Inside a cramped shed alongside a lock and dam on the Mississippi River south of La Crosse, Wis., fisheries biologist Jeff Whitty flipped a switch.
A few yards away, at the foot of the lock, a dozen submerged speakers began blasting a repetitive drumbeat — a Pacman-like whomp, whomp, whomp — while underwater strobe lights began to pulse with bright flashes.
Researchers were about to discover what fish think about the best — and perhaps last — hope for keeping destructive Asian carp out of Minnesota’s rivers and lakes.
Imagine: It’s a hot summer day, and you’re surfing behind a boat as it cuts across the lake.
But this isn’t water skiing. You’re not being pulled by a rope tied to the boat. You’re riding a perfectly curled wake, created by the boat itself.
That’s wakesurfing, a relatively new water sport that’s been gaining popularity on Minnesota lakes.
A study is continuing in Lake Minnetonka this year on a potential new method to manage zebra mussel populations.
Researchers from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) and the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) are testing the use of a copper-based product to reduce the survival of zebra mussel veligers (larvae). By targeting the youngest zebra mussels, it’s hoped the overall zebra mussel population can be decreased. The study, funded by a $30,500 grant from Hennepin County, is the first known field test of its kind in the country.
"We're targeting veligers for this study for several reasons," said Dr. Michael McCartney, MAISRC Research Assistant Professor. "They're in a life stage that is more sensitive to our applications, we can lower the risk of larvae accidentally spreading through recreational boats, and we think we can significantly knock back zebra mussel populations by reducing the number of veligers in the lake."
Why is someone loading a fish into a tube?
That’s Whooshh. It’s a high-tech fish removal system, something like a cross between a potato gun and a pneumatic tube at a drive-in bank.
And that fish is a common carp, one the oldest and most invasive fish on the planet.
The annual migration of fish presents a unique opportunity for researchers at the University of Minnesota testing a new way to stop the spread of invasive carp.
The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) is on Rice Creek experimenting with a Whooshh System.
A control research project on zebra mussels is planned for this summer on Lake Minnetonka. The study will begin in early May and will be completed in October, during which temporary lighted buoys will be installed at sampling locations.
The treated area will be in St. Alban’s Bay and the control area will be in Robinson’s Bay. The purpose is to evaluate the use of low-dose copper treatments, under the brand name EarthTec QZ, to manage zebra mussel populations by suppressing their early life stages.
A model created by MAISRC researchers to optimize watercraft inspection checkpoints to prevent the movement of starry stonewort and zebra mussels has now been pilot-tested with three counties: Crow Wing, Ramsey, and Stearns.
The model — a product of another MAISRC project — incorporates estimates of boater movement among lakes within each county and assesses risk of AIS spread based on boater movement and environmental suitability conditions. The model can be used by counties to allocate their limited inspection resources among various lakes and landings. It can help counties decide how many inspectors to hire, where to station them, even what times of days or days of the week they should be scheduled, for the optimal intervention of AIS.
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“So much of Minnesota’s culture and recreation is based around the water and enjoying our lakes and rivers,” says Dan Larkin, an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist with the University of Minnesota. “And so, aquatic invasive species and other threats to those habitats really affect people personally.”
There's still time to stop an invasive grass that's threatening to spread in wetlands across Minnesota, according to some scientists.
The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center is warning the state about invasive phragmites, an invasive strain of wetland grass that grows faster, taller and thicker than its native counterpart.
New boat designs can help reduce the spread of zebra mussels in Minnesota lakes and rivers. That's the finding of a new research project just completed by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center.
Boats are notorious for spreading invasive species like zebra mussels.
For the last three years, MAISRC graduate student Adam Doll has been collecting water samples from compartments in watercraft, including live wells, ballast tanks and motors. He then looked for zebra mussel larvae (veligers).
"We wanted to know where the water was, if it varied by compartment and how much was left," said Doll. "And then lastly, we wanted to know where zebra mussel veligers were."
The samples were collected from Lake Minnetonka and Gull Lake, both of which have established zebra mussel populations.