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Be a Part of the Search for Invasive Species

Photo of Rochelle SturtevantHello, my name is Dr. Rochelle Sturtevant and here at NOAA we want you to make a difference in the Great Lakes by helping us with our ongoing search for invasive species! Read below to find out all you need to know.

What are invasive species?

Invasive species are plants, animals, or microscopic organisms that are nonindigenous, which means each organism is found living beyond where it first evolved. Nonindigenous species sometimes cause harm in their new environment, in which case we call them invasive.

How are invasive species getting to the great lakes?

Here are four ways invasive species are reaching the Great Lakes:

Worker in ballast tank 1. Ship ballast tanks have made a major contribution to non-native species introductions to the Great Lakes. After the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1960, the majority of invasive species have been attributed to ballast discharge.

2. Residual water and mud found in empty ballast tanks (NOBOB tanks) is another source for invasive species.

3. Deliberate releases of invasive species made the second largest contribution. These releases come from cultivation and fish stocking. Pets too!

White Perch 4. Canals connecting to the Great Lakes also contributed to additional invasive species. This is how the White Perch came to be found in the Great Lakes.

Why do we care about invasive species?

Research vessel Huron ExplorerInvasive species have been known to cause harm in certain instances all over the world. Read the examples below.

Like anchovies on your pizza? Well in the 1980's an invasive comb jellyfish found in the Black Sea caused the collapse of the entire Black Sea anchovy fishery.

In 2006 Florida reported spending $100M to repair canal banks ruined by an invasive species called Nutria.

Invasive species found in the Great Lakes have also caused harm. Read examples below.

What to do if you find an invasive species!

There are a few things we ask you to please do before reporting an invasive species.

Write down the location of where you found the species before you forget. We really want longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates. However, if - like most people - you do not have the coordinates, look for landmarks or other things that can help us distinguish exactly where you found the organisms. For example - “within 2 yards of the public beach boat access on Green Lake”.

Take a sample (leaf, shell, etc) and/or a picture of the organisms. This will help us confirm your identification.

Please check the GLANSIS database to make sure that the organism you have found has not already been found in your location. To do this:

If your organism cannot be found in the database CONGRATULATIONS, you may have found an invasive species and now must report your discovery. One way you can report your discovery is by going to the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Sighting Report Form which will send an email report of your discovery.

Why we need your help finding invasive species

Image of lake
  • There are more than 182 species
  • There are 94,000 square miles of water
  • There are 200,000 square miles of land in the basin
  • There are only about 100 dedicated AIS biologists in the region

We appreciate your help!