Become a Detector

The AIS Detectors Core Course is an introduction to aquatic invasive species (AIS) science, identification, and surveillance. You will learn how to report invasive species, best practices for preventing the spread of AIS, relevant rules and regulations, and how to search for AIS on your own.

About the Course

To become an AIS Detector, you’ll first take a self-paced online course that will introduce you to species identification, the steps you’ll take if you find a new AIS infestation, and more. This can be done on your own time from home or anywhere else with access to the internet. Plan for a total of about 6 to 8 hours to complete the online course (though it may take longer depending on how much extra exploration you choose to do); you can break up the units as your schedule allows, as the full online course does not need to be completed in one sitting.

Next, you’ll complete a couple pre-workshop activities. These will take approximately 1-2 hours to complete and should be completed prior to your virtual workshop sessions.

Finally, you'll participate in two 3-hour virtual workshop sessions led by Detectors staff where you’ll apply the knowledge and skills that you learned in the online course. Workshop sessions are held in pairs, so register for the pair of dates that works best with your schedule.

Both the online course and the virtual workshop include open-book knowledge assessments, on which you must score 70% or higher to successfully complete the training and be certified with the program.   


The course has three tracks: community member, AIS professional, and group workshops. The community member track is for those who are planning to volunteer as AIS Detectors and who are not conducting AIS activities professionally. The professional track is for those who do not plan to volunteer and are instead looking to increase their knowledge base for work-related activities. Group workshops are intended for county AIS coordinators, lake association leadership, or anyone who wants to support a larger number of people becoming AIS Detectors. In a group workshop, you will work with AIS Detectors program staff to individually set up a workshop date and location.  

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the benefit of becoming an AIS Detector?

Where do we start? There are so many great benefits of becoming an AIS Detector! To start with, you will:

  • Receive high-quality, scientist-reviewed training and resources 
  • Build your skills and confidence in AIS identification and reporting 
  • Gain new ideas for your education and outreach efforts 
  • Network with fellow AIS professionals as well as motivated volunteers in your area. Become part of the solution to AIS problems in Minnesota! 

What species are included?

The list of species focused on in this program was developed in conjunction with MAISRC’s Technical Committee. It includes some species that have already been found in Minnesota, as well as future threats. The course covers invasive plants including Eurasian watermilfoil, hydrilla, and starry stonewort; invasive invertebrates including spiny water flea, rusty crayfish, zebra mussels, and quagga mussels; and invasive fish including bighead carp, silver carp, round goby, and ruffe.

The Core Course for AIS professionals course includes an additional module on identifying invasive wetland vegetation that is not required for the community member AIS Detectors course. This module covers invasive plants including purple loosestrife, hybrid cattail, and invasive Phragmites.

The course will cover identification of each of these invasive species as well as their native lookalikes, and how to distinguish them. Advanced training opportunities will cover additional species. 

Who can take the AIS Detectors Core Course?

Any motivated adult over the age of 18 in Minnesota can participate. The AIS Detectors Core Course for professionals is designed for those who will use AIS knowledge in paid positions, rather than through volunteering. This can include county staff, state agency staff, consultants, educators, and other environmental and natural resource management professionals. You can learn more about community member involvement in the AIS Detectors Core Course on the AIS Detectors Community Member page.

What is the cost?

Your registration fee is dependent on the track (community member/professional/group). Registration includes unlimited access to the online course, access to two online workshops, course materials that will be mailed to you, an advance copy of the new edition of our AIS Identification Guide Book, and networking opportunities with other AIS Detectors and experts. If the registration fee presents a barrier to your ability to participate in the AIS Detectors Core Course as a community member, please visit our scholarship page to learn more about scholarship opportunities.