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Scientists track potential Great Lakes invaders with searchable watchlist

S. Giesen

More than 180 non-native species have already made a home in the Great Lakes basin, and more could make their way in.

Scientists and government officials have their eyes on a watchlist of 53 species that are most likely to become established in the Great Lakes region if they get in.

Take for example: killer shrimp.

Rochelle Sturtevant is a Regional Sea Grant Specialist for Outreach at NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor.

"This is a species that shreds its prey. It is also cannibalistic, it will eat its own young; it will eat other closely related shrimp.”

She says killer shrimp are native to Europe but they haven’t been found in the U.S. yet.  Sturtevant and her colleagues recently launched a searchable online database – with pictures of the potential new invaders, and fact sheets about them, drawn from the available peer-reviewed research on the species. She says it's a work in progress - in some cases there's not much scientific literature available on a particular species - or it's in foreign language and needs to be translated first.

She says scientists are always on the lookout for new potential invasive species in the lakes. But she says usually – scientists are not the ones who first find them.

"It’s by a fisherman or recreational boater or someone who has a cottage on the lake – so we really wanted to make the information on ‘how do you know when you catch something that you should report it to somebody?’ much more publicly available."

She says you can report sightings of non-native species to the U.S. Geological Survey onlineor by phone: 1-877-STOP-ANS.

Sturtevant says it's good to note the date, location where you saw the critter or plant, and either a photo or specimen.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.