Knowing what to look for

Knowledge is a key top stopping the spread of invasive species to our waters. That includes knowing how to properly inspect and clean our boats and other outdoor equipment on entering and leaving a lake or stream. Even more basic is knowing what invasive species look like so that if we spot one in a favorite lake we can recognize it and report it to the proper authorities. If detected early, an invasive species can be removed or at the very least controlled so that it does not become a serious and expensive problem. We should ask ourselves: Could we identify Eurasian water milfoil if we saw it? Or curly-leaf pondweed? Or New Zealand mudsnails?

On August 19 state residents have a great opportunity to learn how to spot invasive species, and maybe even detect the beginnings of an infestation so that it can be addressed proactively. It’s the tenth annual AIS Snapshot Day, conducted by UW Extension in partnership with the River Alliance, the DNR, and UW-Extension Lakes. Volunteers meet at designated sites across the state to learn the characteristics of invasive species and then actually search for them. At its inception the event focused on rivers and streams, but it has been expanded to include lakes and wetlands.

For Snapshot Day the DNR has targeted sites with suspected but unverified aquatic invasive species, increasing the chance that volunteers will actually find a species of concern. Last year more than 150 volunteers inspected some 230 locations across the state. Maureen Ferry, DNR AIS monitoring coordinator, observes, “Projects like AIS Snapshot Day are a fun and simple way for volunteers to get engaged and for the local site leaders and DNR to collaborate.”

Emily Heald, Extension rivers educator, likens the event to a summer scavenger hunt. “It’s the largest aquatic invasive species monitoring event in the state. It’s the one that gets the most data for the DNR about AIS distribution.” Findings from Snapshot Day are uploaded to the statewide water quality database where they can be used to track the spread of invasive species and to help inform management plans.  If you’re not adept at recognizing invasive species, don’t worry. Heald says most volunteers come with little to no experience: “We are going to teach them how to identify different types of invasive species.” After training as a group, the volunteers will disperse to different monitoring sites.

Participants can go into the water to explore, or simply walk shorelines to looking for invasive species that grow there. Volunteers will use garden rakes to collect and identify plants. They can also use scoopers or their hands to gather and sift through sediment. After recording their findings, volunteers will reconvene and share the information with a site coordinator, who will verify and upload the data. Snapshot Day is free and is open to ages 8 and up – minors must be accompanied by an adult.   The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. You can register and see all the details at: https://wateractionvolunteers.org/events/.