Research excellence in practice
University of Minnesota, 12/19/2014
Researchers target aquatic invasive species
Susan Galatowitsch, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
In the natural world, a few uninvited guests could topple an entire ecosystem. Susan Galatowitsch , Ph.D. and director of the U’s Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, aims to halt invasive species in their tracks.
With an $8.7 million grant from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, Galatowitsch and her team are pushing forward on research that will help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species — organisms not native to a region that can cause serious economic or environmental harm.
Their work addresses a number of growing concerns for Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. The spread of Asian carp, for example, means native fish populations need to compete with the new, voracious eaters for what food is available, according to the DNR. These 20-plus pound carp are also a hazard to humans, as boat motors can startle them into leaping high above the surface of the water and injuring people or damaging property.
New species of plants can also cause threats to Minnesota’s waterways. Galatowitsch and her team seek to find strategies for controlling invasive plants. Species like Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed can grow thick in the water, crowding out native species and hampering activities like boating, fishing and swimming. They can also crowd out native vegetation that serves as habitat for waterfowl, fish and other wildlife.
As researchers discover more about how to best protect against aquatic invasive species and assess the risks that they carry, they will use their findings to help inform policy decisions and partner with U of M Extension to share their strategies with people across the state.