North Shore BioBlitz

This year was the 3rd annual North Shore BioBlitz at Wolf Ridge ELC. Lake SWCD participated for the 2nd year this 2018 by helping to identify and teach about invasive species to 37 student participants and in partnership with around 40 experts from the area. A BioBlitz is an event with a set geographic location and timeline, where participants identify as many living organisms as they can. Some BioBlitzs are refined to specific subjects areas or goals. This event focuses more on education than some BioBlitz events, and is a joint effort of the US Forest Service, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, University of MN Duluth, Sea Grant, MN DNR, Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District and Sugar Loaf Cove Interpretive Center. The program helps provide authentic experiences  academic campers attending our Wolf Ridge ELC’s summer program and builds awareness around biodiversity along with illustrating numerous natural resource careers to a new general of potential resource managers and scientists.
All findings of the day were recorded on iNaturalist, an awesome app and platform with a “suggested ID” function. Lake SWCD staff focused their efforts around Sawmill Creek – key finds included Northern Clearwater Crayfish and Creek Chub in Sawmill Creek, and invasive species Timothy grass, Reed Canary Grass, Tansy, and Bird’s Foot Trefoil around the shoreline.
Find out what has been recorded near you at !
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Native (Alder-leaved) Buckthorn

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As non-native buckthorn steals a lot of negative press and our precious time, we wanted people to see Minnesota’s NATIVE Alder-leaved Buckthorn!

We found it surveying in Toimi and thought you’d like it too!

Also, be sure to report NON-NATIVE Buckthorn online with or with us at Lake Co SWCD.

More info on native Alder-leaved Buckthorn (Rhamnus alnifolia):

“A primary means of reproduction is by a process called “layering”, where the horizontal stems and branches produce roots, creating expanding colonies up to 50 feet across. The root/branch structures of these colonies may become disconnected over time producing genetically identical but independently functioning individuals within the colony. This native can be distinguished from the invasive non-native buckthorns by its short stature (3 feet or less at maturity), the obvious stipules at the base of the leaf stalk, 5-parted flowers, and leaves with rounded teeth and 5 to 8 veins per side. Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus) has toothless leaves with 6 to 9 veins per side, and Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) has 4-parted flowers and leaves with rounded teeth and only 3 or 4 veins per side. Both of the non-natives grow significantly taller and bushier than Alder-leaved Buckthorn.”

Red Swamp Crayfish Hitch a Ride through Michigan

Red Swamp Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) hitched a ride through Michigan. Look out!

Courtesy of Tip of the MITT Watershed Council at

“Red swamp crayfish are considered invasive in Michigan because they compete aggressively with native crayfish species for food and habitat. They feed on plants, insects, snails, juvenile fish and other crayfish, disrupting the food chain for many aquatic species.

Native to the Gulf of Mexico coast and the Mississippi River drainage system, they have spread to other U.S. waters probably through the release of live study specimens by teachers and students, by aquarists as pets, and by consumers who purchased them from live food markets or for bait fishing. They are widely available in the U.S. through the seafood industry and aquarium trade. While they usually spread along connected waterways, Red swamp crayfish can survive drought conditions and are known to migrate as much as approximately 2 miles over land in search of habitat.

They are very fertile, with females laying up to 600 eggs at a time and reproducing up to two times in a year.


Eradicating Red Swamp crayfish is nearly impossible because they are found in all types of freshwater ecosystems and dig chimney-like burrows into the bottoms of lakes, ponds, and rivers. ​Red swamp crayfish are a serious concern because of their ability to damage earthen structure. They are known to dig deep burrows near lakes and rivers and can spread quickly over land. Burrows, which can be more than 3 feet deep, can cause damage (through bank destabilization) to infrastructure such as dams, levees, irrigation systems and personal property.

In July 2017, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed the presence of invasive red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) in Sunset Lake in Vicksburg, south of Kalamazoo (Kalamazoo County), and in a retention pond off Haggerty Road in Novi (Oakland County).”

No red swamp crayfish have been found in Minnesota.

Giant Hogsweed

Invasive Species aren’t just a hazard to our natural resources- they can also be a hazard to human health!

Check out this news story about a young man in the state of Virginia who suffered third-degree burns after coming into contact with Giant Hogsweed.…/virginia-giant-hogweed-burns-teenager/

This species hasn’t been found anywhere in Minnesota yet, but it has been found in Wisconsin several locations. If you have questions about invasive species in your area, please feel free to call our office at 218-834-8370

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AIS Early Detection Monitoring in Agate Bay

What does early detection monitoring for #AIS look like you ask? Our friends at Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office conduct early detection monitoring in each major ballast dumping harbor of Lake Superior during the open water season, including Agate Bay! Lake SWCD partners with area AIS folks including USFWS, and helped them out today. Preliminary finds included burbot, freshwater sculpin, and many others! Rainbow Smelt and Eurasian Ruffe (invasive) were also found. We will know more about the plankton and sweep net surveying we completed after genetic analysis in the lab this winter.

