by Stevan Ramirez and Val Sewell
Please tell us a little about yourself and how you became a Pure Waters’ volunteer.
My name is Stevan Ramirez and I serve as a volunteer Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) monitor, Neighborhood Ambassador, and member of the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association events committee. My wife and I moved to Seneca Lake in November 2018 and soon after we joined Pure Waters. I became a HABs monitor starting in 2019 and later that year joined the events committee. In 2021, a new program was kicked off around the lake designating Neighborhood Ambassadors for the various neighborhoods around the lake.
Describe what you do as a HAB monitor.
I was provided in-depth, in-person training on what the roles and responsibilities are for a HAB monitor. The training provided all you needed to know on how to identify a HAB, how to collect, sample, and report the location of the HAB using your smart device. In my case, I use an iphone to access the software application (app) used by Pure Waters. In addition, I was provided materials to ensure that I was reporting the correct zone for my area of responsibility, brochures to educate the public, and sample bottles and gloves for collecting samples. I typically check my zone a couple of times per week depending on the weather. I do work alone in checking my area but at times I might be asked by another HAB monitor to come and help determine/verify whether or not a HAB has been found. In my neighborhood we have two other HAB monitors.
The app used to report a potential HAB is quite simple to use. Once you open the app, you fill in your email address, first and last name, the zone you are reporting (in my case it is zone 325), date and time, how much of the zone you surveyed stated in percentages, the extent of the HAB (is it small, large, localized or widespread), additional comments such as the weather conditions, and pictures uploaded directly from my iphone. The pictures provide the exact location of the HAB which is critical to the overall tracking of HABs for all of Seneca Lake. Once all the information is entered, you just tap the submit button and you are finished. You will receive an email confirming the submission.
Do you feel a sense of accomplishment with your volunteer work and how do you feel your volunteer work helps Seneca Lake and the community?
I am happy to volunteer to do my part in educating those that live on the lake or use the lake for recreational purposes. I believe it is important to keep our lake clean and healthy for generations to come. Most people I have met are open to hearing about the various initiatives that Pure Waters has undertaken to help Seneca Lake and the overall community. Being a volunteer has provided me the opportunity to learn how to do my part in keeping the lake clean which helps me to explain to my neighbors what they can do.
There are many volunteer opportunities in our community – what motivated you to volunteer for Seneca Pure Waters and this program in particular? What do you think other people should know about volunteering for this organization? Would you recommend others consider volunteering?
It was a no brainer to volunteer to be an HAB monitor given that we live on the lake full time. We like to swim in the lake with our dog Dublin and the fact that HABs can cause problem for humans and severe problems for pets was another compelling reason to volunteer. I was also interested in helping the events committee as part of the fundraising efforts to ensure the organization has enough money to put forth meaningful initiatives that will have a significant impact on the lake. There are many opportunities to volunteer for this organization and I would recommend a phone call with Kaitlin Fello, Pure Waters Association Director, to discuss your interest/talents and how much time you are willing to provide. Keep in mind that you do not have to live on the lake to be part of this organization. Seneca Lake, as well as all the Finger Lakes, belong to all of us and we need to collectively take care of them.
Please visit www.senecalake.org/volunteer to start the process of volunteering with Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association today.