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.

Posted in Citizen Lake Monitoring, Invasive Species | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Put your actions to stop aquatic hitchhikers on the map!

Post by Jenny Seifert, UWEX Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Specialist

How do you stop aquatic hitchhikers? Add your photo and message to our Landing Blitz Story Map!

Going boating this fourth-of-July weekend? Share how you stop aquatic hitchhikers on our Landing Blitz Story Map.

This holiday weekend, June 30th through July 4th, is the ninth annual Landing Blitz, a statewide effort to remind boaters and other water lovers to use their power to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose great risks to the health of our lakes and fisheries.

New this year is an interactive way for everyone to share the campaign’s message: a crowdsourced Story Map, which will showcase photos and messages from boaters across Wisconsin about how they protect our waters from aquatic invasive species.

If you use social media, help spread the word about the importance of aquatic invasive species prevention by posting photos and messages using the hashtag #CleanBoatsCleanWaters. You can also share the Story Map and encourage your fellow boating friends to add their voices and faces to the effort.

Together, we are all part of the solution for preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. So let’s show the world how we do it and empower each other.

Invasive plants and animals, like Eurasian watermilfoil, spiny water fleas and zebra mussels, can spread easily by hitching a ride on boats and other equipment, including trailers, anchors, livewells, buckets and bilges. But all boaters can also easily prevent this by taking the following simple steps every time they enter and leave a boat landing:

  • Inspect your boat, trailer and equipment
  • Remove all attached plants or animals
  • Drain all water from boats, motors, livewells and other equipment
  • Never move live fish away from a waterbody
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash
  • Buy minnows from a Wisconsin bait dealer, and use leftover minnows only if you will be using them on that same waterbody or if no lake or river water or other fish have been added to the container.

Following these steps also helps boaters comply with Wisconsin state law, which prohibits the transport of aquatic invasive species.

Learn more about why Wisconsinites are concerned about invasive species and their impacts to our waters and economy.

Posted in Invasive Species | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Help make draining your livewell go viral! #JustDrainIt

Post by Jenny Seifert, UWEX Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Specialist (now at 

Draining livewells and transporting fish on ice helps prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Water left in livewells, bait buckets and bilges is a vehicle for the spread of fish diseases and aquatic invasive species between lakes. That is why draining all equipment before leaving a boat launch  is required in Wisconsin – a requirement that will be underscored at the upcoming statewide Drain Campaign and its hashtag #JustDrainIt.

The annual campaign will take place this weekend, June 9-11. Volunteers will be talking with anglers and boaters at landings around the state and, in some cases, handing out free ice packs as a substitute to keeping fish in water.

New to the Drain Campaign this year is the #JustDrainIt social media blitz, a coordinated way for anglers to help share its message. If you use social media, help spread the word about the importance of draining livewells and other equipment by posting photos and messages using #JustDrainIt.

Wisconsin law prohibits the transport of invasive species because they have negative impacts on our aquatic ecosystems and our economy. Draining your water and, instead, using ice – which many anglers argue does a better job of preserving the flavor of their fish anyway – is the best way to comply with the law and help keep our lakes and fisheries healthy.

The following steps are required by law to prevent aquatic invasive species.

  • INSPECT boats, trailers and equipment.
  • REMOVE all attached aquatic plants and animals.
  • DRAIN all water from boats, vehicles, and equipment, including livewells and buckets containing fish.
  • NEVER MOVE plants or live fish away from a waterbody.
  • DISPOSE of unwanted bait in the trash
  • BUY minnows from a Wisconsin bait dealer. Use leftover minnows only when fishing with them on the same body of water or on other waters as long as no lake or river water or other fish have been added to their container.

Learn more about invasive species and their impacts to Wisconsin’s waters and economy.

Posted in Other | Leave a comment

Want to know what AIS are in your lake? WDNR has a database for that

By Jenny Seifert, UWEX Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Specialist

Not sure what invasive species are in your local lake? The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a database designed to help you determine just that.

Since the early 1990s, WDNR has been collecting information on aquatic invasive species in the state. All of that info is fed to a database called the Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS), which then feeds various tools on the agency’s website that can show you what’s in your lake – well, not everything…and that’s where you can help.

One of the tools the database populates is this groovy map, called the Lakes & AIS Mapping Tool, which gives you a satellite’s view of the state and lets you zoom in on your lake to find out what invasive species are in it.

Click the option “Show Layers” in the horizontal menu toward the top to peruse the data. Within the layer options, you’ll find lists of the invasive plants, fish and invertebrates that are prohibited or restricted under Wisconsin’s invasive species law, NR40.

Select a species by clicking its box. If a new color pops up on your lake, it means that species has been seen in your lake; if nothing happens, it means it hasn’t been seen.

The turquoise indicates the presence of the invasive faucet snail, which can carry parasites harmful to waterfowl, in the Lake Winnebago region.

If the map indicates a species has been seen, then click “Show Legend” to see whether its presence has been verified by an expert or observed, meaning someone has seen it but an expert has not officially confirmed that it is established in the lake. If it indicates “no longer observed,” that means the populations found in those locations never managed to become established.

The legend will show you whether the species is verified, observed, or no longer observed.

If you’re more of a list person than a map person, the SWIMS data is also organized into lists. Look for your lake on this list to see what invasive species have been confirmed in it. The list can also help you determine whether that invasive Eurasian watermilfoil you found floating by your dock is in fact new to your lake or if someone has already verified it.

Before you dive into the data, take a note of caution: even if the map or list seems to indicate your lake is free of certain prohibited or restricted invasive species, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. The SWIMS database relies on information collected by WDNR biologists and volunteers, neither of which can be everywhere.

And this is where your help comes in – you can help the DNR populate the SWIMS database by becoming a citizen scientist who helps monitor lakes for invasive species. There are three volunteer programs to choose from, all of which collect data for SWIMS:

  • Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, a program managed in partnership with UW-Extension that allows volunteers to collect data on invasive species and other important lake data,
  • Water Action Volunteers is for those who prefer streams and rivers, and is also focused on more than just invasive species;
  • Snapshot Day is a one-day-only commitment to help the WDNR, Citizen Lake Monitoring Network, Water Action Volunteers and the River Alliance of Wisconsin check rivers, lakes and wetlands around the state for invasive species.

Interested? You’ll be joining a growing network of the cool kids who are helping the WDNR keep an eye on the health of our lakes, rivers and wetlands. The data you collect informs the agency’s decisions on how best to prevent and control invasive species.

The bright green borders indicate lakes where volunteers are helping the WDNR monitor for aquatic invasive species in the Lake Winnebago region, but there are volunteers statewide.

Even if you can’t devote time to volunteer, you can still play an important role by reporting any species that look a little fishy to you, so to speak. If you find something, say something!

Posted in Invasive Species | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment