Greetings from MAISRC!
It has been a wild year with lots of challenges, but I would like to personally assure you that MAISRC is still here and working as hard as ever to develop research-based solutions to reduce the impacts of aquatic invasive species in Minnesota. I hope the research highlights included in the report (which only scratches the surface of our progress!) will surprise, inspire, and give you hope.
Like the year 2020, research can often challenge the status quo. We test hypotheses, adjust to findings, and learn new things all the time. This year in particular, flexibility has been one of our strongest assets. In the spring, our research teams quickly and effectively activated socially distant work plans to complete a truly remarkable amount of field and lab work. Meanwhile, our admin team has never broken stride despite working remotely full-time since March.
To address the inability of having in-person interactions with the public, partners, and stakeholders, MAISRC shifted online compatibility and accessibility to the forefront of our priorities. In September, we successfully hosted our annual Research and Management Showcase online for the first time - with more attendees than ever! I encourage you to visit our YouTube channel and watch some of the recorded Showcase sessions and hear project updates firsthand from our Research Fellows.
Another challenge we faced this year was coordinating our biennial Research Needs Assessment. During this year’s solicitation period, we received an astounding 689 responses. Respondents varied from researchers to recreationists and were from all across Minnesota and beyond. The prioritization of the submitted research topics has traditionally been a one-day, in-person event full of lively and thoughtful debates. To be truthful, I was worried that moving the workshop online this year would reduce the quality of those discussions. However, I am happy to report that not only did video conferences work seamlessly for group sessions, but we were also able to invite experts from farther distances to share their perspectives. All together, I am excited about our future projects that will address these new research priorities and move us one step closer to solutions.
From field work to webinars, MAISRC has adjusted to our new normal with resilience and determination. To accomplish what the Center has over the last year is nothing short of remarkable and I can not say enough how impressed I am with the people doing the research and supporting the teams. Though I dare not guess what 2021 will bring to the world in general, I can confidently say that MAISRC will continue forward with our directive to develop research-based solutions to our aquatic invasive species problems.
Dr. Nicholas Phelps, Director
Invasive Fish - Big Win
In 2020, researchers collected hundreds of samples from a Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) -endemic lake to better understand the ecology of this potentially useful virus for biocontrol of common carp. As expected, KHV was widespread within the common carp population, with increasing prevalence in gill tissue during the warmer months, indicating an active outbreak. Importantly, the replicating virus was never detected in any of the native fish tested. These findings were supported by laboratory trials that also demonstrated the high host-specificity of KHV. Learn more about this project: MAISRC.umn.edu/native-pathogens
Invasive Plants - Big Win
After analyzing 11 years of starry stonewort treatment data across three states, MAISRC researchers have found that current methods (generally copper-based algaecide treatments) are not slowing starry stonewort’s expansion within infested lakes. However, treatments can be effective at reducing abundance, e.g., biomass, of starry stonewort in localized areas, providing nuisance relief. Researchers also found that if infestations are found early enough—when they are still small—sustained hand removal efforts can be highly effective for reducing and containing infestations. These findings emphasize the need for early detection/containment efforts and identify a pressing need for continued research into effective control options for established infestations. Learn more about this project: MAISRC.umn.edu/starry-analysis
Invasive Invertebrates - Big Win
Our researchers have identified downrigger and surface fishing line and residual water in bait buckets/livewells to be two of the highest risk factors for spreading spiny water fleas. Armed with this knowledge, MAISRC, in partnership with St. Louis County and Minnesota Sea Grant, began a multi-media communications and awareness campaign to educate Minnesotans. Efforts have included PSAs on local television stations in areas with infestations and the distribution of 6,000 absorbent towels printed with tips for how anglers can help stop the spread. Learn more about this project: StopSpiny.org
Cross Cutting - Big Win
Researchers launched a one-of-a-kind, online dashboard specifically for aquatic invasive species surveillance and watercraft inspections in Minnesota. The dashboard uses a robust lake-connectivity network generated by over 1.6 million data points of boater movements and a complex array of river connections. The dashboard both forecasts the introduction risk of aquatic invasive species to individual waterbodies and provides decision-making support for optimizing watercraft inspection efficacy. MAISRC also hosted multiple workshops to train state and local resource managers how to use the dashboard. View the dashboard: AISexplorer.umn.edu
Outreach - Big Win
Due to COVID-19, MAISRC pivoted on our outreach initiatives to provide a variety of digital content to our stakeholders and the public. In September, our annual Research and Management Showcase was held online for the first time. Despite being an untraditional format, researchers and over 300 attendees were able to connect and discuss current research studies and management options. Additional online engagement opportunities included providing recorded Showcase presentations online, monthly AIS Detectors webinars, and online input opportunities for our biennial Research Needs Assessment. By moving these events and resources online, we are able to break down geographic and time barriers and expand the accessibility of our content. Watch the 2020 Showcase presentations online: z.umn.edu/ShowcaseVideos
MAISRC thanks all of the federal, state, tribal, local and private support that makes our research possible; especially the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legsilative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. We couldn't do this work without you!
If you would like to support the research and outreach program going on at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, please consider a dontation to our program. Gifts of any size are appreciated and help us develop and advance research-based solutions to aquatic invasive species.