessel into a saucer to catch any overflow. After about 2 weeks, give your kraut a taste-test. The kraut will get tangier with age, so when you like the taste transfer it to the fridge for storage.
Hot Peppers. Photo credit: Mekala Bertocci.

Hot Peppers. Photo credit: Mekala Bertocci.

Hot Pepper Sauce
Adapted from
Edible Pioneer Valley, issue 2
5 lbs ripe red chili peppers (cayenne, Serrano, jalapeno, Fresno)
7 c white vinegar
6-8 tsp sea salt


  1. Wash the peppers well. Cut off stems and cut each pepper into inch-long pieces. Transfer to a large stock pot.
  2. Add the vinegar plus 6 tsp salt and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, uncovered, until the peppers are soft but not mushy.
  4. Transfer the cooked peppers to jars and let cool. Store in the refrigerator for several months to ferment.
  5. Check the jars throughout the fermentation period, adding additional vinegar as needed to keep the mash wet. Add salt to taste.
  6. When the mash has reached your desired taste, you are ready to bottle the sauce. Empty the jars into a stock pot and bring the sauce to a boil.
  7. Let it cool slightly and run it through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. Add more salt and vinegar to reach desired taste and consistency.
  8. Bottle the sauce and store in the refrigerator.
My first pass at sourdough ciabatta rolls. Photo credit: Mekalla Bertocci.

My first pass at sourdough ciabatta rolls. Photo credit: Mekala Bertocci.

Sourdough Starter
Adapted from
King Arthur Flour
4 oz (1 c) whole rye flour or whole wheat flour (make sure to use a whole grain flour – it contains more nutrients and sourdough-friendly microorganisms than AP flour)
4 oz (1/2 c) non-chlorinated cool water


  1. Combine the flour and water in a non-reactive container (glass, crockery, food-grad plastic will all do the trick here). Stir thoroughly, making sure there’s no dry flour anywhere. Cover the container loosely and let the mixture sit at warm room temperature (about 70°F) for 24 hours. During this time all the little yeasties floating around in the air will naturally attract to your flour/water mixture.
  2. Discard* half the starter (4 oz), and add to the remainder 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour, and 4 oz (1/2 cup) lukewarm water.
  3. Mix well, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for another 24 hours.
  4. By the third day, you’ll likely see some activity – bubbling; a fresh, fruity aroma, and some evidence of expansion. It’s now time to begin two feedings daily, as evenly spaced as your schedule allows.
  5. For each feeding, weigh out 4 ounces starter; this will be a generous ½ cup, once it’s thoroughly stirred down. Discard any remaining starter. Add 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour, and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) lukewarm water to the 4 ounces starter.
  6. Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.
  7. Repeat two-a-day feedings on days 4, 5, and as many days as it takes for your starter to become very active. After about a week of consistent feeding, your starter should be ready to use in a sourdough bread recipe.

*Discarding half the starter might seem wasteful, but it’s necessary for three reasons. First, unless you discard, eventually you’ll end up with The Sourdough That Ate Milwaukee – too much starter. Second, keeping the starter volume the same helps balance the pH. And third, keeping the volume down offers the yeast more food to eat each time you feed it; it’s not fighting with quite so many other little yeast cells to get enough to eat. Also, you don’t have to discard it if you don’t want to; you can give it to a friend, or use it to bake. There are quite a few recipes out there that make use of “discard” starter, including sourdough pizza crust, sourdough pretzels, and waffles!

Cucumber and garlic. Photo credit: Mekala Bertocci.

Cucumber and garlic. Photo credit: Mekala Bertocci.

