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Lake Osakis searched for starry stonewort

Editor's note: The following information was provided by the Todd County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Two hundred volunteers across the state turned out on Saturday, August 5 to participate in Starry Trek, a statewide search for starry stonewort that was organized by the Minnesota

Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and University of Minnesota Extension.

Here in Todd County, eight volunteers participated. After being trained to identify starry stonewort, volunteers fanned out and checked four lakes across the county including Osakis, Maple, Little Birch and Big Birch.

After volunteers searched a total 211 public accesses on 178 lakes statewide, the Minnesota

Department of Natural Resources confirmed the invasive algae starry stonewort in Grand Lake in Stearns County. This is the first new confirmation of starry stonewort in a Minnesota lake in 2017.

No infestations were found in Todd County.

The lakes that were searched had been prioritized as potentially high-risk for a starry stonewort

infestation based on a model created by researchers along with local use information from Starry Trek local coordinators. The model took into account several factors such as temperature, precipitation, and pH.

"With over 13 million acres of surface water in Minnesota, it's incredibly difficult for state and local officials to examine every lake and river reach for invasive species," said Megan Weber, an Extension educator at the research center. "We need as many eyes on the water as possible, and that's where citizen scientists come in."

Starry stonewort is an invasive algae that was first found in Lake Koronis in 2015 and has since been found in 10 Minnesota lakes, including Grand Lake. Research into control options is ongoing at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center.

"Although we were hoping to find no new populations, we are glad this one was discovered early, thanks to the people who participated in Starry Trek," said Heidi Wolf, DNR invasive species unit supervisor. "We're also encouraged that there hasn't been a greater number of lakes found to have starry stonewort during this major search."

Starry stonewort can grow tall and dense, forming mats on the surface that interfere with recreation and potentially displacing native plant species.

"This huge statewide search effort would not be possible without the help of the local coordinators from each participating county and the many volunteers who participated in the event," added Weber. "They are truly making a difference in the health of Minnesota's lakes and rivers."

"On behalf of Todd County, I'd like to thank all of the volunteers who came out to help check our lakes," said Shannon Wettstein, water planner at Todd SWCD. "Protecting our lakes for future generations is really important to us all, and we want to make sure we're doing the best we can to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS."

To learn more about this event and other opportunities to get involved, visit the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center's website at www.maisrc.umn.edu.

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