Explore Our Research

We believe that with the right tools and knowledge we can control and even reverse the spread of aquatic invasive species. The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center uses scientific rigor, an independent voice, and an interdisciplinary team to solve complex problems that start in Minnesota and have national impact. Every day, we see incremental steps lead to big wins— solutions are within reach. 

Expand all

Baitfish diseases

What’s in your bucket? Quantifying AIS introduction risk

This project directly addresses an identified need for social science-informed management to target the behavioral dimensions of AIS spread via the large and complex baitfish pathway.

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

Cattails

Enhancing habitat and diversity in cattail-dominated shorelines

This project aims to quantify and clarify whether or not hybrid/narrowleaf cattail removal can increase plant diversity and benefit fish communities in nearshore lake ecosystems and how these effects vary regionally in Minnesota. 

Led by Dr. Amy Schrank

Common carp

Common carp management using biocontrol and toxins

Research has shown that carp can be selectively attracted with food to form large foraging aggregations that can be removed with specialized nets with high precision.

Led by Dr. Przemek Bajer

Public values of aquatic invasive species management

This project looks to to quantify and analyze the ecological and economic value of AIS damages and AIS management as they relate to ecosystem services such as fishing, swimming, biodiversity, and navigability.

Led by Dr. Amit Pradhananga

Adapting stream barriers to remove invasive fish during their seasonal migrations

This project seeks to develop a system to remove large numbers of invasive common carp during their spawning and seasonal migrations at existing barrier sites in streams in Minnesota.

Led by Dr. Przemek Bajer

Genetic control of invasive fish species

This project focuses on a novel method of biocontrol for common carp which will complement existing technologies by introducing a synthetic species-like barrier to reproduction.

Led by Dr. Michael Smanski

Exploring whether native pathogens can be used to control AIS

This project is working to identify and evaluate a safe and effective pathogenic biocontrol agent for carp. 

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

Cross-cutting

Integrating Professional and Citizen Monitoring to Improve Surveillance

This project will develop a modeling framework for integrating professional and citizen-science data, leading to smarter surveillance and improved estimates of AIS distribution that account for imperfect detection and sampling biases. 

Led by Dr. John Fieberg

Optimizing eDNA Monitoring for Multiple AIS

This project will optimize field and laboratory methods for maximizing detection probability of AIS from water samples.

Led by Josh Dumke

Genetic biocontrol of invasive species: understanding attitudes and risk perceptions

This project will provide baseline information about Minnesota residents’ attitudes and risk perceptions toward genetic modification techniques as an approach for managing aquatic invasive species.

Led by Dr. David Fulton

Improving the efficiency of watercraft inspections through coordination and cooperation

This project will look to quantify the benefits of state-level coordination and between-county cooperation in watercraft inspection plans to support decision-making in watercraft inspection programs.

Led by Dr. Amy Kinsley

Public values of aquatic invasive species management

This project looks to to quantify and analyze the ecological and economic value of AIS damages and AIS management as they relate to ecosystem services such as fishing, swimming, biodiversity, and navigability.

Led by Dr. Amit Pradhananga

Decision-making tool for optimal management of AIS

This project developed a decision-making tool to help AIS managers, counties, and other agencies prioritize their resources for optimal prevention and intervention of AIS, specifically zebra mussels and starry stonewort.

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

A novel technology for eDNA collection and concentration

Researchers developed an eDNA filter that can screen quickly and cost-efficiently for native, invasive, and endangered species. 

Led by Dr. Abbas Abdennour

Curlyleaf pondweed

Risk assessment, control, and restoration research on aquatic invasive plant species

This project will perform in-lake invader control experiments using a small-scale in-lake experiment to evaluate how native plants respond to invader removal, seed-addition, light availability, and the combination of these factors. It will also analyze monitoring data from hundreds of lake management projects previously conducted in Minnesota over twenty years and develop a publicly available statewide plant monitoring and management database.

Led by Dr. Daniel Larkin

Managing for sustainable native macrophyte communities in lakes of the Riley-Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District

Researchers are working to determine the response of native and invasive macrophytes to carp removal in the Riley-Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District. They are assessing approaches to promote native plant establishment after carp removal.

Led by Dr. Ray Newman

Developing and evaluating new techniques to selectively control invasive plants

Researchers evaluated over 60 Minnesota lakes for factors affecting curlyleaf abundance. The team assessed the lakes pre and post herbicide treatment, and monitored regrowth over consecutive years. 

