June 2018 newsletter

Letter from the Associate Director

Hello from MAISRC! cori

Field season is in full swing here at the Center and our research teams have been logging miles and hours across the state - making the most of the warm weather and open water to advance research on the aquatic invasive species that are impacting our state’s lakes and rivers. It's an exciting time of year to be part of MAISRC! From southwest Minnesota where researchers are exploring control methods for common carp, to northeast Minnesota where a team is working quantify the impacts of zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas on food webs, we’re out there growing knowledge and capacity to respond to AIS.

With such a diverse slate of research projects, it's heartening to know that there is an equally diverse group of people out there who want to learn more and participate in AIS detection, prevention, and management. Thank you for being engaged and supporting our work. In addition to receiving these updates, we have a few upcoming opportunities for you to grow your knowledge and get involved.

Every other year, MAISRC conducts a Research Needs Assessment that helps us prioritize research for the coming years. Later this summer, we’ll be launching a public survey to get your opinion and insight on AIS research opportunities in the state. Stay tuned for updates and to participate in the survey.

Additionally, mark your calendars for Starry Trek on August 18! Starry Trek is a coordinated citizen science effort that surveys lakes throughout the state, looking for new infestations of starry stonewort and other AIS. Registration is now open. And in September, we’ll be hosting our fifth annual AIS Research and Management Showcase right here on the St. Paul campus. Join us at the Showcase and you can take a tour of our state-of-the-art lab facility and learn more about AIS from our researchers. More information about both of these events is included in the newsletter below.

Hope to see you this summer!
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Cori Mattke
Associate Director


New invasive Phragmites management recommendations available phragmites

MAISRC researchers have released recommendations for treating invasive Phragmites. The management recommendations, available here, will help AIS managers, agencies, and other groups respond to the spread of this aquatic invasive plant in Minnesota.

Researchers have built a collaborative network to help collect data on invasive Phragmites distribution in Minnesota. Leaf samples have been collected and analyzed by partners at the Chicago Botanic Garden to genetically confirm non-native strains. Researchers are further testing the extent to which it is sexually reproducing in Minnesota’s climate by collecting seeds and performing viability tests. Knowing how much spread there is by seed is important; once viable seeds start spreading by wind and water, control is much more difficult and expensive. Researchers are also looking for patterns that indicate climate sensitivity that could limit seed production.

Invasive Phragmites (European strain) is a tall, aggressively growing grass that can take over large areas of wetland and shoreline, push out native vegetation, and reduce habitat quality for wildlife. In Minnesota, it is a “cryptic invader” because native Phragmites is widespread throughout the state. Consult this ID Guide to learn how to spot the differences between native and non-native Phragmites. If you see a population that you suspect is invasive, report it to MNPhrag@umn.edu.

Learn all about invasive Phragmites, see the map of where it’s found in Minnesota, and learn how to identify it on our website.


New tool improves AIS prevention efforts for lakes across Minnesota map

Researchers from the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center will soon be releasing a new, first-of-its-kind tool that will improve the prevention and management of zebra mussels and starry stonewort across the state. The model has been created based on three main questions:

How likely is it that the AIS will be introduced?

To answer this, researchers analyzed four years’ worth of the Minnesota DNR’s Watercraft Inspection Program data. This includes what lake the boater is currently on, the last lake they went to, and the next lake they plan to go to. This resulted in an incredibly detailed picture of boater movement around the state (pictured). Researchers also included whether the lake is connected via river/ streams to other infested or uninfested lakes.

Will the AIS survive here if introduced?

Even if a species can get to a new lake, it still needs to be able to survive. To analyze this, researchers used ecological niche modeling, which predicts habitat suitability for specific species based on environmental and climatic conditions like water clarity, pH, nutrient concentration and temperature.

How can management efforts change the outcome?

The data above will be combined to assess risk for every lake in Minnesota for these two important AIS. From there, managers can test specific intervention scenarios – such as new decontamination units or increased education – and see how the risk changes for lakes across the state.

“This tool will help counties and AIS managers prioritize their limited budgets and staff in order to have the highest impact possible in reducing new infestations of AIS,” said Zoe Kao, a graduate student working on the project.

Researchers are currently in the final stages of validating and refining the model. It will be shared and discussed with a small group of DNR, county and other AIS managers in late June, and finalized shortly thereafter.

“In addition to generating the most cost-effective intervention strategies, we think that this tool will help increase stakeholder buy-in by putting the most up-to-date information possible in the hands of people who need it, allowing them to make the most informed decision,” added Dr. Nick Phelps, project leader.

Learn more about this project on our website.


New AIS Detectors certified; now it's your turn to get involved with MAISRC! detectors

Everyone at MAISRC is pleased to congratulate this year’s 97 newly certified AIS Detectors! MAISRC now has almost 225 AIS Detectors all around the state, ready to help in the fight against aquatic invasive species in Minnesota. You can read all about the experience of AIS Detectors Steve and Cec in this great article from the Duluth News Tribune! And if you missed your chance on becoming a Detector this year, don't fear: we'll hold another series of workshops next spring.