Small Batch Refrigerator Dill Pickles
(yields about 4 quart-sized jars)
3 lbs pickling cucumbers
5 cups vinegar (white or cider)
5 cups water
2 tbs salt (pickling or kosher)
1 chili pepper (optional)
3 tsp dill seed
3 cloves of garlic
3 glass pint canning jars with lids


  1. Wash and slice the cucumbers lengthwise (trim there top and bottoms, they are bitter).
  2. Sterilize the glass canning jars in boiling water. Remove them from the hot water and sit them on the counter.
  3. Add the water, vinegar and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Mix it until the salt dissolves.
  4. Add a clove of garlic and a teaspoon of dill seed to each pint jar.
  5. Slice the chili and divide among the jars.
  6. Pack in the sliced cucumbers and pour the brine on top. Make sure to keep a half inch space at the top.
  7. Put on the lid and let it sit for 48 hours in the fridge. They will last up to 2 months.

Wondering what to do with some of the other stars in your garden? Below is a recommended list of how to best preserve certain crops and links to some trusty methods from well-seasoned preservers. Good luck!

Snap Beans
Snap beans, or green beans as most of us know them, are easily frozen, canned, and/or pickled and canned. Canned Dilly Beans are one of my favorite pickled treats, and are an easy way to preserve snap beans.

Dry Beans
The best way to preserve dry beans is to harvest them after they are fully dry, shell them from their pods and pack them into mason jars. You can also choose to can your dry beans for further convenience later when eating

Pickling and canning beets will ensure your winter supply does not go bad. Pickled beets are great in salads, by the way!

The best preservation method for broccoli is definitely blanching and freezing. Broccoli can be cooked from frozen without loosing much flavor or texture.

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts also should be blanched and frozen for best future eating quality.


Chard, like most other leafy greens is best preserved by freezing. Whole leaves and stems can be blanched and frozen, or the chard can be chopped and/or pureed raw and put into ice cube trays for a healthy addition to smoothies.

Depending on the type of corn you grow, your preservation options vary. For sweet corn it can be frozen on or off the cob, canned once sliced off the cob, or even made into a wonderful relish. Some people recommend blanching to corn before freezing, others say you don’t need to. I personally have frozen corn on the cob after blanching and found the texture to be mushy. This year I am experimenting with freezing corn off the cob without blanching.

Eggplant is not something I typically think of preserving, but I recently found out there are multiple ways to enjoy this flavorful vegetable the whole year through. Eggplant can be made into pickles, preserves, or blanched and frozen.

My favorite way to preserve fennel is to make a fennel onion relish. The relish is amazing served with a tangy goat cheese on crostini. Fennel can also be sliced and frozen for use in soups and other baked dishes.

Garlic is a great storing vegetable and can be stored in a cool, dry area without any additional methods of preservation. It also tastes amazing pickled! Garlic can also be frozen or dried. The following link has ideas for multiple methods of preservation.

Lettuce is mostly water; because of this there is currently no real method of preserving lettuce for long term storage.

Melons like cantaloupe, honeydew, muskmelons, and canary melons can be cubed and frozen for addition to smoothies or for a refreshing cold melon soup.

Pickled okra is by far my favorite pickled vegetable. Blanching and freezing is also recommended for this Southern favorite.

Onions and Leeks
Many onions and leeks are fine stored in a cool, dark, dry place, like a root cellar. They should be stored hanging, if possible, in mesh bags. They can also be dried or frozen for future use in cooked dishes.

Snap peas make a great pickle and sweet shell peas can be easily frozen for later use in dishes like Chicken Pot Pie or Indian Samosas or canned. The recipe in the link below for pickling sugar snaps includes sugar. I personally prefer them pickled without the sugar.

I just love sausage and peppers, as well as peppers roasted with potatoes and garlic. Any color and type of pepper can be easily sliced and frozen. Sweet red peppers can also be roasted and preserved in oil. Hot peppers can also be dried, then powdered and crushed, or left whole.

While spinach can be canned, its flavor is best when frozen. Once frozen it can be thawed for spinach dip, thrown into soups and stews, or blended with cheese and stuffed into manicotti pasta shells. It also makes a great addition to smoothies while still frozen.

 Summer Squash and Zucchini
Summer squash and zucchinis can be dried, frozen, or made into a wonderful sweet relish. The included zucchini relish recipes calls for white vinegar, but I personally like to use apple cider vinegar which lends a wonderful sweetness.

