This article originally appeared in the Fall 2020 WaterWays newsletterDownload a PDF of the full Newsletter

By Ellen Voss, La Crosse Area AIS Manager 

Snapshot Day 

On August 15th, 150 dedicated volunteers from all over Wisconsin donned their masks, rolled up their sleeves, and grabbed their garden rakes and old coffee cans to search for aquatic invasive species (AIS) in their favorite rivers and lakes.

This statewide AIS scavenger hunt is known as Snapshot Day, and this event has become an annual summer tradition for many across the state. Organized by River Alliance of Wisconsin in coordination with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and UW-Madison Division of Extension, this one-day statewide initiative provides a treasure trove of invaluable data to the WDNR that guides future prevention efforts and management plans. This early detection effort is vital for identifying new invaders and monitoring the movements of existing invasive populations in waterbodies throughout Wisconsin.

The Turnout

Not even a pandemic could prevent Wisconsin’s enthusiastic volunteers from pitching in to protect the rivers and lakes they love. In total, 150 volunteers led by 22 site leaders from partner organizations monitored 201 sites at 24 different locations all over Wisconsin!

While Snapshot Day itself is only a one-day event, the planning and preparing take several months. And back in March, the question as to whether a 7th consecutive year of this important monitoring event could or should happen in the midst of a pandemic was on the table. Luckily, with some creative programming tweaks, an abundance of safety precautions, and the support of willing and enthusiastic volunteers and site leaders, Snapshot Day 2020 not only occurred, but was a rousing success.

Volunteering During a Pandemic

What’s it like volunteering during a pandemic? Sheila Leary with the Friends of Cherokee Marsh in Madison shared this:

“It was thrilling to see the enthusiasm and dedication of volunteers from teens to septuagenarians, despite masking and rain showers!”

Site leader Marina Steiner added, “It’s humbling to see what can be accomplished with hard-working and dedicated leaders, volunteers, and organizers in such a unique year!”

The Good News

The data collected during this year’s event are still being verified by experts but fortunately, many Snapshot Day sites reported no “new” findings of invasive species that had not already been previously documented.

While “nothing new to report” may seem anticlimactic in some ways, it’s good news for our waterways, and the Snapshot Day experience also serves as an invaluable outreach tool. Armed with ID skills and knowledge to share about preventing the spread of AIS, the hope is that newly trained volunteers will go forward with a new appreciation for the water they love and become lifelong advocates. This is a different kind of success story and one that demonstrates how important volunteers are to the protection of Wisconsin’s waters.

Thank You For Joining Us!

Thank you to ALL of the 2020 Snapshot Day volunteers and partners for their continued efforts to protect Wisconsin’s waters!

Benard, age 7, examines a crayfish: “Wow! Look at that exoskeleton!” [Photo courtesy Caroline Zimmerman]


  “Aquatic Gothic” [Photo courtesy Sheila Leary]               
Site leader Sam Lammers takes a selfie with her socially-distanced crew in Washington County.