Determining highest-risk vectors of spiny waterflea spread

Project manager: Valerie Brady

Funded by: St. Louis County; Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources

Description: Spiny waterflea are an invasive zooplankton that pose a serious threat to the ecology and recreational value of Minnesota’s waters. Previous studies have shown that over 40% of northern Minnesota lakes provide suitable habitat for spiny waterflea, and human recreational activity is believed to be the primary vector of spread. However, little is known about the specific pathways by which dispersal occurs. This can lead to unclear messaging and directions for recreationalists to prevent further spread.

To learn more about spread and prioritize prevention efforts, researchers will measure the relative risk of spiny waterflea attachment on commonly used recreational equipment including anchor ropes, angling lines, bait buckets, downrigger cables, and live wells. Researchers will sample in the morning and the evening to account for spiny waterfleas’ tendency to migrate closer to the water’s surface at dusk.

Researchers will rank the threat of each type of gear measured, based on both times of day. This specific information will help recreationalists prioritize their cleaning efforts in order to prevent further spread of spiny waterfleas. Results will be disseminated through a marketing campaign in coordination with Minnesota Sea Grant.

Project start date: 2017

Estimated project end date: 2020

Progress:

As of July 2018, field work had been conducted on Lake Mille Lacs. Researchers deployed commonly used forms of recreational equipment including anchor ropes, angling lines, bait buckets, downrigger cables, and live wells. They cleaned them and then compared the total number of spiny waterflea relative to the natural abundance of the fleas in surrounding Mille Lacs lake water. Eighteen samples per type of gear during daylight and twilight were collected. Analyzing this data is currently underway and will allow researchers to create a ranking of the threat that each type of gear poses for spiny waterflea spread to other water bodies.

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Inside look

What does sampling lakes for spiny waterflea look like? Find out in this video!