Tomatoes can be canned, frozen, or dried. The type of tomato will determine the best preservation method. For example, while cherry tomato varieties can be canned or frozen, their sweet flavor lends itself to dehydrating into sun-dried tomatoes which can then be stored in the freezer. Paste tomatoes can be blanched, and frozen or canned. You can even can your own tomato juice!

While all herbs can be air dried and/or finished in an oven at the lowest temperature or in a food dehydrator, some lend themselves better to freezing, such as Cilantro and Parsley. Basil and Chives are also examples of two herbs that retain better flavor when frozen as opposed to drying. Herbs can be frozen in oil or melted butter in ice cube trays, or on their own.

Author’s Note:
Mekala graduated from William Smith Colleges in May 2014 with a BA in Philosophy and Environmental Studies. After spending the summer of her junior year interning with a small USDA Organic family farm in Sheffield, MA, she was hooked on growing food. Soon she became engulfed in the deep and complicated world that is our food system. She’s now the ‘permanent intern’ at the same farm she started out at in Sheffield, and is working with Berkshire Grown, an organization that links farmers in the Berkshires with the surrounding community 
through events, workshops, promotions, advocacy and education highlighting locally-grown and produced food. She plans to attend graduate school in the near future, and in the more distant future — to ease into the life of a second generation farmer in the Berkshires of MA. Contact Mekala at

Posted in October 2015: Fruits Of Our Labor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

FL-PRISM Update: Hydrilla verticillata CONFIRMED IN MONROE COUNTY

By Hilary Mosher, FLI FL-PRISM Coordinator

Hilary Mosher

Hilary Mosher

Hydrilla verticillata, a highly invasive aquatic plant, has recently been confirmed in a small pond in Tinker Nature Park, in Henrietta, NY. The plant is characterized by its ability to dominate a waterbody and alter the physical and chemical features. The plant blocks sunlight due to the growth of thick mats which displace native vegetation ( The Finger Lakes region has just two other confirmed infestations of Hydrilla- one in a small, isolated pond in Broome County and one in Tompkins County where it is actively being treated with herbicides.

Hydrilla in Tinker Nature Park, Henrietta, NY. Photo credit: Hilary Mosher.

Hydrilla in Tinker Nature Park, Henrietta, NY. Photo credit: Hilary Mosher.

Native to Korea, Hydrilla can be found infesting freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, and canals. It has pointed, bright green leaves that grow in a whorl along the stem. Typically in New York, there are 5 leaves per whorl, and the leaf edges are serrated. Hydrilla roots end in a small, potato-like structures called tubers, which grow beneath the surface of the sediment. The tubers allow Hydrilla to overwinter in our NY climate. The small, isolated pond where Hydrilla was confirmed may act as an incubator for Hydrilla to spread to other areas within the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes Basin.

Since the discovery of this infestation in a seemingly innocuous small pond in the middle of Monroe County, the question of how did it get there is dominant. This infestation may have developed due to an aquarium release. There is currently an online marketplace that continues to sell invasive species such as Brazilian waterweed and swamp crayfish. While these avenues are ceasing to sell invasive species or are putting labels on species that are invasive, the possibilities for purchase still exist. It is difficult to model whether people know not to dump organisms in their ‘natural habitat’ or transport species from one location to another.

Hydrilla. Photo credit: Hilary Mosher.

Hydrilla. Photo credit: Hilary Mosher.

For the Hydrilla in Tinker Nature Park, the FL-PRISM is working with partners, including the Hydrilla Task Force and NYS DEC, to determine the most appropriate means of addressing this infestation based on best management practices (BMPs). We are surveying nearby waterbodies to determine if the plant resides in other locations nearby. From there, we will develop an appropriate response plan to #stoptheinvasion based on recommendations and BMPs from natural resource managers who are actively managing populations of Hydrilla. It is still early in the planning phase, but we recognize the need to remove the Hydra of the plant world from our beautiful Finger Lakes region.


