Aquatic Invasive Species Bridge Snapshot Day: Where Rivers Meet People

For many a bridge is just a way to conveniently pass over the river below. The trip is the main goal; the river just a spot along the way. For others a bridge is a portal to what is below and provides easy access to miles of river. This is great for those looking to explore the stream near that bridge crossing. However, the easy access and increased human activity also means an increased likelihood of invasive species being present near that bridge.

Wading in to look for aquatic invasive species.  Photo by Tim Campbell.

Wading in to look for aquatic invasive species. Photo by Tim Campbell.

DNR and the River Alliance of Wisconsin have been working for years to understand the distribution of invasive species in rivers. Project RED (Riverine Early Detectors) is a citizen-based monitoring program that has been promoted by both organizations as a way to monitor for invasive species while boating. Project RED has been effective at involving paddlers in monitoring rivers throughout the year. However, the commitment level may be a barrier for getting more citizens involved. This led Laura MacFarland, Invasive Species Director for the River Alliance, to seek other ways to get citizens involved in stream monitoring for invasive species. With the help of DNR and Wisconsin’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) partnership, Laura thinks she has developed another way citizens can be involved.

“AIS Bridge Snapshot Day will provide a look at what invasive species are present near our most accessible stream sites,” says MacFarland. “Nearly 100 citizen volunteers will monitor over 150 stream sites in one morning.” MacFarland believes the short time commitment makes it easier for volunteers, and the large number of volunteers will allow for a broad picture of invasive species at road crossings across the state. The Wisconsin Citizen Based Monitoring Network and DNR are providing funding for this first-of-its-kind monitoring event in Wisconsin.

Volunteers patrol the river banks looking for invasive species.  Photo by Tim Campbell.

Volunteers patrol the river banks looking for invasive species. Photo by Tim Campbell.

On the morning of September 13th, Snapshot Day volunteers will receive a short training on invasive species identification and the monitoring protocol. Volunteers will then head to their selected bridge crossings and look for invasive species, such as non-native Phragmites and purple loosestrife, from both in and above the river. For example, volunteers will use kick net sampling and other methods to see what’s in the water. After monitoring their sites, volunteers will return to their training site and report their findings.

Maureen Ferry, DNR’s AIS Monitoring Coordinator, believes that Bridge Snapshot Day may help locate invasive species along alternative invasion pathways. “In recent years we have discovered new infestations of nonnative plants, such as water lettuce and yellow floating heart, which were likely the result of releases. Given the opportunity these could harm Wisconsin waters,” said Ferry. “Bridge Snapshot Day will allow us to detect these species early and eradicate them before they spread. This event is also an opportunity to let people know about alternatives to release, such as giving unwanted organisms to a friend or calling an animal rescue.”

Before the event has even begun, MacFarland already believes it is a success. “The engagement we already experienced has been great, and hopefully this is the start of many more successful Bridge Snapshot Days.”

More information, including the location of training and monitoring sites, can be found at www.wisconsinrivers.org/events.

 Entry written by Tim Campbell, AIS Communications Specialist, University of Wisconsin Extension and DNR.
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