Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund invests $8.75 million in invasive species research at the University of Minnesota

July 21, 2021

ST. PAUL, MINN. ---- The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) recently awarded the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Pests and Plants Center (MITPPC) $5 million over five years and the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) $3.75 million over four years to conduct vital research that informs approaches to address invasive species across the state. 

MITPPC and MAISRC rely on biannual requests to the ENRTF to discover new technologies and strategies for invasive species management and early detection. Funding from ENRTF provides the centers with the ability to support multi-year research projects and dozens of researchers, graduate students, and post-doctoral associates with broad academic backgrounds, bringing fresh ideas and new perspectives to invasive species research.

The ENRTF is managed by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), which makes funding recommendations to the Minnesota state legislature for environment and natural resource projects. The ENRTF is funded by the Minnesota lottery, not taxpayers. 

“Invasive species affect every corner of Minnesota—our waters, forests, prairies, wetlands, and agricultural lands,” says Robert Venette, PhD, Director Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center and Research Biologist with USDA Forest Service. “The work of MITPPC is transforming how invasive species are managed in the state. Support from ENRTF shows Minnesota’s national leadership to address the pressing challenges posed by invasive species. We are incredibly thankful.”

Invasive plants, animals, insects, and pathogens threaten Minnesota’s biodiversity and natural heritage. They also damage urban and rural forests and grain, fish, and fruit producers, both physically and economically. In total, these invasive plants and pests cost Minnesotans at least $3 billion—and cost Americans $150 billion—each year. They threaten our food systems, wildlife, recreational spaces, food security, economy, and health. Efficiently protecting Minnesota’s land and waters from these harmful invaders requires new tools and techniques that can only be developed through applied research and implemented by engaged partners. 

“Addressing Minnesota’s invasive species problems is an all-hands-on-deck situation—from the end of your dock to the State Capitol,” says Nick Phelps, MS, PhD, Director of MAISRC and an Associate Professor in the University of Minnesota’s Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Department. “We are grateful and inspired by the State’s confidence in a research-based approach to developing solutions to our aquatic invasive species problems. We are well-positioned to build on past successes and will continue to advance the science of invasive species management.”

With funding from the Minnesota Legislature granted in 2014, the MITPPC launched at the University of Minnesota in 2015 to solve complex invasive species issues across Minnesota’s lands. MITPPC addresses the most pressing invasive land-based species through early detection, management alternatives, response to climate change and socio-economic impact. The center funds more than 30 research projects with over 90 researchers—all of which would not be possible without support from the ENRTF and LCCMR. 

MAISRC, established in 2012, is a nationally acclaimed research facility based at the University of Minnesota that focuses specifically on aquatic invasive species threatening the beloved waters of Minnesota. MAISRC works to develop an in-depth understanding of the biology and ecology of aquatic invasive species—and the complex systems in which they live—to pinpoint weaknesses in their life cycles and target them for control methods. Funding from ENRTF allows MAISRC to; launch scalable, multi-phase strategic research studies; compensate world-class researchers, technicians, and specialists; and purchase and retain equipment for current and future projects. 

Research projects supported by this funding will focus on predicting and preventing threats that are not yet in Minnesota, early detection and rapid response of newly arriving threats, and effective control and management of established invasive populations. 


MITPPC projects include:

  • Exploring biocontrol options for soybean aphid, emerald ash borer, buckthorn, and reed canary grass; and genetic biocontrol options for spotted wing drosophila;

  • Using state-of-the-art technology like drones, virtual reality, and biosurveillance for the identification and control of invasive species;

  • Researching techniques to optimize the use of goats to control buckthorn; 

  • Engaging with citizen scientists on wild parsnip, jumping worms, buckthorn, and Japanese knotweed; 

  • Launching new lines of research on the control and management of hybrid barberry and corn tar spot


MAISRC projects include: 

  • Testing and refining the amount of copper needed to effectively control zebra mussel populations while minimizing non-target impacts on an individual lake basis;

  • The development and optimization of new technologies for the early detection of aquatic invasive species— including environmental DNA tools that can detect the free-floating DNA of an invasive species in a waterbody, reducing the need for labor and time-intensive scuba surveys;

  • Developing interactive decision-support tools to support local managers, such as the newly launched AIS Explorer online dashboard; 

  • Studying the impacts of aquatic invasive species under current and future climate scenarios to prioritize planning and policy decisions.


See what the MITPPC accomplished in its first five years as a center or learn more about MITPPC current research. View MAISRC’s 2020 annual report to see highlights from last year’s research season or visit the center’s website to learn more about current research projects.




Media contacts

Carolyn Bernhardt, MITPPC communications, [email protected], 847-345-8144

Kristin Loobeek, MAISRC communications, [email protected], 612-227-3230