Mythical Hydra and its many nasty heads. Photo credit:

Help #StoptheInvasion! Volunteers are asked to help survey and report any suspicious plant growth to a NYS Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) Coordinator ( Be an invasive detector! Together, we can #stoptheinvasion.

For more information, refer to the following resources:

Hydrilla and Aquatic Invasive Species Public Workshop
: October 21, 2015, 10am-2pm
WHERE: Tinker Nature Park, 1525 Calkins Road, Pittsford, NY 14534
WHO: Open to the public, however this program will be especially helpful for lake association members and those that recreate in and around waterways. Dr. Bruce Gilman (Professor, FLCC) and Hilary R. Mosher, (Coordinator, FL-PRISM) will host a ha nds-on, experiential learning opportunity around aquatic organisms. Identification of Hydrilla will occur on-site and will include management options and ways to prevent aquatic invasive species. Other organisms such as starry stonewort and slender naiad will be available. RSVP is required at or 585.261.3178.

Posted in October 2015: Fruits Of Our Labor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

FLI Events

Save the Date!
FLI Research Conference
November 12
Call for posters! Abstracts due October 22nd

Green Thumb Thursdays

Learn more about the Geneva Community Garden Coalition at:

HWS Food Week!
October 17-24th

Living the Farm Sanctuary Life
October 19, 2015 at 7:00 PM in Scandling Center Vandervort Room (300 Pulteney St., Geneva)
gene_with_animalEven the most vegan vegan isn’t perfect,” says Gene Baur, co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary and author Living the Farm Sanctuary Life. Recognizing that we all started somewhere is your first step on a journey to happier, healthier and more compassionate lifestyle. Gene Baur’s latest book, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life, offers practical insight, guidance and easy-to-adopt solutions for everyone, no matter where they are on the journey to living in concert with core values. Baur provides simple actionable solutions coupled with a compassion-first approach to help us be the change we wish to see in treatment toward animals and in our food system. His pragmatic approach revolves around five tenets to living kindly, achieving physical, emotional and spiritual strength and health, creating less harm in the world and feeling more enlivened. You’ll learn how to best maintain your plant-based diet, engage in a mindful connection with animals and food, eat plants for personal health, and for the health of the earth. Farm Sanctuary is more than a place; it’s a lifestyle. Are you living it? This event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the Medbery Lot adjacent to Pulteney Street.

HWS Farmer’s Market
October 23, 10-3 pm on the Scandling Center Rear Patio (300 Pulteney St., Geneva)
Farmers Market BannerPurchase from a variety of local food vendors at the Fall HWS Farmer’s Market! Items for sale include produce, bread, tea, jam, jelly, honey, herbs, eggs, oils, maple products, baked goods, and more! BRING CASH! This Bring Your Own Bag event is part of Food Week, coordinated by the Finger Lakes Institute Food Systems Program.

Posted in October 2015: Fruits Of Our Labor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Food and Field Notes: A Project In Growth

By Sarah Meyer, FLI Food Systems Program Manager and Natalie Munderville WS’16, FLI Farm Intern

Sarah A. Meyer

Sarah A. Meyer

Although this summer began as a wet season, Hobart and William Smith College’s Fribolin Farm became a project in GROWTH! Under the direction of Sarah Meyer, first-time HWS student farm interns Natalie Munderville ’16 and Liam Brooks ’17 established and managed three growing areas totaling over 4,000 square feet! Each farm intern was on the 36 acre campus farm throughout the summer for 7-8 weeks each, working daily, tending the gardens and assuring good care of and attention to our hand sown crops.

Sunflower season at HWS Fribolin Farm. Photo credit: Daniel Bell,

Sunflower Season At HWS Fribolin Farm. Photo credit: Daniel Bell,

The ‘Upper Garden’ is a fenced and gated garden containing a late season red raspberry, colorful beets and carrots grown in mounded rows, and salsa ingredients- tomatoes, tomatillos, and jalapenos. The HWS Sustainable Living Learning Community first-year students will make salsa this September and the beets (and greens) and carrots will be donated to the Geneva Community Lunch Program this fall. Raspberries, as they continue to ripen, are picked, frozen and planned for use by the FLI Food Systems Program.

