The first step in MAISRC's Research Needs Assessment is to update our list of 40, high-priority species. This is done by our Technical Committee on a yearly basis. The updated list is referenced when we send out our Research Needs Assessment survey to the public. The survey itself is an online format and is open to the public. Participants are asked to rank the species they are most concerned about in Minnesota from the priority list. They are also asked to suggest lines of future research on aquatic invasive species. In 2022, we received over 300 survey responses.
When the survey closes, MAISRC's administrative staff consolidate the information. We group similar research suggestions and break them into plants, invertebrate, vertebrate, microbe, and cross cutting sections. Next is our committee meeting with a select group of staff, researchers, and stakeholders. Experts from each topic are grouped together in the first round of discussion (plant experts work on the plant research topics). The specialized groups work to rank their list of research topics in order of highest priority and potential to provide significant impacts or to fill data gaps to prevent, control and manage AIS in Minnesota.
In the second round of discussion, the groups are shuffled to have an expert from each category per group. The jigsaw groups work to identify the top 15-20 research needs from the full list of research suggestions. The lists from each group are consolidated by MAISRC staff and a final list of 15-20 research needs is established. The last step is a full group discussion. This is a last chance for individuals to advocate for lower ranking needs to be bumped up.
At the end of the process, MAISRC has roughly 20 high-quality research needs that can be sent out in the request for proposals.
Proposals for research on the following topics will be considered for funding. Like AIS problems in general, these problems are complex. To be effectively addressed, many of these topics will benefit from innovative research approaches, research scope spanning fundamental and applied, and/or multidisciplinary expertise. The topics are not listed in priority order. If not specifically addressed below, the species studied must be included on the MAISRC 2022 species priority list. Research not focused on addressing one of the following priorities will not be considered for funding.
A: Early detection and preventing the establishment of priority species
- Evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of implementing invasive carp deterrents (e.g., electric, acoustic, etc.) in field settings, such as at spillway gates, to reduce risk of carp spread during open-water conditions.
- Develop high throughput/multiplex molecular screening tools to rapidly assess multiple high priority invasive microorganisms and AIS eDNA.
- Refine AIS containment and/or shielding priorities by developing interactive models that inform asset-based water resource protection at multiple spatial scales (local to regional), for example, by overlaying introduction risk, habitat suitability, and assets.
- Survey inland lakes to improve understanding of current and potential future distribution of Corbicula and associated environmental conditions (e.g., water chemistry, sediment composition, temperature, etc.) to develop risk assessments.
- Assess whether zander can successfully hybridize with walleye and sauger to inform risk assessment and prioritize prevention strategies.
- Investigate the values and motives that prompt the release of invasive fishes such as goldfish, aquarium fishes/pets, and baitfish into the environment and develop alternatives to release that are accessible and acceptable to the public.
B: Creating and improving options for control of priority species
- Develop innovative and environmentally safe control technologies for priority AIS populations, with an emphasis on novel and cost-effective biochemical products, genetic approaches, or delivery methods.
- Evaluate native plant recovery in lakes that have been managed for aquatic invasive plants and develop improved methods for post-treatment restoration of native submerged aquatic vegetation to help prevent reinvasion and promote resilience.
- Quantify short- and long-term benefits and impacts of copper-based aquatic pesticides on non-target organisms through synthesis, experiments, and/or modeling. Address benefits and non-target impacts across spatial and temporal scales to guide management.
- Develop methods to prevent production of starry stonewort bulbils (reproductive structures) and/or reduce their viability. Research should further address how long reservoirs of bulbils in lake sediments remain viable to inform control efforts seeking to exhaust their supply.
- Evaluate environmental conditions that contribute to blooms of didymo, assess impacts of didymo mats, and develop feasible strategies to control didymo spread and reduce its impacts.
- Compare waterbodies that have vs. have not been managed for AIS over longer time scales to set realistic expectations of management outcomes and no-action alternatives
C: Understanding impacts to prioritize management actions
- Evaluate the effects of high-priority AIS and management of AIS on wild rice under current conditions and/or future climate scenarios to help guide management responses.
- Evaluate environmental, ecological, economic, provisioning, subsistence, or cultural impacts of AIS on lakes and rivers in Minnesota under current and future climate scenarios. Results should be used to inform cost-benefit analyses, risk assessment, and management decision-making.
- Determine the non-target water-quality and ecological impacts of aquatic herbicides being applied repeatedly over time and across large areas to inform adaptive management (e.g. treatment strategies, permitting, policy).
- Investigate density-dependent responses of waterfowl species to Bithynia (faucet snails) serving as intermediate hosts of intestinal trematodes. Determine if mortality occurs at certain thresholds of faucet snail abundance and assess feasibility of faucet snail control to reduce impacts to waterfowl.
- Evaluate associations between zebra mussel infestation and mercury concentrations in fish tissues to inform fish-consumption advisories for zebra-mussel invaded lakes.
- Evaluate the threat posed by largemouth bass virus (LMBV) on largemouth and smallmouth bass populations to support management responses.