Volunteers from across Minnesota - including the Osakis area - are needed on Saturday, August 18 to participate in a statewide search for starry stonewort, Minnesota's newest aquatic invasive species.

Hundreds of volunteers will gather at rendezvous sites statewide to learn how to identify starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species and search for them in area lakes.

In Osakis, volunteers will gather at Battle Point Park. The Todd County Soil and Water Conservation District is hosting the site. In Alexandria, volunteers will meet at Douglas County Public Works.

Starry stonewort is an invasive algae that was first found in Lake Koronis in 2015 and has since spread to 12 Minnesota lakes, including Lake Minnewaska near Glenwood. Just last week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources confirmed starry stonewort in Medicine Lake in Plymouth.

Starry stonewort can form dense mats that can interfere with fish spawning habitat, recreational use of the lake and compete with native plants.

Early detection of this species is critical for control, according to University of Minnesota Extension leaders.

Last year, a group of "Starry Trek" volunteers found an early infestation of starry stonewort in Grand Lake in Stearns County. This led to the lake association and Minnesota DNR rapidly mobilizing to hand-pull the infestation.

Initial results from this early intervention are very promising.

"This event is a terrific way for people to get outdoors, get educated about aquatic invasive species, and help protect their area lakes," said Megan Weber, Extension educator with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center in a news 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 necessary to participate in Starry Trek. Expert training on monitoring protocols and starry stonewort identification will be provided on-site. This event is free, but registration is requested. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

"I am excited to be taking part and assisting the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center with such an important event," said James Wooton, aquatic invasive species detector. "Education and early detection are both key components to the prevention and spread of aquatic invasive species, and together, through public education and early detection, we can prevent future spread and infestations in our beautiful Minnesota lakes, rivers, and streams."

There will be 25 rendezvous sites around the state, including Todd County. Volunteers will meet at their local rendezvous site for training, then be sent to nearby lakes to check for starry stonewort.

At the end of the day, they'll return to the rendezvous site to report their findings. For a full list of the sites and other FAQs, visit www.StarryTrek.org.

Statewide coordination for Starry Trek is done by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and University of Minnesota Extension in partnership with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. A portion of the funding for this program is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.