Thirteen residents of Brainerd and elsewhere across northern Minnesota are now the state's first certified detectors for aquatic invasive species in Minnesota lakes.

The AIS Detectors program is a new partnership opportunity developed by University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. It is training citizen scientists to identify numerous aquatic invasive species, including plants such as Eurasian watermilfoil and starry stonewort, invertebrates such as zebra mussels, and fish such as silver carp. Participants are also trained on identifying the native lookalike species that may be found in the same area.

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"This program is really exciting," said Eleanor Burkett, Extension educator based in Brainerd and the program's lead, in a news release. "As the threat of AIS continues to grow across Minnesota, this statewide surveillance program with trained volunteer observers is filling an important role."

The training entails 15 hours of combined rigorous online courses and in-person workshops, where participants learn AIS identification, what to do if they find a suspected AIS and more.

This group of recently certified detectors participated in the pilot test of the program. The full AIS Detectors program will launch to the public in early 2017. A portion of the funding for the program is provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Visit the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center's website at to learn more about this program.