Led by Dr. Ray Newman

Restoration and maintenance of native macrophytes in lakes – partnership with Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed

This project studied the use of native plants to control invasives in Lakes Riley, Susan, and Staring. Restoration of native plant communities and their impacts on water clarity were also studied. 

Led by Dr. Ray Newman

Eurasian and hybrid watermilfoil

Will property values cool as AIS heat up?

This project will evaluate the economic impacts of Eurasian watermilfoil on property values as well as quantify the role of water temperature and other lake characteristics in determining Eurasian watermilfoil abundance.

Led by Dr. Gretchen Hansen

Eurasian and hybrid watermilfoil genotype distribution in Minnesota

This project seeks to understanding the genetic distribution of Eurasian and hybrid watermilfoil within and among Minnesota lakes and differences in response to management.

Led by Dr. Raymond Newman

Risk assessment, control, and restoration research on aquatic invasive plant species

This project will evaluate the ability of invasive aquatic plant control efforts to yield recovery of native aquatic plant communities.

Led by Dr. Daniel Larkin

Managing for sustainable native macrophyte communities in lakes of the Riley-Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District

This project picks up previous lines of research on removing common carp and restoring the native plant community in the Riley-Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District. 

Led by Dr. Raymond Newman

Ecology and biology of invasive hybrid watermilfoil in northern tier waterbodies

This study demonstrates the importance of distinguishing HWM from parental EWM and NWM, as some HWM infested lakes may require different management strategies.

Led by Dr. Daniel Larkin

Freshwater golden clams

Corbicula fluminea surveillance on Briggs Lake, Sherburne County

Researchers plan to survey Briggs Lake for C. fluminea on a monthly basis over the winter months to evaluate overwinter survival of the population present in the lake and engage volunteers/community members in the data collection process.

Led by Megan Weber

Heterosporis

Determining Heterosporis threats to inform prevention, management, and control 

Twenty-eight percent of the 400 yellow perch sampled were infected with Heterosporis. Males were 1.5 times more likely to be infected than females and were more severely infected. The presence of the parasite did not vary with relative weight or age, but infection severity was highest among older individuals that were in better condition. These results suggest that males are more susceptible to infection, and that infection is not associated with maturity or a gape-limiting food source. These results also suggest that Heterosporosis increases in severity with time or by increased exposure. 

Led by Dr. Paul Venturelli

Invasive carp

Increasing effectiveness of bigheaded carp deterrents by carbon dioxide integration

The project looks to enhance and/or develop new barriers using carbon dioxide to deter the range expansion of invasive bigheaded carp.

Led by Dr. Allen Mensinger

A novel technology for eDNA collection and concentration

Researchers developed an eDNA filter that can screen quickly and cost-efficiently for native, invasive, and endangered species. 

Led by Dr. Abbas Abdennour

Updating an invasive fish and native fish passage model for locks and dams

This project collected and updated field data that can used to better help stop invasive carp while allowing native fish to pass through Mississippi River locks and dams.

Led by Dr. Anvar Gilmanov

Risk analysis to identify AIS control priorities and methods

This project conducted a risk assessment to prioritize issues and areas for invasive carp management and to reduce the uncertainty about how invasive carp will impact Minnesota’s waterways.

Led by Dr. David Andow

Attracting carp so their presence can be accurately assessed

This project developed ways of using both food and sex pheromones to attract and measure the presence and density of carp using the environmental DNA (eDNA) they release to the water. 

Led by Dr. Peter Sorensen

Blocking bighead, silver, and other invasive carp by optimizing lock and dams

This project worked to prevent the upstream spread movement of invasive carp by developing a scheme to modify lock and dam structures in Minnesota by enhancing their deterrent properties.

Led by Dr. Peter Sorensen

Phragmites

Developing a genomic method to detect hybridization between native and invasive Phragmites australis (common reed)

This project will develop a new method for detecting Phragmites hybrids by leveraging (1) genomic approaches developed for reed canary grass and invasive knotweeds and (2) native and invasive Phragmites samples already collected throughout the state and analyzed using microsatellite markers. 

