Wednesday, June 3, 2020

MSU students, faculty, join forces to stop invasive species

August 10, 2014

Jo Latimore, an outreach specialist in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, put an advertisement out before summer began to look for students to join her in her project as part of a summer job.

Once May rolled around, fisheries and wildlife junior Mike Guthard and electrical technology junior Quintin Bierstetel joined her team.

The trio partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which provided a 15-foot power washer used to rid the boats of various aquatic pests.

Their last cleaning will take place on Aug. 16.

Latimore said plans are set for the program to continue next summer and, should all go as planned, also continue as a five-year program at MSU.

“The main purpose of this program is education and building awareness,” she said. “Most people are already pretty knowledgeable about keeping lakes and equipment clean. ... We talk with them about their different encounters and experiences, and they listen to us. I mean, they wouldn’t be out there if they didn’t care about the lakes.”

Latimore said these aquatic hitchhikers, such as zebra mussels and the starry stonewort algae, are transported from one body of water to the next because they essentially hitch a ride on the bottoms of boats.

Algae that might have been picked up from Lake Michigan will attach itself to the boat’s underside and fall off in another lake, giving it an opportunity to populate the lake.

She added these life forms are hazardous to the waters because they destroy ecosystems.

To prevent the spread of these underwater pests, the crew has taken their power washer to Lake Michigan and inland lakes, such as Lake Lansing and Lake Ovid.

Upon arrival, they lay out a large mat used to collect any plants or algae washed off the boat. They then fire up the power washer and spray the boat from top to bottom with water heated to 140 degrees.

“(Lakes) are an important part of recreational life in Michigan,” she said. “People want to do everything they can to preserve them.”

Bierstetel said the opportunity to help caught his eye because he wanted a chance to protect what he considers to be one of Michigan’s greatest resources.

However, it was learning the stories of the various anglers and boaters that made the experience even more worthwhile to him.

“There’s so much economic drive in the lakes,” he said. “And, if you’re like me, you love just being out on the water. There are so many lakes, so we’re starting to all get together and educate people on these resources. You don’t want to know what happens when you don’t have this resource anymore.”

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