Whether or not you’re an AIS Detector, MAISRC has plenty of opportunities for you to get hands-on experience and learn more about AIS in Minnesota: 

On the water workshops

Join experts from MAISRC and University of Minnesota Extension out on the water this summer to learn about starry stonewort. The workshop will cover the basics of starry stonewort identification, biology, and impacts and then take a deeper dive with local guest speakers. You will also get to enjoy some hands-on learning as we pull live starry stonewort on board along with other aquatic plant life to put your ID skills to the test. No previous experience is required.

We will wrap up with a lunch and learn session on dry land (lunch is provided). The registration fee is $35. Two workshops will be held: Moose Lake in Beltrami County on Friday, July 27 (register here) and Lake Koronis in Stearns County on August 4 (register here).

Field trip: Emerging threats

Join MAISRC Extension Educators on Monday, August 13 for a ​road ​trip ​exploring ​AIS ​issues ​and ​cutting -edge ​research. ​We’ll ​take ​a ​comfortable ​coach ​bus ​to ​our ​first ​stop: ​Lock ​& ​Dam ​#2 ​in ​Hastings. ​You ​will ​receive ​a ​behind-​the-scenes ​tour ​from ​Army ​Corps ​of ​Engineers ​staff ​and ​learn ​how ​locks ​and ​dams ​can ​be ​a ​critical ​control ​point ​for ​preventing ​the ​spread ​of ​invasive ​carp ​like ​silver ​and ​bighead ​carp ​up ​the ​Mississippi River. ​Next ​we’ll ​venture ​down ​the ​Mississippi ​to ​the ​United ​States ​Geological ​Survey’s ​Upper ​Midwest ​Environmental ​Sciences ​Center ​where ​you ​will ​get ​a ​chance ​to ​see ​live ​invasive ​species ​such ​as ​sea ​lamprey ​and ​hear ​from ​USGS ​scientists ​about ​the ​work ​they ​are ​doing ​to address ​AIS ​threats ​to ​the ​Upper ​Midwest. More details and registration information is available on our website.

Starry Trek

Join MAISRC on Saturday, August 18 for a day searching for one of Minnesota's newest aquatic invasive species, starry stonewort (and other invaders). Registration is now open! Volunteers will get expert training on how to look for and identify starry stonewort and other invasives. Rendezvous sites are located across the state and will be hosted by local agencies and organizations to search nearby locations. Participants will meet at the local rendezvous site in the morning and will be assigned sites to search upon arrival.

This really makes a difference: last year, Starry Trek participants found an early infestation of starry stonewort in Grand Lake, which lead to the lake association and the Minnesota DNR rapidly mobilizing to hand-pull the infestation. Initial results from this early intervention are very promising.

No experience is necessary to participate in Starry Trek, and it’s free and family-friendly! Register today.

Purchase an AIS ID Guide

MAISRC’s state-of-the-art AIS ID Guide is available through the University of Minnesota bookstore. The guide – which is printed on waterproof, durable paper so you can take it out with you on the water – contains photos and tips for identifying aquatic invasive plants, invertebrates, and fish that are considered high-risk to Minnesota waters, as well as their common native lookalike species. Over forty species are included!


Report fish kills fish kill

If you see a fish kill event this summer, please report it using this easy app: z.umn.edu/fishkill. Reporting a fish kill is an easy, helpful way to get involved with MAISRC research – it really makes a difference! When MAISRC receives a timely report of a fish kill, researchers are able to investigate the kill while it’s still going on, which allows them to collect additional data and capture sick fish for improved analysis. This results in a much better chance of uncovering underlying diseases that may be causing the kill.

Fish kills that include carp are also very useful because they may help inform MAISRC research on harnessing pathogens to control invasive common carp. Researchers recently confirmed the presence of viruses KHV and CEV in Minnesota waters, which are lethal to carp.

Learn more about this project from this KSTP video or on our website here.


Congratulations to MAISRC's Science in Seconds winners! science in seconds

In May, MAISRC held its first-ever Science in Seconds competition in which graduate students presented their research projects in three minutes or less. Congratulations to our winners, pictured here! Nicki DeWeese presented on spiny waterflea, Carli Wagner on starry stonewort, and Meg McEachran on baitfish. The winner will go on to represent MAISRC at the St. Paul campus Science in Seconds event this fall. Congratulations to all who participated!


Save the date: AIS Research and Management Showcase

Mark your calendars! The fifth annual Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research and Management Showcase will be held on Wednesday, September 12 on the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus. Learn about all the exciting work going on at MAISRC at this day-long conference filled with informative talks, hands-on demos, lab tours, and more. This is your best opportunity to learn about the latest findings in AIS research, useful management tools, and get an inside-peek into our state-of-the-art lab. Registration will open mid-summer – stay tuned!


Support MAISRC with a gift today

Our researchers are working diligently all across the state to address the AIS issues that are threatening Minnesota’s waters. Help us do this critical work with a gift today -- private contributions to MAISRC make a real difference and provide us with the flexibility to meet critical needs as they arise. Thank you!