Minnesota researchers growing, studying aquatic invasive species

"Unfortunately, some lakes, if zebra mussels were to show up, would be perfect homes for them. Other lakes won't be." (Photo by Brian Peterson)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Scientists at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus are growing aquatic invasive species to help policymakers figure out how to fight the invaders.

The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center had an open house recently to show the public some of 30 projects, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

The center is working to grow the algae in the lab to identify the conditions in which it grows best. That information could help officials identify which lakes in the state are most at risk of becoming infested.

“Unfortunately, some lakes, if zebra mussels were to show up, would be perfect homes for them. Other lakes won’t be,” said Nick Phelps, the center’s director. “So trying to figure out which lakes those are is very, very important.”

Researchers are also trying to determine how the invasive plants and animals are spreading from lake to lake.

“It’s hitting people closer and closer to home,” Phelps said. “Their favorite lakes are becoming invaded and probably the most likely way toward a solution is through research. So, they come here, learn what they can and then bring that back home so they can use it.”

Minnesota residents are typically advised to clean, drain and dry their boats to avoid transporting the aquatic invaders, but the center is researching ways to improve those instructions.

“Our hope is that with this research we can nuance the clean, drain, dry message,” said Valerie Brady, a research associate at the center. “Like, did you forget to spray off your anchor rope? Or maybe don’t use braided line on this lake.”

The center is also looking into ways to prevent or detect the problems earlier.

The center was created in 2012 with money from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund and the state’s Clean Water Fund.

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