Starry Trek

About Starry Trek

Starry Trek is a statewide event focused on searching for one of Minnesota's newest aquatic invasive species, starry stonewort (and other invaders). Starry stonewort is an invasive algae that was first found in Lake Koronis in 2015 and has since spread to nineteen Minnesota lakes (learn more about starry stonewort and our research). This event is an opportunity for you and to team up with us and hundreds of your fellow Minnesotans to better understand its distribution in Minnesota. 

What You'll Do

You will meet at a local training site hosted by one of our local partners where you will receive a brief training on how to identify starry stonewort and other target aquatic invasive species and how to follow the search protocols. Groups are then sent out to nearby priority lakes to follow the protocols and bring back any suspicious organisms. Starry Trek is a free event and no experience or special equipment is required. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

How You'll Make a Difference

In both 2017 and 2018, Starry Trek volunteers discovered new populations of starry stonewort. Follow-up surveys by Minnesota DNR specialists confirmed these new findings in Lake Carnelian (Stearns County, 2020), Wolf Lake (Hubbard County, 2018) Lake Beltrami (Beltrami County, 2018) and Grand Lake (Stearns County, 2017). As a result of the Grand Lake discovery the local lake association and MN DNR teamed up in a rapid response plan to remove the small patch of starry stonewort. Other notable finds by Starry Trek participants include the discovery of a new populations of Eurasian watermilfoil in Winona County (2017) and Aitkin County (2019) and a new zebra mussel population in Dakota County (2018). Over 200 Minnesotans have joined in this effort and searched over 200 public water accesses each year since our inaugural event in 2017.

Background

Starry Trek is organized by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and University of Minnesota Extension in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Funding for Starry Trek is provided in part by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Starry Trek is held in coordination with AIS Snapshot Day, an aquatic invasive species search event held in Wisconsin on the same day hosted by the River Alliance of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin Extension, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Recap: Starry Trek 2021

Thank you so much for participating in Starry Trek 2021! The weather changed quickly and many volunteers powered through what turned out to be a fairly cool morning (after the weather reports continued to indicate high heat across the state). We had 206 people join in across the state! Ultimately, participants searched a total of 281 public accesses on 222 water bodies across Minnesota!

No new starry stonewort discoveries were made during Starry Trek this year. There were a couple other aquatic invasive species discoveries made during the event, though. In Dakota County, volunteers found a new population of Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) in Thompson Lake. In Sherburne County, volunteers found live freshwater golden clam (Corbicua fluminea) in another inland Minnesota Lake, Big Lake. While dead, empty shells had previously been found in Big Lake this is the first time we’ve been able to document a living clam in that water body (and the 2nd documented occurrence of living Corbicula in an inland Minnesota lake). Last year, the first case of live Corbicula in an inland Minnesota lake was discovered by a young participant that has led to a Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center rapid response project, and a recently published paper

Each year we also get several new reports of Chinese and banded mystery snails that were not yet in the EDDMapS database (a nationwide invasive species reporting system). Not all of these are previously unknown populations, however many of these helped update the database, which is used by DNR and many other agencies to track populations of invasive species, so their discovery and reporting is still important and beneficial. And some are likely the first time that species has been reported in that water body as well!

This year, volunteers in Kanabec County made a fun find when they came across a strange, gelatinous blob attached to a stick.  These were freshwater bryozoans! While most bryozoans are found in marine environments, we do have native, freshwater bryozoans in Minnesota!

Starry Trek Locations, 2022