Starry Trek volunteers to hunt for aquatic invasive species
Lakeshore Weekly News, 7/24/2018
Interested in enjoying a day on the lake, while helping protect it from aquatic invasive species? Look no further than Starry Trek, returning to Lake Waconia, Lake Minnetonka and several other Minnesota lakes Saturday, Aug. 18.
“It’ll be a lot like last year, we got really great feedback so didn’t make any sweeping changes,” said Megan Weber, extension educator at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, which organizes Starry Trek. “We’re adding a few species into the mix. Starry stonewort will still be the star, but after working with the DNR and getting additional input, we will also be looking for Eurasian watermilfoil, curly-leaf pondweed and zebra mussels.”
After volunteers register for Starry Trek, they will be directed to one of the rendezvous sites on Aug. 18. Rendesvous will be located across the state, including in the Excelsior Commons on Lake Minnetonka and at the public access on Lake Waconia.
Starry Trek volunteers will get training on how to look for and identify starry stonewort and other invasive species. The event will be hosted by local agencies and organizations who will direct volunteers to search nearby locations. Participants will meet at their local lake rendezvous site in the morning, will be assigned sites to search throughout the lake and will be given equipment to help search their site.
No experience is required to participate in Starry Trek and it is family friendly, though kids under 18 need a parent or guardian present.
Research center staff has identified the rendezvous point lakes throughout the state, and will determine the points where volunteers will search on each of those lakes in the coming weeks. They determine rendezvous lakes by working with local host coordinators to identify those most at risk for invasive species. Staff also consult generated risk maps to help determine which lakes are most vulnerable to a starry stonewart invasion.
“The goal is to help better understand distribution of aquatic invasive species in Minnesota, in particular starry stonewort,” Weber said. “It’s a relatively new invader, the first discovery was in 2015 and there are 11 lakes in the state known to have it. It’s an opportunity to stay on top of new invasions and see if places were missed or not discovered.”
Last year, Starry Trek participants found an early infestation of starry stonewort in Grand Lake, which lead to its lake association and the Minnesota DNR rapidly mobilizing to hand-pull the infestation. Initial results from the early intervention were promising.
“While it is sad news to hear of a new lake to have this invasive species, the really great thing about that discovery by volunteers was the invasive species size was very small and near the public landing. The lake association and DNR were able to respond quickly and have plan in place,” Weber said. “If you love the outdoors, love the water and are concerned about aquatic invasive species, last year’s event shows how impactful participation can be.”