Protecting the waterways of Illinois and Indiana requires everyone’s involvement. Now is your chance to voice your opinion, and help shape statewide education and outreach efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) is conducting two focus groups with area boaters, anglers, & waterfowl hunters–in Springfield, Ill., on Monday, January 9, from 6-8 p.m. and in Indianapolis, Ind. on Tuesday, January 10 from 6-8 p.m.

AIS can easily be spread by recreational water users from one infested waterbody to another. The goal of these discussions is to learn what you think about practices to reduce the spread of Asian carp, Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels and other AIS. Practices include: inspecting craft for hitchhikers, not releasing live bait in water bodies, and flushing motors.

The results of these focus groups will instrumental in designing future campaigns that are effective and speak to the people of Illinois and Indiana.

“The negative effects of AIS are often seen first by those who recreate on lakes, rivers, and ponds,” said Sarah Zack, IISG aquatic invasive species specialist. “For example, invasive aquatic weeds can choke waterways, preventing fun activities, like boating, fishing, and swimming.” Food web changes caused by AIS can trigger declines in game fish populations, impacting recreational fishing. Asian carp, a fast growing invasive fish, has even been known to jump out of the water and strike boaters and personal watercraft users.

Most people will use a lake, river, pond or creek for recreation at some point or another in their lives – there are over four million registered boats and two million anglers in the Great Lakes region alone. All types of boaters, anglers, waterfowl hunters, and other water users are invited to take part in the focus group.

A small monetary compensation for participation will be provided. The specific meeting location will be disclosed upon registration. For more information, contact Sarah Zack at szack@illinois.edu. To register, please contact Erin Seekamp by phone at (618) 453-7463 or email at eseekamp@siu.edu.

IISG is one of 32 programs nationwide that address a number of coastal issues through research, education and outreach. The program is committed to informing the public about the problems posed by AIS as well as how to prevent their spread.