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Volunteers needed for aquatic invasive species event

Volunteers in Sherburne County search for the aquatic invasive species starry stonewort during the 2017 Starry Trek. Volunteers will head meet at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 18 in Semer's Park in Ely to search for starry stonewort on local lakes. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center)

Volunteers from across Minnesota are needed Aug. 18 to participate in the "Starry Trek," a statewide search for starry stonewort, Minnesota's newest aquatic invasive species.

Hundreds of volunteers will gather at rendezvous sites around the state to learn how to identify starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species (AIS) and search for them in area lakes.

Starry stonewort is an invasive algae first found in Lake Koronis in 2015 and has since spread to 11 Minnesota lakes. Early detection of this species is critical for control.

Last year, a group of Starry Trek volunteers found an early infestation of starry stonewort in Grand Lake, which led to the lake association and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources rapidly mobilizing to hand-pull the infestation. Initial results from this early intervention are promising.

"This event is a terrific way for people to get outdoors, get educated about aquatic invasive species and help protect their area lakes," Megan Weber, Extension educator with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC), said. "The information we gain at this event helps researchers and managers understand its current distribution and potentially take action if new infestations are found."

No experience or equipment is necessary to participate in Starry Trek. Expert training on monitoring protocols and starry stonewort identification will be provided on-site. The event is free, but registration is requested and children under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

"We're delighted to be partnering with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center for this event," Sonja Smerud, Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District AIS coordinator, said. "Protecting our lakes for future generations is really important to us all, and we want to do make sure we're doing the best we can to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS."

There will be 25 rendezvous sites around the state, including at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 18 at Semer's Park in Ely. Volunteers will meet at their local rendezvous site for training, then go to nearby lakes to check for starry stonewort.

At the end of the day, they'll return to the rendezvous site to report their findings.

Statewide coordination for Starry Trek is done by the MAISRC and University of Minnesota Extension in partnership with the DNR. A portion of the funding for this program is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

For a full list of the sites and other information, go to StarryTrek.org. For more information on the local event, contact Smerud at 218-834-8513 or sonja.smerud@co.lake.mn.us.

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