If you come across an invasive species, do you know what to do next? Reporting invasive species sightings is critical because it may be the first time the species has been observed in Michigan waterways. A new flowchart created by Michigan Sea Grant in collaboration with partners details each step to take after finding an invasive species, and a second chart describes how to report and manage aquatic invasive plants.

Early detection important

When new invasive species are discovered quickly, natural resource managers stand a better chance at responding, maybe even eradicating the species. If a species has already been present for years, eradication may not be possible, but reports are still useful to gauge the spread of an invasive species.

The first flowchart focuses on invasive species reporting. Make sure to include a photo and an item for scale, so that others can verify your identification. The flowchart includes a ruler to use if needed.

You found an invasive species, now what?

Reporting invasive species sightings is critical because it may be the first time the species has been observed in Michigan waterways.


The second flowchart focuses specifically on aquatic invasive plants and what might happen after they are reported. Remember that this is only a guide, and each individual situation will vary. Another Extension article offers additional suggestions on reporting about suspicious fish and aquatic plant sightings. When users report via the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) app or webpage, the system automatically sends high priority species reports to state of Michigan natural resource managers who will verify the identification and respond as necessary.

MI Paddle Stewards management and follow up action guide

This management and action follow up guide provides steps to do after reporting an aquatic invasive plant.


For example, hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) is a watch list species found for the first time in Michigan waters in 2023. Because it was immediately reported, management actions began the same year. The management included chemical treatment of the hydrilla plants, as well as surveys downstream of the discovery location. These management actions will continue in 2024 and in future years as necessary. The state of Michigan has grant funding available for the management of watch list aquatic plants and collaborates with local partners when responding to watch list plant discoveries.

Not all reports made via MISIN will result in a response, especially if the species is not on Michigan’s watch list. The data reported is still useful for looking at trends and occurrences of invasive plants throughout the state. Knowing where invasive plants occur is the first step in deciding how it can be managed effectively. Also, if it’s an area you visit often, you may be the first one to notice that a new plant has arrived!

In Michigan’s lower peninsula, invasive common reed (Phragmites australis) is a widespread species. If you find it in a local park you may want to contact the park staff to share what you found. If the park staff is not aware of the species or its impacts, you can share that information with them.

Park staff may be aware of the species and implementing best management practices to manage it. Many invasive plants can only be effectively controlled through the application of herbicide at the appropriate time of year. Best management practices are based on scientific studies and explain what type of management practices (i.e. hand pulling, herbicide application) will be effective. Herbicide application requires a permit from the state of Michigan. Park staff may also be aware of the species but are concentrating their management efforts on areas with higher quality habitat. Higher quality habitat supports native plants and animals, and those areas are more resistant to future introductions of invasive species. These are just some of the considerations when dealing with invasive species, but identification is always a helpful first step.

Learn more online

Learn more about identifying and reporting aquatic invasive species, at the free MI Paddle Stewards course! The course includes detailed instructions for using apps for reporting as well as information about aquatic invasive species in Michigan and local organizations near you who work on managing them.

Whenever you finish your time outdoors, take a few minutes to clean your gear to prevent invasive species from hitching a ride to your next destination. By reporting invasive species and preventing their spread, everyone can help sustain the natural areas near them!

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.

This article was prepared by Michigan Sea Grant under award NA22OAR4170084 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce through the Regents of the University of Michigan. The statement, 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.