July Newsletter

Hello from MAISRC!

Photo of director, Nick Phelps

As I see the latest cutting-edge research, I remain optimistic that we can solve our AIS problems. The new discoveries and creation of tools will continue to change the way we manage AIS in Minnesota. The researchers at MAISRC are excited to share these findings with you at our upcoming Research and Management Showcase. We will have virtual presentations all day on September 21st, and optional in-person tours of our state-of-the-art Containment Laboratory on September 22nd and 24th. I hope you can join us! Links to register will be sent soon.

To keep our momentum moving forward, every-other-year we seek funding from Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF). The ENRTF is MAISRC’s primary funding source since our creation in 2012, and we are grateful for their continued commitment to our mission. Good news: Our 2023 proposal was reviewed and highly ranked by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR)! However, final recommendations and funding levels have yet to be decided. If you would like to learn how to support this funding request, please let me know.

As I travel the state and talk with partners, I have observed widespread consensus for why we need to develop research-solutions to our AIS problems. However, there are many valuable perspectives on how we do that and for which species. To that end, we will soon be launching our 2023-2024 Research Needs Assessment. With so many needs, and far too few resources/capacity to address them all, we implement a thorough and inclusive process to identify, rank, and then support, the highest priority AIS research needs in Minnesota. We want your input, so please keep an eye on your email for a survey that will be sent out in August.

In other news: I will soon begin a six month sabbatical with the goal of diving more deeply into approaches for stakeholder engagement and prioritization. I will learn from diverse experts across disciplines and apply those lessons learned to MAISRC when I return. During this time, MAISRC will be led by Dr. Dan Larkin (MAISRC Research Fellow) and Cori Mattke (MAISRC Associate Director). Without hesitation, I can tell you that MAISRC will be in good hands!

Back to the lab,

Phelps' signature

Dr. Nick Phelps
Associate Professor

Starry Trek: 2022

Join University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center for a special event on Saturday, August 20th: Starry Trek! Starry Trek is an annual event where members of the public first gather at training sites to learn how to identify starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species. The newly trained community scientists then branch out to local water accesses to search for signs of the invasive species. 

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

Find out more information and sign up here.

New team members at MAISRC

Welcome to new MAISRC staff member, Dr. Alex Bajcz (he/him). Alex is a plant ecologist and environmental scientist by training; his past research has explored how and why plants reproduce as they do, how global change processes may disrupt that reproduction, and why invasives may experience enhanced reproductive success over their native peers. He strives to find actionable solutions to ecological problems like invasion and empower stakeholders to implement them. This goal led him to pursue computational and quantitative skills, which hold profound promise for guiding and shaping how these types of problems will be solved in the 21st Century and beyond. Alex's primary responsibilities include overseeing MAISRC's data collection, management, and dissemination efforts and consulting with MAISRC research fellows and stakeholders on quantitative matters.

Also welcoming Ethan O'Brien (he/him). Ethan is the new communications manager for the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. He brings 15 years of communications and design work; half of that with the Medical School here at the University of Minnesota. Excited to translate science to the public, he has collaborated on many public health campaigns for such organizations as Rainbow Health, Family Tree Clinic, and NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota.

MAISRC In The News

Nick Phelps: Aquatic Invasive Species update from University of Minnesota (May 2022, WTIP podcast)
Meg Duhr: Aquatic invasive species in the Boundary Waters (May 2022)
Nick Phelps: Talking Aquatic Species with the U of M (May 2022)

Congratulations to Jackie Culotta!

MAISRC grad fellow, Jackie Culotta, is a finalist for the Knauss Fellowship! The National Sea Grant John A. Knauss Policy Fellowship for ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources is a program that places exceptional, early-career graduate students with host offices of the federal government for a one-year fellowship in Washington, D.C. Since 1979, nearly 1,500 fellows have completed the program. Fellows have become leaders in science, policy, and public administration. 

Jackie Culotta

"I see the Knauss Fellowship as an opportunity to continue developing my science communication skills, especially on subjects where policy and science intersect in water management," said Culotta. “My longer-term career plan is to continue researching and spreading the word about cost-saving, effective, and evidence-based methods of invasive species control.”



Publication highlight:

Overwinter survival of Corbicula fluminea in a central Minnesota lake: Megan Weber, UMN Extension Educator

Although Corbicula fluminea (Golden Clam) has been one of the more prolific freshwater invasive species in the world, previous studies have suggested a low probability for overwinter survival in northern latitudes without an artificially created thermal refuge. The discovery of live C. fluminea in a central Minnesota lake absent any known thermal refuge in 2020 presented an opportunity to further evaluate the overwinter survival and population structure of C. fluminea at the presumed edge of their potential range.

Project highlight: Copper-Based Control: Zebra Mussel Settlement and Nontarget Impacts

Led by United States Geological Survey (USGS) Research Fishery Biologist Dianne Waller, the objectives of this study were to determine the effectiveness of low-dose copper for reducing zebra mussel recruitment and to monitor the response of native biota. Researchers will determine minimal effective treatment concentrations of copper to suppress zebra mussel recruitment and evaluate beneficial and adverse impacts to the ecosystem. This exciting project is now in Phase II. Check out some photos below with lead scientist Angelique Dahlberg:

Zebra mussel team
Zebra mussel team! Lead scientist, Angelique Dahlberg, center.
Zebra mussel veliger in microscope
Zebra mussel veliger under microscope
Zebra mussel mobile lab
Mobile lab: Zebra mussel research