Risk analysis to identify AIS control priorities and methods

Phase I

Simulation models are an efficient and low-cost means of developing and evaluating control efforts. Working with the DNR, we will also use risk analysis to prioritize management actions based on cost/benefit trade-offs.

Adult Asian carp have been found in the St. Croix River and on Lock & Dam No. 5 on the Mississippi River, which indicates that they are near Minnesota and that the threat of invasion is real. This imminent threat has put considerable pressure on DNR personnel to take rapid action to delay these invasions. However, Minnesota is a large state endowed with outstanding water resources, and it is simply not feasible to protect all of Minnesota’s waterways and lakes from Asian carp. Hence there is an urgent need for a scientifically based tool, such as risk assessment, to guide decision-makers as they allocate scarce resources to address the threat of Asian carp.

To help inform both a risk assessment for Asian carp in Minnesota and management actions taken by DNR, this project will conduct research to inform the initial problem formulation step of risk assessment. Specifically we will study the diversity of management goals held by DNR managers and stakeholders and the potential adverse ecological effects from Asian carp. We seek to better understand what factors influence the diversity of management goals and potential adverse effects, as well as where areas of convergence emerge. For the problem formulation to be successfully completed it is essential to characterize the full diversity of views concerning management goals and adverse effects, from both management officials and stakeholders with substantive knowledge. To gain these insights we will conduct qualitative research (interviews, focus groups, and surveys) with three groups of people: 1) DNR officials based in St. Paul, 2) DNR officials from differing geographic areas across the state, and 3) stakeholders with relevant knowledge that have work on these issues in Minnesota.

As Minnesota decision-makers face the challenges posed by invasive Asian carp, the insights garnered by this research will help inform a statewide risk assessment and will help clarify future discussions about management options. Through rigorous and qualitative research examining management goals and potential adverse effects, a solid foundation will be laid for the upcoming statewide risk assessment.


Potential adverse effects and management of Silver and Bighead carp in Minnesota: Findings from focus groups (This working paper reports the results from five focus groups that were conducted to inform a risk assessment for, and the management of, invasive carp in Minnesota. Conducted with a diverse set of agency officials and stakeholders, these focus groups produced a list of potential adverse effects [i.e., possible harms] that could result from the establishment of invasive carp in Minnesota. The second phase of the project will examine how likely and consequential the potential adverse effects are in different Minnesota waterways – providing useful insights to inform and prioritize invasive carp management. These focus groups also examined participants’ views of what could and should be done to manage invasive carp.)

Second project report: Exploring tensions and conflicts in invasive species management: The case of Asian carp

Phase II

There is much evidence – including phase I of this research – that shows the need to determine which areas of the state need to be prioritized for Asian carp management, and that management is hampered by uncertainties surrounding how Asian carp will impact Minnesota’s waterways and whether barriers do more good than harm.  Additionally, addressing these two points is complicated by the existence of apathy and fear-based responses to Asian carp.

This project will conduct a risk assessment to prioritize issues and areas for Asian carp management and to reduce the uncertainty about how Asian carp will impact Minnesota’s waterways. It will assume that silver and bighead carp will arrive in all Minnesota waterways and will focus on determining, through literature review and meeting with relevant experts from around the country, which potential adverse effects are most likely and consequential in the different watersheds of Minnesota. 

This project will also conduct a risk communication process to share findings with a broad group of stakeholders, researchers, managers, and decision- makers and to foster a conversation about the findings’ implications for management. 

Together, the risk assessment and risk communication will help prioritize the management of Asian carp in Minnesota by thoroughly gathering the existing knowledge on Asian carp and using it to assess how they will impact Minnesota, identifying ways to make management progress despite gaps in knowledge, and promoting needed communication to support decision-making in the face of complexity and uncertainty. 

Additionally, this overall project serves as a notable example of how to address a conflictual and complex invasive species management issue in Minnesota in a participatory and risk analysis-based manner.


Researchers held a two-day risk assessment meeting in March 2016 which included 28 individuals from the Minnesota DNR, various federal agencies, stakeholder groups, academic institutions, and elsewhere. This took place following numerous other stakeholder surveys, discussions, and focus groups.

During the workshop, risk assessment participants characterized the likelihood that bigheaded carps would establish in each watershed, the resulting abundance of bigheaded carp in each watershed, and the severity of each potential adverse effect in each watershed. The risk assessment report is now being written and will be communicated to the public in early 2017.

In March 2017, MAISRC researchers Dave Andow and Adam Kokotovich hosted the Risk-based management for bigheaded carps workshop to discuss the findings and implications of the Minnesota Bigheaded Carps Risk Assessment. 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, below.

Project manager: David Andow

Funded by: Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Project start date: 2014

Project end date: 2017

Final report: Minnesota Bigheaded Carps Risk Assessment

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