2015 AIS Bridge Snapshot Day Update

Sep 22, 2015 | Agriculture, Groundwater

2015 Aquatic Invasive Species Snapshot Day:

Volunteers make a splash searching for invasive species statewide

On August 29, 2015, over 100 volunteers splashed into streams all across Wisconsin to search for invasive species that threaten recreation and the health of our waters.  Braving the rain, volunteers dipped rakes, nets and hands into rivers to collect samples and bring them back for verification with experts at their host sites. These citizen scientists covered 54 different rivers including portions of the Chippewa, Mississippi, Manitowoc, Plover, Fox, Bois Brule and Wisconsin with a focus on high-use bridge crossings and landings.

This second annual, statewide monitoring event was coordinated by River Alliance of Wisconsin, over 20 local partners and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The goal of the day was to detect new infestations of aquatic invasive species (AIS), including pioneer populations from recent aquarium releases or water gardens.  These types of releases are possible at the end of summer as people clean out their water ponds and may dump their plants and animals into easily accessible waterbodies. The day also focused on emerging threats such as the New Zealand mudsnail, faucet snails and Asian clam, species which once established are difficult to control, and thus early detection is key.

On the morning of the event, volunteers met at one of 17 rendezvous sites around the state and received training on simple monitoring protocols for 22 different species, including wetland plants, aquatic plants and invertebrates.  Volunteers monitored 131 sites and found invasive species at 71 of the sites. The four most common target species found were zebra mussels (31), Eurasian watermilfoil (22), purple loosestrife (17) and faucet snails (10). There was a collective sigh of relief at the good news that no new infestations of prohibited water garden plants were found.  However, some sites reported invasive species such as faucet snails and zebra mussels in previously undocumented locations. These results help refine our understanding of the distribution of these species and where to target outreach efforts such as signage and education events.

This event is a great success because of all the eyes on the water.  But beyond the data, volunteers shared stories of romping in their rivers, hearing their kids go from ‘yuck’ to ‘cool’ while exploring river life, and learning hands-on in their local waters.  Many families with children, such as the Tollards from Fond du Lac (pictured) came out to monitor along with employees from Time Warner Cable and many other dedicated stream enthusiasts.  Local coordinators, who are the backbone of this effort fostered the day to fit their local needs.  In Eau Claire, site hosts led a Snapshot Day paddle as part of the Chippewa river festival.  In Marathon county leaders at Golden Sands RC&D jumped into the stream alongside their volunteers while those in the Winnebago region lit up the BBQ to celebrate the day with their volunteers.  Beyond building a database of species, this event connects citizens with their water supporting an informed public who aren’t afraid to hitch up their mud boots and hit the stream.

Click here for more pictures from this event!

This event is possible through a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Alliant Energy foundation.