Brud Holland, Natalie Munderville, and Sarah Meyer making a donation of parsley to Fox Run Cafe.

Brud Holland, Natalie Munderville, and Sarah Meyer making a donation of parsley to Fox Run Cafe.

The 24 x 48′ High Tunnel had it’s sides raised all summer while kale, basil, and parsley grew strong. Through a budding partnership with chef Brud Holland, multiple harvests were donated to Fox Run Vineyard’s Cafe into early September. Kale was served in smoothies served at Yoga On The Farm and sold at the ‘Kale Sale’ in September. Throughout August, two-thirds of the high tunnel was planted with radishes and salad greens in preparation for the Greens Growing Project (GGP) to continue into its second season. Through leadership of professor Robin Lewis and FLI Food Systems Program Manager Sarah Meyer, the GGP enables senior HWS students to manage and harvest the high tunnel (September-November) in order to deliver weekly fresh greens to the Geneva Community Lunch Program.

Sunflower. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

Sunflower. Photo credit: Sarah Meyer.

The ‘Big Garden’ is planted in five large sections divided by a wood chip pathway surrounding our ‘Three Sisters Garden’ in the center. Planted for reference by students enrolled in professor Whitney Mauer’s Sense of Place class, the squash and beans will be served at the HWS Grateful Plate event in November, while the corn will be served as popcorn by the FLI Food Systems Program. Although powdery mildew has infected the pumpkin patch, the pumpkins are intended for playful carving by local children in October. Tomatoes growing in the garden will be the main ingredient in sauce made by students participating in the campus fellowship program Pasta Night. And, although it is likely that the glowing sunflowers bordering the garden will become bird or racoon snack food, we hope seasonal garden guests enjoy the daily pleasure they provide us.

Weeding was a huge part of our work on the farm, but highlights from our special guests, outreach programs, and volunteers were extremely memorable. Young children from the Geneva Boys and Girls Club constructed our featured scarecrow and garden signage; HWS Alumnae made Reunion Weekend Rhubarb Jam in the farmhouse kitchen; HWS first-year’s constructed pallet furniture and a rain collection system for our high tunnel; HWS Academy students experienced working on the farm; and events like Yoga On The Farm, Berry Picking, Jammin’ With Jam, and the Sunflower Celebration brought new faces to the farm and built a familiarity with the landscape.

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2015 Farm Intern Natalie Munderville ’16 offers this reflection on her summer working on the HWS Fribolin Farm:

Natalie Munderville

Natalie Munderville ’16

I came into this internship with a great deal of enthusiasm and not much else. With zero prior experience on a farm and an absent skill set to match, I didn’t know what to expect but was ecstatic to learn. Now with several weeks of work under my belt, I feel confident and independent while wheeling my barrel about the farmland. I have dug thoroughly for the underground roots of tricksy milkweed; twisted ever-growing piles of compost with pitchforks (a much harder task than it seems…); created mounded rows of soil for planting root vegetables like carrots and beets; planted new crops and tended seedlings in preparation for a future harvest; successfully harvested garlic, kale, and basil; and worked alongside a larger-scale farmer in Stanley, NY.

The other person I’ve worked alongside is Sarah Meyer, the farm intern coordinator and supervisor. From day one, Sarah made me feel comfortable by assuring me that trial and error are a natural part of any farming experience and that I am not alone because she is learning too. She is the first boss I’ve ever had who has truly made me feel like my ideas and contributions are valued. In my experience, when a higher-up says “please share your ideas with me regarding the business” etc., it’s out of some sense of polite obligation, and if I do approach them with an idea, they thank me and I never hear about it again. With Sarah, she asked if I had ideas for a group craft with kids, and the moment the word “scarecrow” left my mouth we were on our way to the thrift shop in search of a button-up shirt and a straw hat.

