Citizen science and professional training programs to support AIS response

Project manager: Dan Larkin

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

Description: 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.

Project start date: 2015

Estimated project end date: 2019


The online and classroom components of the AIS Detectors program have been developed and reviewed by MAISRC scientists and DNR specialists. A pilot in-person class was conducted with citizens in Brainerd in fall of 2016, and thirteen new AIS Detectors were certified. Feedback on the program was received and revisions are being made in preparation for a statewide launch in spring 2017. The AIS Trackers program is under development for expected piloting in late 2017.