Volunteers are needed from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 17, in Mission Township and Hackensack to participate in a statewide search for starry stonewort, one of Minnesota’s newest aquatic invasive species.

The Crow Wing County rendezvous location is Mission Park, 13871 Mission Park Drive, in Mission Township. The Cass County location is The HUB in Hackensack.

This event is free, but volunteers must register online at www.StarryTrek.org. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Register by Aug. 9 to receive a complimentary volunteer tote and refreshments. Late registrations are welcome, but a free tote is not guaranteed.

Volunteers will learn how to identify starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species and search for them in area lakes.

No experience or equipment is necessary to participate in Starry Trek. Training on monitoring protocols and starry stonewort identification will be provided on-site. A map of the route and supplies will be provided to volunteers as they travel to different lake landings throughout the counties to sample for starry stonewort and other aquatic invasive species.

After the route is completed, volunteers will return to the rendezvous locations to report and identify species with the event coordinators.

Starry stonewort is an invasive algae that was first found in Minnesota at Lake Koronis in 2015 and has since spread to 14 Minnesota lakes. At this time, there are no water bodies in Crow Wing County infested with starry stonewort. Early detection of this species is critical for control. Starry Trek volunteers have found starry stonewort in two lakes – Grand Lake in Stearns County and Wolf Lake at the Hubbard/Beltrami County border – 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 DNR 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,” Megan Weber, Extension educator with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, said in a news release. “The information we gain at this event helps researchers and managers understand its current distribution and potentially take action if new infestations are found.”

Nicole Erickson, environmental services specialist with Crow Wing County Land Services, and Levy Bergstrom, Cass County AIS lake technician, both said in news releases that protecting lakes for future generations is important.

The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center works across the state to develop research-based solutions that can reduce the impacts of aquatic invasive. A portion of the funding for this program is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Learn more at www.maisrc.umn.edu.

Information about Crow Wing County AIS prevention efforts, including interactive maps to search for the status of area lakes, can be found on the web at www.crowwing.us/ais.