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Measuring fish as part of the gill net sampling process.

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Surveying for AIS in Agate Bay.

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Caught: Freshwater Sculpin!

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Caught: Burbot!

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MAISRC to Study AIS Impacts on Walleye

The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC)’s mission is to develop research-based solutions that can reduce the impacts of aquatic invasive species in Minnesota by preventing spread, controlling populations, and managing ecosystems; and to advance knowledge to inspire action by others. The Center was created in 2012 under the University of Minnesota in collaboration with the Commissioner of Natural Resources (DNR) and with appropriated funds from the Minnesota State Legislature.

One of MAISRC’s new projects, led by Dr. Gretchen Hansen, is aimed at quantifying the impacts that invasive zebra mussels and spiny waterflea are having on food webs and growth rates of fish in Minnesota’s nine largest walleye lakes. The project will use stable isotopes to examine what walleye are eating, where in the lake they’re finding food, and at what trophic level they are eating. Researchers will also evaluate the growth rates of young fish to establish the impact invasive species may be having.

“We know that invasives like zebra mussels and spiny waterfleas reduce native zooplankton and have an impact on the food webs in these lakes,” said Hansen. “What we don’t know is whether walleye and other game fish are able to adjust to find new food sources, or what makes one walleye population more adaptable and successful than another.”

Over the course of this and next summer, researchers will gather samples of zooplankton, invertebrates, and fish from Cass, Red, Kabetogama, Rainy, Vermilion, Lake of the Woods, Leech, Winnibigoshish, and Mille Lacs, which are at varying stages and combinations of invasion from spiny waterflea and/or zebra mussels. Red Lake is currently not infested with either species.

In addition to evaluating the food web impacts on adult walleye, researchers will examine growth rates of juvenile fish to better understand how they are impacted by, and respond to, these invasions.

“Quantifying how these AIS are disrupting the walleye food web will allow managers to set realistic goals and implement policies that could improve the fisheries in the future,” added Hansen. “It’s critical that we understand these relationships between species so we can better manage lakes.”

For more information on this project, visit the MAISRC website. [Adapted from August 2017 MAISRC newsletter article “New project launched to determine impacts of AIS on walleye.”]

[Note from Lake County SWCD: Although the walleye study is being done at the “Big 9” in Minnesota, it has implications for smaller Minnesota lakes as well, including many of the deeper lakes in Fall Lake Township and the Ely area. Lake County SWCD is working with MNDNR Fisheries to conduct smaller scale food web studies on fish in Dumbbell Lake and looks forward to lessons learned at Lake Vermilion and across the state.]

Photo Credit: Spiny water flea on fishing line, Darren Lilja, Lake County SWCD. 

Crayfish Tank

Crayfish #5 Hanging out in the tank

Lake County SWCD has a crayfish tank in the Two Harbors office. Crayfish were collected during the 2017 season from the White Iron Chain of Lakes. The tank serves as a repository for animals needing further identification. Additionally, it provides live specimens for outreach and education, prompting interesting discussions in the office.

Note white Branchiobdella on the crayfish carapace

A few weeks ago, we noticed the crayfish had small white worms attached to their carapace (shell). The white worms are citellate annelids (or intermediaries between oligochaetes and leeches) in the order Branchiobdella. These “worms” attach to the crayfish with suckers. The scientific community has not reached a consensus about the relationship between the citellate annelids and their hosts – some say the relationship is parasitic, some say mutualistic. The Branchiobdella clean the crayfish’s gills, feeding on host tissue. This either benefits the crayfish by providing a “cleaning service,” or it harms them by causing constant wounding of the gills, resulting in infections and bleeding in the branchial chamber. There are no known methods of control for infected crayfish, although the Branchiobdella do seem to be geographically limited to the Northern Hemisphere. Crayfish in the SWCD office are occasionally taken out of their tank and rubbed to remove some of the Branchiobdella. Cleaning the tank and replacing water on a regular basis helps keep the population of Branchiobdella lower as well. Crayfish in the office are also fed regularly with a crayfish food pellet mix including meat, aquatic vegetation gathered in the field, and lettuce or other vegetables.

Showing us who is boss

Most crayfish do not necessarily “play nice” together in the confines of a tank. There are currently 9 crayfish at Lake County SWCD, numbered so we can see how various territorial fights ensue. Stop by and see which crayfish you’ll put your bets on! Feel free to bring some lettuce or other food for the crayfish – they will eat most anything!