June 2017 newsletter

Letter from the Director nick phelps

Hello from the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center!

With field season now in full swing, MAISRC has been moving at an intense pace. We’re out on lakes and rivers across the state, getting into the weeds of our AIS problems (pun intended). As with past field seasons, I have no doubt that the data collected now will advance our goals of solving AIS problems. In addition to field work, we have been analyzing data, writings up results, presenting recommendations, starting new projects, and so on…it has been busy, but exciting, times!

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Sue Galatowitsch, who, after a planned yearlong transition, is wrapping up her role as Co-Director to focus on research, teaching, and serving as head of the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. Since her leadership began in 2014, Sue has driven MAISRC forward is several critical and fundamental ways. She initiated our annual Research Showcase, developed our Research Needs Assessment process, led the creation of our strategic plan, advanced a model for competitive grant funding, and much, much more. Her leadership has positioned MAISRC to where it is today – a productive and results-oriented collaborative research program. Don’t worry, we’re not losing her expertise or acumen: Sue is launching a new research project with MAISRC very soon!

As I have transitioned to Director over the last year, I have come to appreciate the true team effort we have underway to advance science-based solutions to Minnesota’s AIS problems. From the concerned citizen to the federal government, MAISRC has been engaged at all levels to ensure our research efforts are fulfilling our mission. It has been inspirational to meet with lake associations who work tirelessly on the front lines of the AIS invasion. It has been exciting to collaborate with new and diverse researchers to form creative partnerships as well as to build upon existing networks. And it has been particularly important for researchers to work closely with managers, serving as the ‘other boxing glove in the fight against AIS,’ as Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr has said.

We are all busy and nobody can do it all – so let’s do it together.

Time to get back to the lab…

nick signature

Dr. Nick Phelps

Director, Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center

Residual water study looks at zebra mussel veliger transport zebra mussels

Research on the risks posed by microscopic zebra mussel larvae spreading through the residual water left in watercraft after draining is entering its second field season.

MAISRC graduate student Adam Doll is collecting water samples from various compartments in watercraft, including live wells, ballast tanks, and motors, which he will analyze for the presence of zebra mussel larvae (veligers). These samples are being collected from Lake Minnetonka and Gull Lake, both of which have established zebra mussel populations. Over 200 samples were collected in 2016, with researchers hoping to gather 200 more this year.

In partnership with the DNR’s Watercraft Inspection Program, researchers are also analyzing data on the presence and location of zebra mussels on different types of boats such as fishing, wakeboard, and pontoon boats.

Partners have also been extremely important in getting water samples from the more difficult-to-access internal compartments of inboard and inboard/outboard motors. Tonka Bay Marina, a marina on Lake Minnetonka, stepped up to help Doll by providing access to watercraft with these components.

Along with examining residual water samples for the presence of veligers, researchers will evaluate how long veligers can live in various water temperatures inside live wells through lab experiments.

“Recreational boats are widely suspected to be vectors for overland transport of zebra mussels, but we really don’t know much about the risks of residual water,” said Doll. “This research is working to find answers to questions like where in the boat veligers may be getting, and whether they’re alive.”

Results from this study may inform state inspection and decontamination protocols, as well as help boat manufacturers understand potential redesign options that could reduce the risk of spread.

“Minnesota has the highest per capita watercraft ownership in the country,” added Doll. “That’s why it’s so important that we figure out the risks and look what we can do to manage those risks.”

This project is funded by the Brunswick Foundation, the Brunswick Freshwater Boat Group, and Tonka Bay Marina, with in-kind support provided by the Minnesota DNR. Learn more about MAISRC research on zebra mussels on our website.

Registration now open for Starry Trek! starry stonewort

Get outdoors and make a difference in the health of your area lakes this summer! Join us on Saturday, August 5 for Starry Trek, a multi-state search for 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 nine Minnesota lakes. Now, you can help search other lakes to help researchers and managers understand its distribution in Minnesota.

No experience or equipment is necessary to participate in Starry Trek. You’ll receive expert training on monitoring protocols and starry stonewort identification on-site when you arrive.  You won’t have to travel far, either: Starry Trek will be held at numerous sites across the state. Check out the list of rendezvous sites here to find one near you!

Volunteers will meet at their chosen rendezvous site, where they will be trained and sent to monitoring locations nearby to search. At the end of the day, you’ll return to your rendezvous site to report your findings.

Wisconsinites can join too! We’re coordinating with Snapshot Day, a similar event held on the same day. Click here to learn more about participating in Wisconsin.

It’s free to participate, and registration is requested by July 28. Click here to register and find answers to any additional questions you may have.

