U of M adding research capacity in aquatic invasive plants management

Daniel Larkin has been hired by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) as its new Aquatic Plant Management and Restoration Assistant Professor/Extension Specialist. Larkin, who will start in August, is currently an associate conservation scientist with the Chicago Botanic Garden and an adjunct assistant professor of plant biology and conservation at Northwestern University.

This new position will focus on research and leadership for Extension education to advance aquatic plant management and restoration approaches for lakes, rivers, wetlands, and other aquatic systems degraded by invasive plant species and other human-caused stressors. Larkin’s immediate priority will be researching management of Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed.

As the state’s waters become increasingly impacted by invasive plants, there is a growing need for expanding this type of work. Only a handful of Ph.D. level researchers of this type exist in the country. The University of Minnesota is creating new capacity where it currently doesn’t exist.

MAISRC is part of the U’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. Larkin is joining the Center in partnership with the college’s Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology (FWCB) and University of Minnesota Extension. 

Larkin’s experience conducting basic and applied research on invasive plants will be invaluable as he embarks in this new direction, said Sue Galatowitsch, MAISRC director and FWCB department head. “Dan is enthusiastic about the collaborative potential of this new position and looks forward to working with colleagues in MAISRC, Extension, FWCB, across the University, and with natural resource agencies and organizations around the state.”

“There’s been a huge need for this type of position for a long time,” said Tera Guetter, director of the Pelican River Watershed District and MAISRC advisory board member. “We look to the University to provide us with cutting-edge research and science-based solutions to the problems our lakes are facing.”

Larkin earned his Ph.D. in botany from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California-Santa Cruz. He has a long history of research in restoration ecology and invasion biology, with research projects mainly centering on understanding how plant and animal communities respond to invasion and determining how to advance the restoration of diverse, high-functioning ecosystems.

“I’m excited to join the University and work with MAISRC to develop an Extension program. I look forward to building partnerships with resource managers and others throughout the state so that we can work together to get a better handle on aquatic invasive species degrading Minnesota waterways,” he said.   

Larkin will join the center in August, and will begin by meeting resource managers and other partners to understand needs, identify research gaps, and formulate his research and Extension plans. 

MAISRC’s mission is to develop biologically and economically sound solutions to control and prevent key aquatic invasive species from affecting Minnesota’s waters, and to disseminate scientific information on AIS that assists the MN DNR, watershed districts, lake associations, and citizen groups around the state with control strategies. Learn more at www.maisrc.umn.edu.

Funding for MAISRC is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Clean Water Fund, and private donations from lakeshore associations, foundations, and individuals.

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