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.

Online, classroom, and field curricula are included. The extension educators will be responsible for planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating the program.

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, and five more will be held in 2019. There are now 220 AIS Detectors certified around the state. In 2018, a total of 5,278 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. Following their feedback, the course is being rethought and revised. The core curriculum will now focus on providing more comprehensive web-based education in fundamentals of aquatic plant management: its underlying science, methods, and goals.The revised training will be paired with continuing to reach out to lake groups and professionals to solicit relevant management, vegetation monitoring, and water quality data.


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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