MI Paddle Stewards event, kayaks on the lake

The MI Paddle Stewards online program from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension will help paddlers learn about high-risk invasive species, how to properly clean a watercraft, and how to report invasive species using a free app.


With the temperatures warming up, it is time to start thinking about getting back on the water. Paddle sports are a great way to enjoy the wonderful outdoors that Michigan has to offer. While enjoying Michigan’s nature everyone needs to be aware of the impact that paddlers can have on the environment. Learn how to prevent the spread of invasive species with Michigan Sea Grant’s free online course.

What is an aquatic invasive species?

Aquatic invasive species are plants, fish, snails, viruses, and other organisms that move into and colonize ecosystems where they don’t belong, usually damaging native species and water quality in the process.

European frogbit

European frogbit is a free-floating aquatic plant with leathery, heart-shaped leaves and small white flowers with three petals. It spreads by sending out runners, and can form dense, tangled mats.

Often, aquatic invaders are transported by humans —  as live bait, planted in flower gardens, imported for fish ponds, carried in the bellies of shipping freighters — or plant material snagged on kayak rudders and stranded in puddles at the bottom of poorly drained canoes. If a non-native stowaway is still alive when the boat splashes into the next water body, the invader could find itself in fresh territory.

Free online program

The MI Paddle Stewards online program from Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension will help paddlers learn about high-risk invasive species, how to properly clean a watercraft, and how to report invasive species using a free app. The MISIN (Midwest Invasive Species Information Network) app is a tool used by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and others to locate invasive species of concern. Using this app allows paddlers to help with the early detection of invasive species in their area.

Become an ambassador for Michigan waters in five short sessions (approximately 30-45 minutes to complete each session) and spread the word on invasive species to your frMI-Paddle-Stewards Logoiends and fellow paddlers. The MI Paddle Stewards course is free for all registrants, thanks to funding from the state’s Michigan Invasive Species Grant. The course is designed to be self-paced so that participants can stop the course and then pick-up where they left off when they log back in. Participants can receive a bucket hat, waterproof bag, stickers and more for registering. Sign up now and complete the course before Dec. 31, 2021. Register online.

Looking for new water trails?

The Michigan Great Lakes Water Trails Working Group, comprised of staff from Michigan Sea GrantLand Information Access Association and a variety of state agencies, local governments, paddlers, and more hosts a Michigan Water Trails website (www.michiganwatertrails.org), where users can find trail maps, safety information, and plenty of other paddling resources. The site catalogs more than 3,000 miles of trails across the state, from a loop around Isle Royale in northern Lake Superior to a Lake Erie trail that crosses the border into Ohio. Many trails move along or toward a lake shore, while others are fully inland.

For questions and more information about either the MI Paddle Stewards online course or the Michigan Water Trails website, contact MSU Extension educator Mary Bohling (bohling@msu.edu). Interested in regular updates on news about Michigan Water Trails? Register online to receive the Water Trails digest through MSU Extension.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 34 university-based programs.

The MI Paddle Stewards program was funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant program (www.michigan.gov/invasives). This article was prepared by Michigan Sea Grant under award NA180AR4170102 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce, or the Regents of the University of Michigan.