Become an invasive species detective for a day with AIS Snapshot Day

Post by Jenny Seifert, UWEX Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Specialist

Searching for invasive species in Wisconsin’s 84,000 miles of river, 15,000 lakes and millions of wetland acres is no task for just one person – or one agency, for that matter. That is why the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and partners organize opportunities like the upcoming Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Snapshot Day, which enlist the help of people from around the state to collect the data needed to protect our waters.

AIS Snapshot Day volunteers spend a day hunting for aquatic invasive species. Photo credit: River Alliance of Wisconsin

AIS Snapshot Day, which will take place August 5th, is a low-commitment, high-impact way for any Wisconsinite to help track the spread of aquatic invasive species. Not to be confused with Snapshot Wisconsin, another citizen science effort that is focused on monitoring wildlife, AIS Snapshot Day is a one-day-only opportunity to learn how to identify aquatic invasive species and then scour a single location for them, with the hope that is opposite of a treasure hunt – that you won’t find any!

The reward of such an opportunity is not only a boost in citizen knowledge about aquatic invasive species, but also more accurate data on where species are present. In fact, in the event’s first year, volunteers collected more data in the single day than other volunteer AIS monitoring programs have been able to collect in an entire calendar year.

Volunteers learn how to identify aquatic invasive species for AIS Snapshot Day. Photo credit: River Alliance of Wisconsin

Having all of that data allows the WDNR to be more efficient and effective in its management of the state’s natural resources, such as its improved ability to target locations of concern. Moreover, having many more eyes looking for invasive species enhances the capacity to detect early populations, which are much easier and cheaper to control or eradicate than populations that have been lingering undetected for a while.

The event started in 2014 as a partnership between WDNR, the River Alliance of Wisconsin and 24 other organizations statewide, with a focus on rivers. This year, the program is expanding in scope to include lakes, and the partnership has grown to include the University of Wisconsin-Extension Lakes and the University of Minnesota-Extension.

Aside from amassing beneficial data, AIS Snapshot Day has enabled other important successes. For example, in 2015, volunteers found invasive faucet snails in the Winnebago system, a new discovery that may have gone undiscovered without their help. While it’s unfortunate to find a new invasive species, knowing that it is present helps WDNR and other resource managers determine how best to manage it.

In another success story, a volunteer applied the knowledge she gained from the event when, on a later occasion, she identified a new invader to Lake Winneconne, water hyacinth, while kayaking. Because of her discovery, the invasive plant was successfully removed from the lake, and WDNR and volunteers are now closely monitoring the lake in case it tries to make a comeback.

Want to be part of this impactful effort? Register to volunteer for this year’s AIS Snapshot Day.

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