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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.”

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4-H'ers Kylie Dettinger, 12, left, and Aurora Ogbonna, 11, search for the invasive species Chinese Mystery snails with University of Minnesota's Angela Gupta on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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A Chinese mystery snail is seen with filled with eggs on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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4-H'ers Kylie Dettinger, 12, left, and Aurora Ogbonna, 11, clean their shoes and gear after searching for Chinese mystery snails, an invasive species, on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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A collection of invasive Chinese mystery snails pulled from the pond are seen on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
062822-CHINESE-MYSTERY-SNAIL-0419.jpg
4-H'ers Aurora Ogbonna, 11, and Kylie Dettinger, 12, head down to a pond to search for Chinese Mystery snails, an invasive species, on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
062822-CHINESE-MYSTERY-SNAIL-0449.jpg
A collection of invasive Chinese mystery snails pulled from the pond are seen on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
062822-CHINESE-MYSTERY-SNAIL-0427.jpg
Aurora Ogbonna, 11, shows a Chinese Mystery snail, an invasive species, on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Related Topics: EDUCATIONROCHESTER
Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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