Citizen science and professional training programs to support AIS response

MAISRC is partnering with University of Minnesota Extension to develop and implement an organized statewide surveillance program to target high-risk areas with trained observers and to collect and share AIS treatment response data that could inform both research and management. The program will be split into two parts:

The AIS Detectors program will train citizen scientists and professionals to make credible AIS reports in coordination with the Minnesota DNR, allowing agency staff to more efficiently focus on verifying new infestations. Participants will undergo training to ensure their ability to properly identify suspected AIS. AIS Detectors will not make definitive conclusions or announcements – instead, their role will be to determine if a report to the Minnesota DNR is necessary by screening out false-positive samples from being reported. The program will focus on species that the MAISRC interagency technical committee determined to be priorities for the state or for the region in which the training is provided, including bighead carp, silver carp, ruffe, round goby, spiny waterflea, zebra mussels, quagga mussels, starry stonewort, Eurasian watermilfoil, and hydrilla.

This will be complemented by the AIS Trackers program. This program will train participants to monitor changes in populations of AIS over time in response to treatment efforts. AIS Trackers will input data into an interactive AIS database, which will be accessible to MAISRC researchers, Minnesota DNR, and participating AIS managers, enabling greater capacity for surveillance, monitoring, response, and management.

Online, classroom, and field curricula will be developed for both programs. The extension educators will be responsible for planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating the programs.

Progress:

The online and classroom components of the AIS Detectors program have been developed and reviewed by MAISRC scientists and DNR specialists. The Detectors program was piloted in 2016 and fully launched in 2017 with workshops around the state. Six additional workshops were held in 2018. In total, over 200 AIS Detectors are now certified around the state. In 2018, a total of 1,856 hours were volunteered by AIS Detectors! Advanced training opportunities are also now available to keep current AIS Detectors up to date. Starry Trek, a statewide search for starry stonewort, was also held in 2017 and 2018. In both years, new infestations of invasive species were found and reported. 

Content for the AIS Trackers program has been created and reviewed by MAISRC scientists, DNR specialists, and sample users. The program was piloted in 2018 to one lakeshore association group. We will finalize the in-person and field curricula based on the feedback
we receive from the pilot participants, including which aspects of the online course require additional material and which demonstrations would be most beneficial for their learning. The program will launch more widely in 2019.


Project manager: Dan Larkin

Funded by: Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Project start date: 2015

Estimated project end date: 2019

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