Cost-effective monitoring of lakes newly infested with zebra mussels

Project manager: John Fieberg

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


This project will develop recommendations for underwater survey methods to estimate zebra mussel population abundance and distribution. Having better survey methods will guide and improve treatment options and pre- and post-treatment monitoring.

Currently, when a lake is newly infested with zebra mussels, it’s difficult to know the extent of the population. The earliest stages of a lake colonization are difficult to monitor because abundance is low, mussels are sparsely distributed, and their small size makes them hard to find and count. These survey methods are needed by agencies, watershed districts, and lake managers who are confronted with a new infestation.

SCUBA divers will use line-transect sampling to create, test, and standardize sampling methods to quantify zebra mussel populations.  They will work in ten to twenty newly infested lakes throughout Minnesota over two years. Simulation modeling will also be used to evaluate the efficiency of alternative survey designs and to provide recommendations regarding appropriate sampling effort.

Implementing these recommendations will result in standardized data which will help guide zebra mussel treatments and evaluate their effectiveness statewide and beyond.

Project start date: 2017

Estimated project end date: 2019

Progress and updates:

Inside look

What does setting an underwater transect and counting zebra mussels look like? Watch this video taken by a MAISRC SCUBA diver to find out.