Led by Dr. Daniel Larkin

Evaluating native Phragmites as a wastewater treatment alternative

The goal of the project is to support wastewater treatment facilities’ transition away from invasive Phragmites by systematically seeking native Phragmites strains with high dewatering ability.

Led by Dr. Daniel Larkin

Building scientific and management capacity to respond to invasive Phragmites (common reed) in Minnesota

This project mapped invasive Phragmites statewide, assessed its reproductive potential, and developed management protocols for responding to different invasion scenarios.

Led by Dr. Daniel Larkin

Spiny water fleas

Sustaining walleye populations: assessing impacts of AIS

The overall goal of this project is to assess the impacts of invasive zebra mussels and spiny water fleas on walleye in Minnesota lakes. 

Led by Dr. Gretchen Hansen

Determining highest-risk vectors of spiny water flea spread

To learn more about spread and prioritize prevention efforts, researchers measured the relative risk of spiny water flea attachment on commonly used recreational equipment including stationary anchor ropes, trolled fishing lines, trolled bait buckets, trolled downrigger cables, and trolled simulated livewells. 

Led by Dr. Valerie Brady

Characterizing spiny water flea impacts using sediment records

This project aims to test key cause-and-effect hypotheses about relationships between spiny water flea invasion and the response of important ecological, economic, and recreational services provided by Minnesota lakes including zooplankton abundance, fish abundance, and water clarity.

Led by Dr. Donn Branstrator

Starry stonewort

Managing Midwest aquatic invasives in a changing climate

This research will provide information on the ecology of starry stonewort, a summary of current stakeholder preferences around starry stonewort management, as well as an evaluation of optimal management strategies.

Led by Dr. Ranjan Muthukrishnan

Meta-analysis of treatment outcomes to advance starry stonewort management in Minnesota

This project will improve starry stonewort management by systematically evaluating efficacy of past starry stonewort treatments and translating findings into a readily usable form.

Led by Dr. Daniel Larkin

Risk assessment, control, and restoration research on aquatic invasive plant species

This research aims to create biologically and economically sound solutions to prevent and control invasive plants and to disseminate scientific information that assists the DNR, watershed districts, lake associations, and citizen groups around the state with management strategies.

Led by Dr. Daniel Larkin

Public values of aquatic invasive species management

This project looks to to quantify and analyze the ecological and economic value of AIS damages and AIS management as they relate to ecosystem services such as fishing, swimming, biodiversity, and navigability. 

Led by Dr. Amit Pradhananga

Characterizing starry stonewort phenology, growth conditions, and impacts to guide management

This project looks to address the impacts of starry stonewort on native plant communities, the environmental conditions associated with nuisance growth of starry stonewort, and the seasonal growth patterns of starry stonewort in Minnesota. 

Led by Dr. Daniel Larkin

Decision-making tool for optimal management of AIS

This project developed a decision-making tool to help AIS managers, counties, and other agencies prioritize their resources for optimal prevention and intervention of AIS, specifically zebra mussels and starry stonewort.

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

Eco-epidemiological model to assess aquatic invasive species management 

MAISRC researchers worked to develop a first-of-its-kind eco-epidemiological model that forecasts the potential risk of spread of zebra mussels and starry stonewort across Minnesota. 

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS)

Screening for VHS in Minnesota waters 

From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2014 a total of 4,552 fish from 36 bodies of water, eight of which were sampled each year, were negative for the virus. While Minnesota remains free of VHSV, the threats of introduction remain a concern for fish health managers. This study has informed future surveillance strategies, risk assessment, and improved confidence in current management approaches.

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

Zebra mussels

RNA-interference screens for zebra mussel biocontrol target genes

This project will develop methods of RNA-interference (RNAi) to identify genetic weak points in zebra mussels and to develop the tools to manipulate these critical genes as a stepping-stone towards targeted genetic biocontrol efforts.

Led by Dr. Daryl Gohl

Copper-based control: zebra mussel settlement and nontarget impacts

Researchers will use a biotic ligand model (BLM) to predict the lake-specific minimum toxic copper concentration to target zebra mussel veligers.

Led by Dr. Diane Waller

Evaluating innovative coatings to suppress priority AIS

This project will develop and test a non-toxic, new coating that can mitigate the spread of zebra mussels while minimizing non-target impacts. 

