zebra mussel research

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are one of the most widespread invasive freshwater animals in the world. Research at MAISRC focuses on finding effective and efficient ways to control them, establishing how they're spreading to better target prevention efforts, and informing management by developing early detection methods and creating survey protocols. Click here to learn more about zebra mussels and their impacts.

Key findings and accomplishments

  • Completed sequencing of a draft genome of the zebra mussel in order to isolate markers to study spread and explore possible genetic weaknesses that can be targeted for control

  • Released an important white paper outlining treatment options for the eradication of limited-scale zebra mussel infestations at various water temperatures

  • Completed a predictive risk model for zebra mussels and starry stonewort to inform decision-making and prioritize prevention activities for all Minnesota lakes

  • Identified where on a boat zebra mussels may be hiding to recommend decontamination techniques and watercraft redesign options
  • Identified the lowest effective dilution of antifreeze and the shortest period of contact time required to effectively kill zebra mussels during boat winterization
  • Established best practices for using EarthTec QZ, a commercially available molluscicide, to control populations by suppressing veligers
  • Wrote monitoring protocols to help lake managers plan treatments and monitor outcomes
  • Developed rapid response toolkit to treat localized zebra mussel infestations based on water temperature and size of infestation. The protocols provide managers with a critical support tool to swiftly select the correct molluscicide, determine the treatment concentration, and determine the treatment duration
  • Developed an early detection tool that simultaneously detects the presence of zebra mussels, quagga mussels, and their microscopic larvae with just one lake water sample
  • Characterized the entire microbial community associated with zebra mussels in order to find pathogenic microbes and isolate them for biocontrol

  • Established how far zebra mussel larvae can spread down small rivers and streams. Research showed that settlement of mussels occurs only a short distance down from the upstream lake. Small streams can carry large numbers of larvae, but only down short (<10 miles) stretches of streams

  • Identified zebra mussel hotspots based on environmental variables and potential spread pathways
zebra mussels

Ongoing research

  • Evaluating the efficacy of low-dose copper treatments to control zebra mussel populations by targeted suppression of the early life stages
  • Test the utility of swath mapping systems such as multibeam sonar for detecting and quantifying the abundance of zebra mussels at a very large scale

  • Developing recommendations for underwater survey methods to estimate zebra mussel population abundance and distribution in newly infested lakes which will guide treatment options and post-treatment monitoring

  • Quantifying the impacts of spiny waterflea on walleye growth rates and food webs. Initial findings show that walleye in their first year grow more slowly in lakes invaded by zebra mussels and spiny waterflea than in uninvaded lakes

  • Identifying pathogenic microbes (viruses and bacteria) associated with zebra mussels and evaluating their specificity and effectiveness as biocontrol agents

  • Developing a decision-making tool that will help AIS managers, counties, and other agencies prioritize their resources for optimal prevention and intervention of AIS, including zebra mussels. This tool will take into account the likelihood of a species getting to a lake and its likelihood of survival, based on several variables including temperature, pH, and precipitation

  • Determining the sources of new invasions in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

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