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 14 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.

Starry Trek 2020

A huge thanks to all Starry Trek participants! We had over 212 people join in across the state. Collectively, you searched a total of 292 public accesses on 238 water bodies across Minnesota -- more than have been searched in any previous year of this event!

Unfortunately, this year a group of volunteers in Stearns County did discover a previously unknown population of starry stonewort in Carnelian Lake. Minnesota DNR is working with Stearns County and Stearns County COLA to consider management options.

A pair of sharp, young eyes also made an interesting discovery in Briggs Lake (Sherburne County): Corbicula fluminea (often called Asian or golden clam). Minnesota is typically thought to be outside of the thermal tolerance for Corbicula, though we do have a couple populations reported in the Mississippi, St. Croix, and Minnesota river systems. In Minnesota, they are typically found near power plants where cooling water discharge keeps the waters warmer year round. Another Sherburne County lake has turned up some dead Corbicula shells the last couple years, but no live clams, making it a bit unique to have found young, live clams in an inland Minnesota lake. There is not evidence to suggest we should be alarmed by this find, as it’s suspected the long, cold winter months will cause the clams to die off and Minnesota is unlikely to support large, nuisance populations of Corbicula. Sherburne SWCD is currently considering continued volunteer monitoring efforts to help better understand the populations in the county and help with future early detection efforts thanks to this discovery.

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. 

There were also some fun and interesting native species finds that are worth mentioning. Volunteers in Lake County found a native milfoil species, Myriophyllum heterophyllum& (sometimes called various-leaved or broad-leaved watermilfoil). M. heterophyllum is a species of special concern in Minnesota and is a fun and rare find! Volunteers in Crow Wing County came across a strange, gelatinous blob. These were freshwater bryozoans! While most bryozoans are found in marine environments, we do have native, freshwater bryozoans in Minnesota.

Past Starry Trek Locations