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Illinois Conservation Police dive into preventing spread of aquatic invasive species

Two men at a table inspect a red crayfish in a container

DECATUR, Ill. — A group of 150 Illinois Conservation Police Officers gathered in Decatur for a hands-on workshop on aquatic invasive species during their annual meeting this spring. Developed by the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant aquatic invasive species team in collaboration with the lab of Carena van Riper at University of Illinois, the workshop was a resounding success in educating and equipping officers with the knowledge and tools to combat the spread of AIS and protect the state’s natural resources.

Spearheaded by Elizabeth Golebie, a post-doc in van Riper’s lab who has previous experience working with IISG as a grad student and extensive research experience with AIS, in partnership with CPO Brandon Fehrenbacher, the workshop featured hands-on lessons that taught officers about the potential impacts of AIS and how to identify several species of invasive fish, crayfish, and aquatic plants. Modules were taught by Chris Taylor and Greg Spyreas of the Illinois Natural History Survey, who covered invasive crayfish and invasive aquatic plants, respectively, and Katie O’Reilly of IISG and INHS, who addressed invasive fish species.

“We know once invasive species are introduced and they become established, it’s really difficult to get rid of them,” said O’Reilly, “so prevention is one of the strongest tools we have. And part of that prevention is the enforcement of some of the rules that are on the books. The CPOs are the people on the ground enforcing the rules, writing tickets, doing the legwork to stop people from spreading AIS. They’re kind of our first line of defense in a lot of cases, so by giving them knowledge and resources, we hope they feel more confident that if they see something in the field or they get a call about a weird fish somebody caught, then they know what their next step can be or who to contact to confirm identification.”

Read the full release from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant.

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