Participating in Starry Trek is an easy, rewarding way to help protect your local lakes and inform ongoing research at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. It may even inspire you to become an AIS Detector!

Please click here for more information about starry stonewort, its impacts, and our research.

Six Mile Creek common carp assessment completed common carp

MAISRC researchers recently completed a three-year long assessment of the abundance, seasonal movements, and recruitment patterns of common carp in the Six Mile Creek sub-watershed. Researchers found that the total biomass of carp in the sub-watershed is approximately five times greater than a threshold that was previously identified to cause severe ecological impacts.

In order to reduce the carp population to a less damaging level, researchers made numerous management recommendations, including:

  • Identifying important carp nursery habitats across the sub-watershed that need to be addressed in order to suppress recruitment and prevent the carp population from growing. Management recommendations include installing barriers and maintaining dissolved oxygen levels through the use of aeration. Aerating will help restore and maintain healthy native fish communities with species that have been shown to control carp recruitment by consuming their eggs and larva.
  • Providing specific target numbers for the removal of adults in order to reduce existing biomass below 100 kg of carp per hectare – using seining, trapping spawning migrants, baited traps, water drawdowns, and/or piscicides.
  • Delineating the area into four or five appropriate management units, after identifying multiple subpopulations of carp based on movement patterns and recruitment dynamics.

The Six Mile Creek sub-watershed is a particularly complex series of 17 interconnected lakes, plus numerous ponds and wetlands, which is different from previous MAISRC carp control study locations. Many lakes in the sub-watershed are highly degraded and have areas that are devoid of submersed native plants – likely attributable to common carp.

The project, which was funded by Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, was spurred by a study which identified carp as one of the major drivers of poor water quality in the sub-watershed. The full report is available here.

Common carp are one of the world’s most widely introduced and invasive species of fish. Currently, they dominate the fish biomass of many shallow lakes, rivers, and wetlands in North America and around the world, including many lakes in central and southern Minnesota. They degrade water quality and destroy waterfowl habitat by rooting in the lake bottom while searching for food. Learn more about common carp and our research here.

Bigheaded carps risk assessment findings announced carp

MAISRC researchers have announced the findings of the Minnesota Bigheaded Carps Risk Assessment. It was found that of the four watersheds examined, the Minnesota River-Mankato watershed is most at risk from bigheaded carps.

For each watershed, researchers estimated the likelihood that bigheaded carps would establish and assessed the resulting severity of impacts on game fish, non-game fish, species diversity/ecosystem resilience, and recreation quality (from the silver carp jumping hazard). 

Overall, the risk varied greatly, depending on the watershed and potential adverse effect considered. The severity of impact was likely to be higher for species diversity/ecosystem resilience and recreation quality. 

These findings support the need for a timely and reasoned response to the threats posed by bigheaded carps. Specific implications include:

  • Management should be prioritized for the Minnesota River-Mankato and the Lower St. Croix River watersheds
  • Potential management actions need to be evaluated to ensure that any collateral damage to native species is less harmful than the invasion would be
  • Strengthening native ecosystems is encouraged to offset impacts of bigheaded carps

Project leaders Dr. Dave Andow and Dr. Adam Kokotovich hosted a workshop to discuss these findings and their implications. Approximately 50 people attended, including representatives from state and federal agencies, local units of government, and stakeholder groups. Through small and large group discussions, participants provided feedback on the draft risk assessment report and discussed the management implications of the risk assessment. Feedback from this meeting was used to inform the final version of the report, which is now available. Read the final report here.

Save the date for the 2017 AIS Research and Management Showcase showcase

Please join us on Wednesday, September 13 for the 2017 AIS Research and Management Showcase. This event will help you gain valuable knowledge and insight to enhance your understanding of AIS issues and the research MAISRC is conducting. You will have opportunities for hands-on activities, lab tours, lunch with researchers, and more! Stay tuned for more details.

MAISRC in the news


Here at MAISRC, we’re grateful for the significant support we receive from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.  We are also thankful for the critical support from private citizens, foundations, corporations, and lake associations as we work to develop tools to detect, prevent, and control aquatic invasive species. If you or your lake association is considering a gift, consider what the Clamshell-Bertha Lakes Association had to say about why they give to MAISRC:

"Clamshell-Bertha Lakes Association (CBLA) represents two of the fourteen lakes that comprise the Whitefish Chain of Lakes, located in north-central Minnesota. The chain was introduced to AIS (zebra mussels) in 2013 which have now spread to various lakes on the chain. CBLA has determined that the best use of our member contributions would be donations to MAISRC; where we feel research is the one of the best possible solutions to this and other invasive species on our doorsteps."

Thank you to the Clamshell-Bertha Lake Association, and thank you to all of our partners and supporters!


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