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Starry Trek volunteers needed to help protect Minnesota waters

The University of Minnesota is in search of volunteers across the state on Saturday, Aug. 20, to participate in a search for an aggressive, aquatic invasive species: starry stonewort.

starry trek
Volunteers in Sherburne County search for the aquatic invasive species starry stonewort during the 2017 Starry Trek.
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The University of Minnesota is in search of volunteers across the state on Saturday, Aug. 20, to participate in a search for an aggressive, aquatic invasive species: starry stonewort.

Starry Trek, named after the seaweed-like algae that grow in tall, dense mats below the lake’s surface, is an annual event where participants branch out to local water accesses to search for signs of AIS.

There are 26 local training sites around the state, including one at Big Turtle Public Water Access in Bemidji. Interested volunteers will meet at their local site at 8:30 a.m. for training and then be sent to nearby public water accesses to check for starry stonewort and other AIS. At around 1:30 p.m., attendees return to the local training site to report their findings.

Starry stonewort
Starry Stonewort begins growing around mid-June and can reach up to 6 inches to a foot below a lake’s water surface. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

“We’re delighted to be partnering with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center for this event,” AIS lakes technician for Beltrami County Environmental Services Bruce Anspach said in a release. “Protecting our lakes for future generations is really important to us and we want to make sure we’re doing the best we can to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS.”

Starry stonewort was first found in Minnesota in 2015 at Lake Koronis and has since spread to 19 Minnesota lakes.

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Starry Trek volunteers have discovered new starry stonewort populations in four unrecorded lakes during this event, two in Beltrami County and two in Stearns County, as well as other aquatic invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels.

Oak Haven Resort implemented a new self-serve, solar-powered boat cleaning station to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species like starry stonewort on Tuesday, July 12.

Funded by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive species Research Center works across the state to develop research-based solutions that can reduce the impacts of aquatic invasive species, the release said.

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

No experience or equipment is needed to participate in the Starry Trek. Expert training on monitoring protocols and starry stonewort identification will be provided on-site.

The event is free, but registration is required and children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information about Starry Trek or to register, visit maisrc.umn.edu.

For statewide information, contact Megan Weber at mmweber@umn.edu or (763) 767-3874.

For local information, contact Bruce Anspach at bruceanspach@co.beltrami.mn.us or (218) 333-8281.

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