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AIS symposium set for June 8 in Detroit Lakes

A little over six years ago, in January 2012, an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Legislative Summit brought over 250 legislators, AIS experts and people concerned about preserving Minnesota's lakes and rivers to the conference center at Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) in Detroit Lakes.

At that summit, the creation of an AIS research center in Minnesota was identified as a high priority need — and that same year, the Minnesota Legislature responded by appropriating the funds to create the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) at the University of Minnesota.

A couple of years later, in 2014, the State Legislature appropriated funding for the AIS Prevention Aid Program to be implemented in counties across Minnesota. In Hubbard County, that program is managed by Nicholas Macklem, an environmental specialist with the Hubbard County Environmental Services Office, oversees the county's aquatic invasive species (AIS) program, watercraft inspections and decontamination station.

In Becker County, the program is managed by the Becker Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD), under the guidance of water quality and AIS prevention coordinator Karl Koenig.

A similar program was established in Otter Tail County.

And now, MAISRC is joining forces with the Becker SWCD, Pelican River Watershed District (PRWD), the Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA), Otter Tail County COLA, Hubbard County COLA and the Otter Tail AIS Task Force to offer an update to the public — and area legislators — on what they have learned.

A symposium known as the Aquatic Invasive Species Research Update is set to take place on Friday, June 8 at the M State conference center (Room C101) in Detroit Lakes, starting at 9:15 a.m.

This symposium, which is slated to run until approximately 3 p.m., will include presentations from five members of MAISRC's research staff.

"These are the top AIS researchers in the state, if not the entire country," says Larry Anderson, a North Floyd Lake resident and Becker County COLA board member. "Last year, I took the AIS Detector course offered by the MAISRC, and these were the people who taught it."

He added that the Becker, Hubbard and Otter Tail county COLAs, county AIS coordinators and PRWD worked together to bring these researchers to Detroit Lakes for a one-day-only event — free of charge.

"This is a unique opportunity, and it's open to anyone who has a love of our lakes," Anderson added. "We (the symposium planning committee) are very passionate about our lakes, and would like more people to become involved. It's important to continue to build awareness of AIS and keep it in front of people, because a lot of them still aren't aware of what is happening in our lakes."

"Our lakes are this area's economic engine," said Guetter, adding that preventing the spread of AIS continues to be a local priority — now, they just have to convince legislators to continue supporting county AIS programs and the MAISRC.

"The state's Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund provides the majority of MAISRC's short-term, grant-based funding," explained Guetter. "What we need is a stable, long-term funding source."

One of MAISRC's biggest accomplishments to date, she added, was aiding in local efforts to stop the spread of flowering rush.

"It can't be eradicated, but it can be managed," Guetter said — in large part due to the efforts of MAISRC's staff, who worked in conjunction with local experts and COLA volunteers to collect and analyze data.

"We're hoping to find solutions to help lessen impacts of other AIS species as well," she added.

Speakers and topics at the June 8 symposium will include the following:

• Dr. Nicholas Phelps, Director of the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. Phelps will discuss the first-of-its-kind decision-making tool he is creating that will help AIS managers, counties, and other agencies prioritize their resources for optimal prevention and intervention of AIS, specifically zebra mussels and starry stonewort. Phelps will also provide an overview of the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and its projects.

• Dr. Michael McCartney, Research Assistant Professor. McCartney will explain how he used population genomics to understand the spread of zebra mussels across the state and how that can be used to prevent future spread.

• Megan Weber, Extension Educator. Weber will provide an overview of MAISRC's signature outreach programs, AIS Detectors and AIS Trackers. AIS Detectors is now in its second year, and AIS Trackers is currently being piloted. Weber will include how lake managers, agency staff, and others can benefit from these highly trained citizen scientists.

• Dr. Ranjan Muthukrishnan, Postdoctoral Research Associate, MAISRC. Muthukrishnan will discuss his research on invasive alga starry stonewort, including how modeling can assess the risk of spread and improve prevention efforts.

• Bethany Bethke, Fisheries Research Biologist. Bethke, who is employed by the Minnesota DNR but partnering with MAISRC on a groundbreaking study, will discuss how they are using stable isotope analysis to understand the impacts that spiny waterflea and zebra mussels are having on Minnesota's ten largest walleye-producing lakes, and what it means for the future of walleye in Minnesota.

A legislative listening forum, being coordinated by the Pelican River Watershed District, will follow the presentations. The event is open to the public. It is free of charge and lunch is provided, but registration is requested for planning purposes. Register by contacting the Pelican River Watershed District at (218) 846-0436 or prwdinfo@arvig.net.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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