You can contribute to advances in invasive aquatic plant management

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates about this program. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) pose a major threat to the quality of Minnesota lakes. The negative impacts of AIS are well-documented, and include undesirable effects on native plants, native animals, ecological processes, and people’s use and enjoyment of lakes. Active management is being performed on many lakes known to be invaded with AIS, particularly aquatic invasive plants, such as Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed. Management, e.g., herbicidal control of invasive plants, can be effective in providing short-term alleviation of nuisance conditions. However, we don’t always know how effective management actions are or understand their unintended consequences on native organisms in our lakes. By evaluating whether management has or has not been effective, we can revise our strategies to work toward greater success in future efforts. This “learning while doing” approach is often referred to as adaptive management. In the absence of monitoring and evaluation, we don’t know if our practices are effective or if we need to change course.

Tracking the outcomes of management efforts is an important component of improving our effectiveness as lake stewards. But there are over 200 lakes in Minnesota that receive invasive plant management permits each year and no way that agency staff, researchers, and other professionals can reach them all. This is where citizen scientists come in! Volunteers for the AIS Trackers program have the opportunity to help lake researchers, managers, lake associations, and others by contributing data to assess the effectiveness of management efforts. These data are collected through repeat visits to lakes invaded with AIS, implementation of standardized monitoring protocols, and submission of data through a centralized data management system. As the data accumulate, our ability to manage more effectively will increase.

What invasive species are covered by the program?

The AIS Trackers program currently focuses on Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed. These species were selected because they represent the majority of invasive aquatic plant management permits issued by DNR each year (94% of permits in 2015). The data collected by volunteer AIS Trackers contribute to a database hosted by the University of Minnesota that researchers from the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) will analyze to help guide future management efforts.

What kind of training do volunteers receive?

Individual participants in the AIS Trackers program must successfully complete our training which includes online, classroom, and field session curricula. You can expect to learn:

  • Native and invasive aquatic plant identification
  • Protocols for conducting water quality and vegetation surveys
  • How and why we manage invasive aquatic plants
  • How data and research are used to guide management recommendations
  • How to use equipment like water samplers and water quality meters
  • How to enter data into the database