On that note, one thing I have learned during my time on the farm is that bamboo does not always hold up scarecrows (you think you can trust YouTube, but alas…). I have also learned, crucially, to throw expectations out the window when contemplating farm practices. One might expect that it is intensely satisfying to harvest a fully-grown, healthy crop; to see the literal fruits of one’s labor reflected in a fresh, edible product— and don’t get me wrong because it most certainly is. What surprised me though is the realization that the process leading up to the harvest is just as gratifying— the planting process.

I expected planting to be a bit dryer of an experience based on what it involves: putting something in the ground and exercising a lot of patience. There is no output for a long while so it grants no immediate reward. In all of this, I was wrong. Planting feels wonderful! The potential of the seeds in your hands feels immense. This is the most profound realization I have had concerning the nature of the work I do: every step matters; every step is progress. Planting, weeding and maintenance, harvest— all are integral to bountiful gardens and you cannot have one without the other. So why race to the harvest? There can be no harvest without careful planting and tending, so I’m going to enjoy it all!

Posted in September 2015: Summer Science Research | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

FL-PRISM Update: Research scientists, undergraduates and high school students collaborate to explore how fish may be impacted by the invasion of the bloody red shrimp

By Dr. Brent Boscarino, Poughkeepsie Day School

We tend to think of invasive species as nuisances, spoiling native habitat and altering ecosystems. By very definition, an invasive species is one whose “introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health” (NISC 2006). This definition does not preclude an invader from providing some potential benefits to native ecosystems or, in particular, to valued native species that may actually thrive in the presence of the newcomers.

The bloody red shrimp, Hemimysis anomala, which was first detected in the Great Lakes region in 2006. Photo credit: Environment Canada.

The bloody red shrimp, Hemimysis anomala, which was first detected in the Great Lakes region in 2006. Photo credit: Environment Canada.

Such may be the case with the “bloody red shrimp” (BRS), Hemimysis anomala, which could be a new food source for native Finger Lakes fish species such as lake trout according to feeding experiments run this summer in collaboration with Associate Professor of Biology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges Dr. Meghan Brown. Lake trout feeding experiments on BRS are one of several research efforts spearheaded by Dr. Brown, Dr. Brent Boscarino and his high school student researchers from the Poughkeepsie Day School, and Dr. Bruce Smith (newly retired Professor, Ithaca College), to investigate the continued spread, integration and ultimate role of BRS in Finger Lakes food webs.

Our collaborative research team worked together in 2013-2014 to track the movement of BRS from its initial point of invasion in Lake Ontario towards the Hudson River via the Erie Canal (the results of which can be accessed here). Our current research, funded by the Great Lakes Research Consortium (GLRC) through the Great Lakes Protection Fund as well as with support from the Poughkeepsie Day School Annual Fund, will take our efforts on BRS further by: (1) quantifying the degree to which both native and naturalized fish species including lake trout are capable of capturing BRS through controlled feeding experiments, (2) incorporating citizen science surveys to help with early detection and population monitoring of the species, (3) documenting the behavioral interactions and spatial overlap of BRS with fish through a combination of SCUBA videography and field work, and (4) working on new techniques such as environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect the species.

High school student researchers with faculty mentors, Drs. Brent Boscarino and Meghan Brown, at the Bozzuto Boathouse at Hobart and William Smith College. From left to right (back row): Chris Canfield, Mia Foucek, Ellie Stapylton, Julia Roellke, Kate McKeon, Sonomi Oyagi, Meghan Brown, Jesse Held. (front row): Matt Warren, Brent Boscarino. Photo Credit: Kevin Colton.

High school student researchers with faculty mentors, Drs. Brent Boscarino and Meghan Brown, at the Bozzuto Boathouse at Hobart and William Smith College. From left to right (back row): Chris Canfield, Mia Foucek, Ellie Stapylton, Julia Roellke, Kate McKeon, Sonomi Oyagi, Meghan Brown, Jesse Held. (front row): Matt Warren, Brent Boscarino. Photo Credit: Kevin Colton.

