Why Researchers Want to Look Inside Your Boat this Summer
KSTP News (video), 5/11/2016
A big announcement is expected Thursday about a first-of-its-kind research project to stop the spread of zebra mussels in Minnesota waters.
For years, Minnesotans have been told to check their boats, motors and trailers for zebra mussels. Now, researchers want to look inside their boats. It could mean big changes in the way boats are designed.
Tonka Bay Marina owner Gabrielle Jabbour finds zebra mussels in boat motors all the time.
"Most of the time, as you look at it, you can't see anything wrong," Jabbour said. "But as you start looking inside, you can see your boat is full of zebra mussels if it's been in Minnetonka for a while."
Jabbour suspects one reason they're spreading is tiny zebra mussel veligers, or larva, survive in the residual water left behind in boat engines, drain lines, bilges and ballasts.
"We really have to know exactly what's real and what's not real."
Science can help provide answers. Jabbour is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota on a new research project. And now Brunswick, one of the world's largest manufacturers of engines and boats, including Minnesota-based Crestliner and Lund, is also on board.
"This is critical both to have them at the table” Becca Nash from the University of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center said. “It's huge that they have a role in being part of the solution here."
A two-year study will begin this July on Minnetonka and Gull Lake outside Brainerd. Both lakes have zebra mussels. DNR Inspectors will ask boaters if they can measure residual water inside their watercraft and check for the larvae.
Brunswick is helping pay for the research and it is also pledging to redesign its boats, and even retro-fit older boats, if it's found there are places where zebra mussel larvae can live.
"Do whatever you can now to prevent the spread; that is the best way to control zebra mussels at this point," Nash said.
The results of the study could impact how boats are made and how they are inspected for invasive species all over Minnesota.
The cost of the $250,000 study is being split by Brunswick, the University of Minnesota, the DNR and Tonka Bay Marina. The findings could have an impact on more than just Minnetonka and Gull lakes. Numbers from the DNR show nearly 250 bodies of water in Minnesota are infested with zebra mussels.