Led by Dr. Mikael Elias

Public values of aquatic invasive species management

This project looks to to quantify and analyze the ecological and economic value of AIS damages and AIS management as they relate to ecosystem services such as fishing, swimming, biodiversity, and navigability. 

Led by Dr. Amit Pradhananga

Early detection of zebra mussels using multibeam sonar

This study will test the utility of swath mapping systems such as multibeam sonar for detecting and quantifying the abundance of invasive mussels at a very large scale.

Led by Dr. Jessica Kozarek

A novel technology for eDNA collection and concentration

Researchers developed an eDNA filter that can screen quickly and cost-efficiently for native, invasive, and endangered species. 

Led by Dr. Abbas Abdennour

Sustaining walleye populations: assessing impacts of AIS

The overall goal of this project is to assess the impacts of invasive zebra mussels and spiny water fleas on walleye in Minnesota lakes. 

Led by Dr. Gretchen Hansen

Temperature-dependent toxicity of molluscicides to zebra mussels

This project created water-temperature dependent treatment protocols to eradicate localized zebra mussel infestations in a rapid response scenario.

Led by Dr. James Luoma

Decision-making tool for optimal management of AIS

This project will develop a decision-making tool to help AIS managers, counties, and other agencies prioritize their resources for optimal prevention and intervention of AIS, specifically zebra mussels and starry stonewort. 

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

Cost-effective monitoring of lakes newly infested with zebra mussels

This project will develop recommendations for underwater survey methods to estimate zebra mussel population abundance and distribution.

Led by Dr. John Fieberg

Metagenomic approaches to develop biological control strategies for aquatic invasive species

This project will identify and isolate microbes that are potentially pathogenic to AIS, and evaluate the specificity and effectiveness of potential biocontrol agents in the laboratory.

Led by Dr. Michael Sadowsky

Estimating overland transport frequencies of invasive zebra mussels

This study aimed to estimate the relative contributions of different surfaces and compartments on and in recreational boats and trailers to the transport of zebra mussels and their larvae (veligers), focused on measurements of the concentrations of veligers in residual water across a full range of vessel types in Minnesota.

Led by Dr. Mike McCartney

Evaluating boat cleaning station efficacy on the removal of residual water from recreational boats

This study evaluated the practicality and effectiveness of a CD3 Cleaning Station vacuum for removing residual water from various recreational boats.

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

Zebra, quagga, and native mussel research efforts on the St. Croix Scenic Riverway and Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

At the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, researchers collected zebra mussel veliger samples from throughout the riverway and analyzed them to determine population and reproduction dynamics.

Led by Dr. Michael McCartney

Genome sequencing and analysis to select target genes and strategies for genetic biocontrol

This project mapped and shared a publicly accessible genome of the zebra mussel: a powerful tool for invasion biology and biocontrol researchers in Minnesota and worldwide.

Led by Dr. Michael McCartney

Toxicity of antifreeze to zebra and quagga mussels

The goal of this project was to identify the lowest effective dilution of antifreeze at the shortest period of contact time to effectively kill adult and juvenile quagga mussels and juvenile zebra mussels.

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

Recognizing high-risk areas for zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil invasions in Minnesota

The goal of this project was to improve the decision-making process and prevent the spread of AIS by implementing risk-based prevention and mitigation management strategies.

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps

Developing and testing a new molecular assay for early detection of zebra mussel veligers

This project developed an early detection molecular assay for detecting and quantifying zebra and quagga mussel DNA in environmental mixtures of the two species. 

Led by Dr. Michael McCartney

Creation of survey and monitoring protocols, and development of a research program for studying the effectiveness of zebra mussel pesticide treatment efforts

In partnership with the Minnesota DNR Invasive Species program, MAISRC provided a description of the Pilot Project Program and the application process to obtain a permit for treating newly infested lakes.

Led by Dr. John Fieberg

Evaluating zebra mussel spread pathways and mechanisms in order to prevent further spread

This project focused on preventing zebra mussel invasions by developing genetic evidence of spread sources and pathways so that they may be interrupted. It also lays the groundwork for potential biocontrol through genetic modification technologies.

Led by Dr. Michael McCartney

Eco-epidemiological model to assess aquatic invasive species management

MAISRC researchers are working to develop a first-of-its-kind eco-epidemiological model that will forecast the potential risk of spread of zebra mussels and starry stonewort across Minnesota. 

Led by Dr. Nicholas Phelps