Mark Malchoff Makes a Splash With 21 Years of Aquatic Expertise on Lake Champlain

Mark Malchoff devoted more than 21 years of expertise and service as Aquatic Resources Specialist with Lake Champlain Sea Grant (LCSG) and the Lake Champlain Research Institute (LCRI) on the New York side of the lake. Mark will retire from the State University of New York (SUNY) Plattsburgh on December 4, 2020.

“Mark’s understanding of lake ecology, experience within the national Sea Grant program, and connections within the greater Lake Champlain community are exceptional and an important reason that the Lake Champlain Sea Grant program has evolved into the successful Sea Grant Institute that we are today,” said Breck Bowden, LCSG Director at the University of Vermont (UVM). “Mark has set the foundation for a bright future for Lake Champlain Sea Grant. His talents, teamwork, knowledge, and comradery will be missed by us all.”

In 1983, Mark began his tenure with Sea Grant as an extension specialist in Fredonia, New York. He then served as a Cornell University extension associate in Ithaca, New York and a cooperative extension agent in Warren County. In 1988, Mark took a position as Marine Fisheries Specialist with New York Sea Grant and renewed what would become a 34-year career with Sea Grant.

In 1999, Mark joined Lake Champlain Sea Grant, a project of New York Sea Grant at the time, based at SUNY’s Research Institute and the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Mark Malchoff was an original staff member of Lake Champlain Sea Grant and has been a valuable source of information and support for this program,” said Tim Mihuc, Co-director of LCSG at SUNY Plattsburgh and Coordinator of LCRI. “SUNY Plattsburgh has appreciated his efforts in outreach, extension, and research over his time with Lake Champlain Sea Grant. His many colleagues at Plattsburgh wish him well in retirement.” 

Aquatic Invasive Species

During his early years on Lake Champlain, Mark focused on aquatic invasive species (AIS) spread prevention. He continued to pursue these efforts, along with new projects, when Lake Champlain Sea Grant gained independent status and transitioned to a UVM and SUNY Plattsburgh program in 2002. 

Mark collaborated with Drs. Ellen Marsden and Eric Howe on invasive sea lamprey research at UVM. Later, Mark joined Ellen and former LCSG Director of Outreach and Education Jurij Homziak on an investigation of barriers to prevent invasive species from entering Lake Champlain through the Champlain Canal. The 2005 Feasibility of Champlain Canal Aquatic Nuisance Species Barrier Options report, co-authored by Mark, Ellen, and Mike Hauser, continues to be cited by the United States Army Corp of Engineers and consultants seeking barrier feasibility options.

Mark also provided AIS training to Lake Champlain Basin Program boat launch stewards, Vermont Game Wardens, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) staff. Mark’s collaborative AIS work led to co-authorship of the Lake Champlain Basin Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan in 2005.

“Mark has consistently brought a wealth of expertise and thoughtful input to the Lake Champlain Basin Program Technical Advisory Committee and Aquatic Nuisance Species Subcommittee,” said Meg Modley, AIS Management Coordinator of the Lake Champlain Basin Program. “He tackled challenging messaging to a diverse community of stakeholders and has helped to develop education tools, programs, and trainings to encourage stewardship, including a Lake Champlain AIS identification guide.”

Sustainable Bass Fishing

In addition to aquatic invasives, Mark’s efforts with Sea Grant included research and outreach related to bass fishing tournaments on Lake Champlain. Bass tournaments on the New York side of the lake have gained in popularity over the past decade and contribute more than $2 million annually to local economies.

Mark partnered with SUNY Lake Champlain Research Institute scientists to examine the health of black bass following catch-and-release tournaments and studied how to increase survival and dispersal rates. At tournament weigh-in stations, they measured, weighed, and assessed fish for evidence of stress and developed a stress index. They followed the movements of nearly 2400 tagged fish in Lake Champlain.

The scientists published survival and dispersal results and shared findings in reports, a fact sheet on the Lake Champlain Bass Tournament work, and presentations with anglers in regional and state bass clubs, tournament directors and sponsors, including the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau and the City of Plattsburgh, and NYSDEC. These interactions gave rise to a Recreational Tournament Conservation Plan to help prevent over-scheduling of Plattsburgh-based bass tournaments and helped to inform improved tournament practices.

Mark’s longtime dedication to the fish and the sport have greatly enhanced the health of bass populations and sustainability of tournaments on Lake Champlain.

“Without Mark’s knowledge, immense care for the lake, and pride in what he does to sustain it, we would not have been able to host the annual professional bass fishing tournaments,” said Alyssa Senecal of the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau. “Because of him and the Lake Champlain Basin Program, we were able to host these tournaments that bring such a high economic impact to our area and do so knowing the Lake was happy and healthy!”

Jack of All Trades & Adventures

Mark also participated in Sea Grant-funded research projects related to climate change impacts and microplastics pollution in the Lake Champlain basin. At SUNY Plattsburgh, he contributed to ten research projects, totaling more than $450,000 in funding, and he has authored or co-authored 25 Sea Grant publications.

As a longtime member and active contributor to the Great Lakes Sea Grant Crude Oil Transport Team, Mark offered his detailed knowledge of rail transport in the United States.

“Mark was an invaluable member of the crude oil transportation effort by providing research on rail transport, hosting educational webinars, and participating in training on how to conduct response to oil spills in icy waters,” said Kathy Bunting-Howarth of New York State Sea Grant. “He threw himself into his work and, in the latter case, into a freezing lake, too!”

Mark credits his supervisors and colleagues with helping him to provide a successful program of research and outreach in fisheries and aquatic resources on Lake Champlain.

“Any accomplishments I have achieved were built on the efforts of my current associates Tim Mihuc, Mike Simpson [SUNY Plattsburgh Director of Sponsored Research], Breck Bowden, and Kris Stepenuck, as well as Jurij Homziak and Larry Forcier [former LCSG Director] back in the day,” said Mark, who also served as an adjunct lecturer in fisheries ecology and management at SUNY Plattsburgh for two years and member of the American Fisheries Society for 35 years.

“My 21-year career with the Research Foundation and Lake Champlain Sea Grant has been a nice mix of science and extension,” said Mark, who will continue to serve on the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Study Public Advisory Group. “I enjoyed helping folks address coastal and community problems by sharing Sea Grant research results. When those results weren’t available, I enjoyed teaming up on research to answer applied questions about aquatic invasive species, fisheries ecology, and rail-based crude oil transport.”

“Mark is a consummate Extension professional,” said Kris Stepenuck, LCSG Associate Director and Extension Leader. “He understands the importance of building relationships to best understand the needs of stakeholders to be able to address them with the most effective research and outreach."

Mark earned a Master of Science in environmental studies from Bard College in 1993 and a Bachelor of Science in natural resources from Cornell University in 1976. He then held positions with NYSDEC, New York State Department of Labor, and the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. In 1982, he got his start in fisheries work as a technician with NYSDEC in Dunkirk, New York.

In retirement, Mark will keep up with sea and whitewater kayaking, fishing, cycling, backcountry skiing, and ice skating, to name just a few. He and his wife Cindy will continue home improvement projects and visit their daughters: Laura in Boca Raton, Florida and Erin in Saranac Lake, New York. They plan to travel and camp throughout the United States and Canada (post-Covid), but Mark, ever the adventurer, is already exploring whitewater rafting trips for 2021 on the Selway, Salmon, and Snake Rivers in Idaho.