Volunteers are needed on Saturday, Aug. 15, to participate in a statewide search for starry stonewort, one of Minnesota’s newest aquatic invasive species.

Statewide, hundreds of volunteers will gather at local training sites, including Becker County and Otter Tail counties, to learn how to identify starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species and search for them in area lakes.

Starry stonewort is an invasive algae that was first found in Minnesota at Lake Koronis near Paynesville in 2015 and has since spread to 14 Minnesota lakes. Early detection of this species is critical for control. Starry Trek volunteers have found starry stonewort in three lakes – Grand Lake in Stearns County, Wolf Lake at the Hubbard/Beltrami County border, and Lake Beltrami in Beltrami County – as well as other aquatic invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels during this event.

The 2017 discovery of starry stonewort in Grand Lake led to the lake association and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources rapidly mobilizing to hand-pull the infestation. This early intervention has widely been considered a success, with starry stonewort continuing to be limited to the small area near the public access where it was initially discovered.

“This event is a terrific way for people to get outdoors, get educated about aquatic invasive species, and help protect their area lakes,” said Megan Weber, Extension educator with the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. “The information we gain at this event helps researchers and managers understand its current distribution and potentially take action if new infestations are found.”

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No experience or equipment is necessary to participate in Starry Trek. Expert training on monitoring protocols and starry stonewort identification will be provided on-site. This event is free, but registration is required. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The event’s protocols have been modified to accommodate COIVD-19 precautions. To register and view all safety measures, visit the event’s website (www.starrytrek.org).

Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls and Park Rapids are among the sites hosting volunteer trainings.