Starry Trek 2021

Starry Trek 2021

Starry Trek returns this August, as a new crew of volunteers will set out to explore new lakes, seek out new AIS, and to boldly go where no volunteer has gone before (ok, maybe not that last one). On Saturday, August 21st, volunteers will rendezvous at local training sites across the state to receive training on sampling and identifying aquatic plants and AIS before setting out to their assigned lakes to search for starry stonewort and other priority invaders. Since 2017, Starry Trek volunteers have found over 40 new occurrences of AIS in Minnesota, including four new populations of starry stonewort.  

Local training sites are a huge part of the success of Starry Trek. Every year, Starry Trek includes over 20 local training sites statewide that are hosted by Soil and Water Conservation Districts, lake associations, AIS Detectors volunteers, City and County Parks departments, and small businesses. Local site coordinators contribute to Starry Trek in multiple ways. First, they provide insight into which lakes in their area would benefit from being monitored, such as lakes with high boat traffic, lakes that are geographically close to other infested waters, or lakes that have not been monitored recently. The AIS Detectors Program team takes these insights into careful consideration when selecting which lakes and public accesses to assign to Starry Trek volunteers. Local coordinators also help prepare for Starry Trek by recruiting volunteers to their local training site and communicating with their volunteers in the lead up to the event. 

On the day of Starry Trek, local site coordinators play many roles, including training and supporting volunteers at the local training site and submitting reports of potential AIS to AIS Specialists at Minnesota DNR. While this work may seem a little daunting at first, local site coordinators receive training from the AIS Detectors team, MAISRC, and MN DNR about AIS identification, sampling procedures, and volunteer management. Although we may not be able to offer holodeck training exercises (yet), all local site coordinators are thoroughly prepared to step into their role as Captain when it’s time for Starry Trek to engage!

If you are interested in being a local site coordinator, please contact aisdetectors@umn.edu for more information.

Registration is currently open!

About Starry Trek

Starry Trek is a statewide event focused on searching for one of Minnesota's newest aquatic invasive species, starry stonewort (and other invaders). Starry stonewort is an invasive algae that was first found in Lake Koronis in 2015 and has since spread to 14 Minnesota lakes (learn more about starry stonewort and our research here). This event is an opportunity for you and to team up with us and hundreds of your fellow Minnesotans to better understand its distribution in Minnesota. 

What do participants do during Starry Trek?

You will meet at a local training site hosted by one of our local partners where you will receive a brief training on how to identify starry stonewort and other target aquatic invasive species and how to follow the search protocols. Groups are then sent out to nearby priority lakes to follow the protocols and bring back any suspicious organisms. Starry Trek is a free event and no experience or special equipment is required. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

 

2021 Training Locations

  

How does participating in Starry Trek make a difference?

In both 2017 and 2018, Starry Trek volunteers discovered new populations of starry stonewort. Follow-up surveys by Minnesota DNR specialists confirmed these new findings in Lake Carnelian (Stearns County, 2020), Wolf Lake (Hubbard County, 2018) Lake Beltrami (Beltrami County, 2018) and Grand Lake (Stearns County, 2017). As a result of the Grand Lake discovery the local lake association and MN DNR teamed up in a rapid response plan to remove the small patch of starry stonewort. Other notable finds by Starry Trek participants include the discovery of a new populations of Eurasian watermilfoil in Winona County (2017) and Aitkin County (2019) and a new zebra mussel population in Dakota County (2018). Over 200 Minnesotans have joined in this effort and searched over 200 public water accesses each year since our inaugural event in 2017.

Who organizes the event?

Starry Trek is organized by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and University of Minnesota Extension in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Funding for Starry Trek is provided in part by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Starry Trek is held in coordination with AIS Snapshot Day, an aquatic invasive species search event held in Wisconsin on the same day hosted by the River Alliance of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin Extension, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

  

Starry Trek 2020

A huge thanks to all Starry Trek participants! We had over 212 people join in across the state. Collectively, you searched a total of 292 public accesses on 238 water bodies across Minnesota -- more than have been searched in any previous year of this event! 

Unfortunately, this year a group of volunteers in Stearns County did discover a previously unknown population of starry stonewort in Carnelian Lake. Minnesota DNR is working with Stearns County and Stearns County COLA to consider management options.

A pair of sharp, young eyes also made an interesting discovery in Briggs Lake (Sherburne County): Corbicula fluminea (often called Asian or golden clam). Minnesota is typically thought to be outside of the thermal tolerance for Corbicula, though we do have a couple populations reported in the Mississippi, St. Croix, and Minnesota river systems. In Minnesota, they are typically found near power plants where cooling water discharge keeps the waters warmer year round. Another Sherburne County lake has turned up some dead Corbicula shells the last couple years, but no live clams, making it a bit unique to have found young, live clams in an inland Minnesota lake. There is not evidence to suggest we should be alarmed by this find, as it’s suspected the long, cold winter months will cause the clams to die off and Minnesota is unlikely to support large, nuisance populations of Corbicula. Sherburne SWCD is currently considering continued volunteer monitoring efforts to help better understand the populations in the county and help with future early detection efforts thanks to this discovery. 

Each year we also get several new reports of Chinese and banded mystery snails that were not yet in the EDDMapS database (a nationwide invasive species reporting system). Not all of these are previously unknown populations, however many of these helped update the database, which is used by DNR and many other agencies to track populations of invasive species, so their discovery and reporting is still important and beneficial. 

There were also some fun and interesting native species finds that are worth mentioning. Volunteers in Lake County found a native milfoil species, Myriophyllum heterophyllum (sometimes called various-leaved or broad-leaved watermilfoil).  M. heterophyllum is a species of special concern in Minnesota and is a fun and rare find! Volunteers in Crow Wing County came across a strange, gelatinous blob. These were freshwater bryozoans! While most bryozoans are found in marine environments, we do have native, freshwater bryozoans in Minnesota.

Year Volunteers Water Bodies Monitored Public Accesses Monitored Starry Stonewort Found (new) Zebra Mussels Found (new) Eurasian Watermilfoil Found (new) Other AIS Found (new) Total New AIS Reports
2017 200 178 211 1 0 1 6 8
2018 222 186 223 2 1 0 2 5
2019 252 234 270 0 0 1 21 22
2020 212 238 292 1 0 0 6 7

Where have Starry Trek volunteers gone in the past?

Register

Other ways to get involved

If you'd like to get notified when registration opens for Starry Trek, please enter your information in this contact form and we'll add you to our mailing list! Signing up via this form will only add you to emails regarding Starry Trek.

 

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