Fish feeding experiments reveal high feeding rates of lake trout on BRS  

Determining the efficiency with which certain valued fish species can utilize BRS is one of many goals of our project, and one that has already yielded interesting insights into the potential role of BRS in native food webs. Preliminary results from controlled feeding experiments performed this summer indicate that lake trout are capable of consuming BRS at extremely high rates. The observed rates are particularly impressive provided the large size of BRS relative not only to the body size of lake trout used in our experiments but also to the size of other zooplankton prey available to these fish. Furthermore, the strong swimming ability and escape response of BRS makes filter feeding by planktivorous fish highly improbable (Janssen 1978) and prey must therefore be taken individually.

Student researchers Matt Warren (above) and Ellie Stapylton sorting BRS for use in fish feeding experiments. Photo credit: Brent Boscarino.

Student researchers Matt Warren (above) and Ellie Stapylton sorting BRS for use in fish feeding experiments. Photo credit: Brent Boscarino.

Mysid shrimp, like BRS, also tend to have a much greater highly unsaturated fatty acid and caloric content relative to other available zooplankton in areas of overlap with lake trout, making BRS highly desirable from a nutritional standpoint. Increased recruitment of lake trout in Flathead Lake, Idaho, for example, was attributed to the introduction of another species of mysid shrimp – the recruitment boost was due in part to the high caloric content of the mysid and the same may apply to BRS in the Finger Lakes (Ellis et al., 2011). We are also examining the use of BRS as a food resource for other fish integral to Finger Lakes food webs such as the alewife and yellow perch.

BRS may become an important energy subsidy for species such as young lake trout and other economically or ecologically valued species that spatially overlap with BRS. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that BRS are also competitors with the same fish species that prey upon them. Thus, BRS may locally deplete zooplankton and benthic food resources that would otherwise be available to the fish. Furthermore, optimum spawning habitat for lake trout consists of piles of clean cobble and rubble with enough interstitial space to protect eggs- the same type of substrate preferred by BRS (Claramunt et al., 2012).

Dr. Meghan Brown and Poughkeepsie Day School students adding BRS prey to yellow perch experimental tanks. Feeding rate experiments were run under natural light conditions around twilight, a period of high BRS and fish feeding activity. Students (from left to right): Back row: Kate McKeon, Ellie Stapylton, Sonomi Oyagi, Front row: Chris Canfield, Julia Roellke, Meghan Brown, Mia Foucek, Jesse Held, Matt Warren. Photo credit: Kevin Colton.

Dr. Meghan Brown and Poughkeepsie Day School students adding BRS prey to yellow perch experimental tanks. Feeding rate experiments were run under natural light conditions around twilight, a period of high BRS and fish feeding activity. Students (from left to right): Back row: Kate McKeon, Ellie Stapylton, Sonomi Oyagi, Front row: Chris Canfield, Julia Roellke, Meghan Brown, Mia Foucek, Jesse Held, Matt Warren. Photo credit: Kevin Colton.

In the long term, developing lake trout will likely utilize BRS as a food resource in nurseries, but there is the potential for the shrimp to prey upon lake trout fry as they emerge before the fish have outgrown BRS predation pressure. Further research will have to tease these variables apart before any definitive conclusions can be made about the impact of BRS on lake trout survival and growth.

In addition to fish feeding work, Master Divers Erik and Johan Hedlund (Poughkeepsie Day School student and parent, respectively), are utilizing SCUBA videography to determine the behavioral and spatial relationships of BRS and their fish predators in the wild. The team has already documented the swarming behavior of BRS and has begun the process of analyzing the captured videos to help assess the nuances of BRS microhabitat selection and their interaction with fish.

SCUBA diver Erik Hedlund near the William Scandling dock . Photo Credit: Brent Boscarino.

SCUBA diver Erik Hedlund near the William Scandling dock . Photo Credit: Brent Boscarino.

