Olmsted County 4-H'ers take on invasive species in Rochester pond
"That’s why you have to deal with things correctly," said Aurora Ogbonna, an 11-year-old 4-H student. "Everything has such a bigger impact on the environment than people realize.”
ROCHESTER — A group of local 4-H members are doing their part to manage an invasive species that has infested a pond in northwest Rochester.
The group first came across the snails last fall when they were cleaning trash from the area of the Georgotowne Ponds, just south of 55th Street Northwest. They went on to identify the species as Chinese Mystery Snails.
According to Angela Gupta, an exension educator with the University of Minnesota, it’s the first infestation of Chinese Mystery Snails in Olmsted County.
So how did they get there in the first place?
“We think they got here from someone who bought them at a pet store and then dumped their aquarium when they didn’t want them anymore,” said Aurora Ogbonna, an 11-year-old 4-H student. “This giant problem could have been caused by just one person being reckless … that’s why you have to deal with things correctly. Everything has such a bigger impact on the environment than people realize.”
The students wrote and received a small grant to purchase waders, rakes and other materials they’d need to take care of the water. They’re making flyers and are going to pet stores, reminding people not to dump snails in random waters.
One of the next steps for the group is to determine if the Chinese Mystery Snails are in the nearby water as well.
"We're going to walk the creek and see if we see any snails," said Kylie Dettinger, a 12-year-old 4-H student.
Even with all the work they’re pouring into it, though, Gupta said it may not be possible to eradicate the snails from the area.
There isn’t a lot of information about how the species behaves locally, and Gupta said it's not a closely monitored species. One thing they have learned is that the snails reproduce a lot earlier in the year than previously thought.
So why are they a problem anyway? Gupta said the snails carry a parasite that’s harmful to humans, which has been common in Asia. They’re also problematic for other reasons.
“They just change the environment and change the habitat," Gupta said. "So other native aquatic species don’t do as well.”