Enjoy an in-person free paddling workshop with Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension

Three free opportunities to get out on the water and learn about invasive species identification and prevention - register today!

Kayakers are seen in a river.
Sign up for a free in-person paddling workshop to learn about invasive species identification and prevention!

Are you a paddler who frequents Michigan lakes, rivers and streams? If so, you are invited to sign up for an in-person paddling workshop to learn about invasive species identification and prevention. Paddle sports are a great way to enjoy the wonderful outdoors that Michigan has to offer. However, while enjoying Michigan’s natural areas paddlers should be aware of the impact that they can have on the environment. Offered by Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension, MI Paddle Stewards includes a free online self-paced course and several in-person on-water workshops.

In-person and on the water

Participants in the free in-person workshops will explore a river system in search of aquatic invasive species with assistance from MI Sea Grant and staff from the local Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA). It is recommended that participants complete the online course prior to the in-person workshops. Space is limited and preference will be given to those who have completed the online course if enrollment is over the maximum capacity. There are three workshops** to choose from:

**workshops may be rescheduled or cancelled due to low enrollment or COVID concerns

What is an aquatic invasive species?

Aquatic invasive species are plants, fish, snails, viruses, and other organisms that move into and colonize ecosystems where they don’t belong, usually damaging native species and water quality in the process.

Often, aquatic invaders are transported by humans — as live bait, planted in flower gardens, imported for fish ponds, carried in the bellies of shipping freighters — or plant material snagged on kayak rudders and stranded in puddles at the bottom of poorly drained canoes. If a non-native stowaway is still alive when the boat splashes into the next water body, the invader could find itself in fresh territory. This video encourages paddlers to learn how to prevent the spread of invasive species with Michigan Sea Grant’s free online course.

Free online program

The MI Paddle Stewards online program from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension will help paddlers learn about high-risk invasive species, how to properly clean a watercraft, and how to report invasive species using a free app. The MISIN (Midwest Invasive Species Information Network) app is a tool used by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and others to locate invasive species of concern. Using this app allows paddlers to help with the early detection of invasive species in their area. 

Become an ambassador for Michigan waters in five short sessions (approximately 30-45 minutes to complete each session) and spread the word on invasive species to your friends and fellow paddlers. The MI Paddle Stewards course is free for all registrants, thanks to funding from the state's Michigan Invasive Species Grant. The course is designed to be self-paced so that participants can complete the class when it's convenient to them. Participants can receive a bucket hat, waterproof bag, stickers and more for registering. Sign up now and complete the course anytime before Dec. 31, 2021. Register online.

For questions and more information about either the MI Paddle Stewards online course or the Michigan Water Trails website, contact MSU Extension educator Mary Bohling (bohling@msu.edu). Interested in regular updates on news about Michigan Water Trails? Register online to sign up for the Water Trails digest.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 34 university-based programs.

The MI Paddle Stewards program was funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant program (www.michigan.gov/invasives). This article was prepared by Michigan Sea Grant under award NA180AR4170102 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce, or the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Did you find this article useful?