ALEXANDRIA, Minn. - It's customary in Minnesota to hate zebra mussels. Denise Mayer may actually be able to do something about it.
The Superior, Wisconsin native is part of a research team from New York State Museum that worked for two decades to find a naturally occurring bacterium that kills zebra mussels.
Now for the first time, the effectiveness of that product is being tested at a Minnesota lake.
Working out of a mobile laboratory along Lake Carlos, Mayer and researchers from the US Geological Survey are bathing zebra mussels in a mix of lake water and Zequanox, the name given to the bacteria by the California company contracted to produce it in powder form.
Mayer says Zequanox is not likely to be used to treat entire lakes. Most promising, she says, "is to use it as a tool to prevent infestations very early on if you find a localized infestation around a boat launch or marina or a dock," to prevent a lake-wide infestation.
Zebra mussels from Lake Carlos are being immersed in the substance for 12 hours before being returned to the lake. Researchers will check back later to see how many of the mussels die.
"What we're trying to do with this trailer is to mimic a treatment like it would be in a lake without actually applying the product to the lake," says Jim Luoma, a fisheries biologist with the USGS in La Crosse.
It took zebra mussels just over a decade to reach the inland waters of Minnesota after their introduction into the great lakes in the late 1980s, most likely through the ballast water of ships.
More than 50 Minnesota lakes are now infested with zebra mussels, which cling to boats and docks and threaten the survival of native species.
After completing their work at Lake Carlos, researcher will conduct similar tests at Lake Pepin and Lake Shawano in Wisconsin.
The Minnesota DNR is assisting with the project.
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