CMU receives nearly 400K for invasive species research

European Frogbit

European Frogbit

CMU has been awarded nearly $400,000 to expand its work on controlling invasive species in Michigan, which was the second highest grant amount received among 19 other organizations.

According to the DNR, the grant aims to evaluate and expand management tools for invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Dr. Anna Monfils, an associate professor in the department of biology at CMU, was a leader in acquiring the grant money. She said some of the funding will be dedicated to controlling an invasive plant called European Frogbit. Michigan has seen a relatively recent invasion of the plant, especially in Alpena and Bay counties.

“It can often reproduce very quickly, or ‘vegetatively,’ by dropping down these structures called turions,” she said. “Each one of those acts like a seed, but it’s not sexually reproduced like a seed, and can actually grow into 10 additional plants. Those will create turions, and those will grow into ten (more) additional plants, so you can imagine how this can begin to reproduce at a rate where we cannot control it anymore.”

Dr. Monfils said frogbit are small lily-pad-like plants that dominate ecosystems in which they are found. Also, she said the grant will allow her and her colleagues to test multiple approaches to fight a wide range of invasives.

“We’re really kind of adding to the toolkit of how we can manage invasive aquatic plants,” she said. “It’s not like it can work out or it can’t work out; it’s more like it can inform our current practices and, perhaps, come up with some practices or combinations of practices that might be more long-term effective.”

CMU is a no stranger to grant funding dollars backing Great Lakes and invasive species research, especially behind Dr. Monfils’ leadership. In fact, Dr. Monfils said the grant will eventually mesh together with other research objectives and initiatives CMU has been involved with in the past.

“I would like to see us work with looking at where we know things currently occur, looking at observations and making sure that those are sent to a common portal, so that anyone tracking invasive in the state would be able to look at both old collections or historical collections, like my other grant I’m involved with,” she said.

The other grant referenced by Dr. Monfils was received by CMU late last year, which is now funding an effort to build an online database for Great Lakes specimens.

The online database is designed to do more than examine specimens, but to integrate data for researchers to compare invasive species over time and location.