Check out the VIDEO! – Scuba footage taken near the docking station of the research vessel, William Scandling, that demonstrates the swarming behavior of Hemimysis in the field. Hemimysis tend to aggregate in rocky habitat in close association with man-made structures like piers, docks and marinas. Video footage courtesy of Johan and Erik Hedlund

The Bloody Red Shrimp and Citizen Science

Plankton nets developed by student researchers to distribute to citizen science volunteers to help with monitoring the spread and population dynamics of BRS. The nets were constructed with lightweight materials that can commonly be purchased at local stores, all for less than $10. Photo credit: Julia Roellke.

Plankton nets developed by student researchers to distribute to citizen science volunteers to help with monitoring the spread and population dynamics of BRS. The nets were constructed with lightweight materials that can commonly be purchased at local stores, all for less than $10. Photo credit: Julia Roellke.

A second goal of our summer research was to begin developing a citizen science campaign to help with early detection of BRS. This part of our work will consist of distributing educational brochures and sampling kits to local lake users to help monitor and track the spread of the species throughout the Finger Lakes and larger Great Lakes basin into Hudson River watersheds. This summer, Poughkeepsie Day School students developed two versions of budget-friendly “shrimp traps” that could potentially be used to distribute to the public to help with early detection of the shrimp in local waterways. While a standard containment device can cost hundreds of dollars, the students were able to create an effective sampling net for under $10 per unit. The first trap design utilizes embroidery loop, mesh fabric, string, plastic collection bottle and weight to mimic a student plankton net. The lightweight materials used also make this design easily “shippable” through the mail to citizen science volunteers.

Poughkeepsie Day School student researchers Julia Roellke (left) and Mia Foucek (left) with Hilary Mosher (center), discussing the design of the plankton nets intended for use in citizen science monitoring of BRS. Photo credit: Brent Boscarino.

Poughkeepsie Day School student researchers Julia Roellke (left) and Mia Foucek (left) with FL-PRISM Coordinator Hilary Mosher (center), discussing the design of the plankton nets intended for use in citizen science monitoring of BRS. Photo credit: Brent Boscarino.

With the guidance of Dr. Smith, our group also worked to fine-tune a second BRS trap design that could potentially be used in citizen science surveys. This work was largely conducted by Jamila Roth (Skidmore, ‘18) whose work with Dr. Brown was supported by the Mellon Foundation through a grant where New York Six participants connect issues of local importance to their global context. The trap design utilizes supplies that can be found in most homes, such as small sections of PVC pipe, swimming “noodles”, and buckets to capture individual Hemimysis inhabiting the lake floor and can be deployed (and recovered) during daylight hours.

Controlled experimentation in the laboratory this summer has confirmed that the trap designs are extremely effective in detecting the presence of the species, catching upwards of a thousand organisms at times with relatively low sampling effort. The grant monies have allowed our group to purchase the required materials for initial distribution and help establish a central database for recording the presence or absence of the species throughout New York State. It is anticipated that the sampling nets, in addition to informational brochures and instruction sheets, will be ready for use and distribution in citizen science surveys in the early fall, so stay posted!


Claramunt RM, Barton NT, Fitzsimons JD, Galarowicz T. 2012. Microhabitat association of Hemimysis anomala on fish spawning reefs on Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan. Journal of Great Lakes Research 38 (Suppl. 2): 32-36.

Ellis BK, Stanford JA, Goodman D, Stafford CP, Gustafson DL, Beauchamp DA, Chess DW, Craft JA, Delaray MA, Hansen BS. 2011. Long term effects of a trophic cascade in a large lake ecosystem. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 108, 1070-1075.

Janssen, J. 1978. Feeding-behavior repertoire of the alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus, and the ciscoes Coregonus hoyi and C. artedii. J. Fish. Res. Bd. Can. 35: 249–253.

National Invasive Species Council (NISC), Invasive Species Advisory Committee. 2006. Invasive species definition clarification and guidance white paper, Washington, D.C.

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