Funding for surveillance exercises is critical to detecting new populations of AIS.

Early detection and response programs are intended to detect introductions of new non-native species early while populations are still localized. Early detection increases the likelihood that response efforts to contain, control, and ideally eradicate new populations will be effective. A comprehensive basin-wide approach is needed to coordinate and guide detection and response efforts.

Funding for these programs is critical to ensure that if a new species is detected somewhere in the Great Lakes Basin, a response plan can immediately be implemented to remove the species before an established population can form. A comprehensive early detection and response program includes planning exercises to ensure that state and provincial agency staff are prepared in case of a new species detection, regular monitoring activities designed to target places where new species are most likely to be introduced, and a variety of detection methods and tools that are able to effectively detect species that may be present in low abundance and therefore more difficult to capture through traditional sampling methods.


Annual Funding Level

Funding for detection and response work has increased in recent years, primarily due to a significant increase in the amount of funding dedicated to surveillance and response for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This U.S. federal agency conducts work across the Great Lakes region and coordinates directly with states to ensure that the Great Lakes are effectively and efficiently monitored for new AIS introductions.


Total Funding Level108786801323377710000011282185450000

Surveillance methods and strategies vary depending on the type of target organism (e.g., a plant versus a fish). Thus, investments in different gears and approaches are important for a successful AIS surveillance program.


Total Funding Level
Federal government21181102
State government5374843
Local government2132680
Tribal government671952
Regional government0
Other non-governmental organization655518
Private industry0

The majority of GLRI funding for surveillance and response is awarded to different federal agencies that have the staffing resources and jurisdiction to conduct monitoring in the Great Lakes. Tribal, state, and local governments also conduct monitoring within their jurisdiction, contributing to the total surveillance effort within the Great Lakes region. Non-profit organizations and academic institutions typically coordinate their efforts with the appropriate government agencies in order to avoid duplication of effort and maximize the full impact of regional surveillance and response.

Funding sources for AIS work are varied and include grant programs administered by non-profit organizations, private sector funding initiatives, and base agency budgets set annually through state, provincial, and federal legislatures. Federal funding in the U.S. includes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which was established and funded in 2010 to address the major threats to Great Lakes ecosystems and drinking waters, including AIS. For more information about GLRI and funding, visit

GLRI data presented here is derived from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (U.S. EPA)Environmental Accomplishments in the Great Lakes (EAGL) database of federally-dispersed GLRI funds (i.e., FY2010-2015 funding dispersed directly to recipients for project implementation), including associated data metrics and project descriptions. A set of search terms and functions relevant to AIS research and management was used to identify AIS projects within the EAGL database. The information presented here does not include funding data for invasive carp projects. For complete information about Asian Carp Action Plan funding and projects, visit

The information presented here builds on a database of AIS funding originally developed by the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species.

Investing in Successful Detection and Response

Investing in Successful Detection and Response



Meeting participants

© Erika Jensen/Great Lakes Commission

Federal, state, and provincial staff must be prepared to detect and respond to any introductions of AIS. Funding for projects that ensure agency staff have planned to monitor high-risk sites and are trained to respond quickly and effectively to a new detection of AIS provides a strong foundation for early detection:

  • Since 2014 all eight Great Lakes states, with U.S. federal agencies and in consultation with Canadian provincial and federal agencies, have worked to organize monitoring activities for new introductions of AIS. These efforts resulted in a site-prioritization map to identify the highest-risk sites, allowing agencies to coordinate where they conduct sampling activities
  • Since 2013, the state of Indiana has conducted regular trainings for its staff on Incident Command Structure, a regionally-adopted approach to response activities that sets out roles, responsibilities, and activities for agency staff should a new AIS be detected, allowing staff to immediately address new detections without confusion about expectations



Aquatic plant sampling using a rake toss

© Andrew Tucker/The Nature Conservancy

Routine, consistent monitoring is the key component of an early detection and response program. Newly introduced AIS cannot be effectively detected if crews are not monitoring waterbodies for their presence. Funding supports a number of long-term monitoring programs, including:

  • Early detection monitoring for zebra and quagga mussels on the Apostle Islands and in Lake Superior has been ongoing since 2017, and while no adult mussels have yet been found, mussel larvae have been detected, informing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about where monitoring is critical to prevent invasive mussels from establishing in western Lake Superior
  • Since 2013, the state of Michigan has implemented an aquatic plant monitoring program focused on high-risk priority species. In this program, Michigan has responded to over 35 detections of watchlist aquatic plants throughout the state. Of those responses, three sites are considered totally eradicated after there was no regrowth of invasive plants for 3 consecutive years

Sampling Methods

Sampling Methods

Sampling crew pulling in a seine net with a fish

© Lindsay Chadderton/The Nature Conservancy

Using a variety of methods for capturing fish, plants, and invertebrates improves the likelihood that sampling crews will detect any new introductions that are likely to be in low abundance and improves efficiency by requiring less effort to capture the same number of species. Funding continues to support further optimization of these methods:

  • A 2015 evaluation of sampling techniques in Lake Superior led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement a revised sampling approach that nearly doubled effectiveness at detecting AIS
  • Handheld monitoring kits, developed through a GLRI-funded project, that can be used to detect the presence of environmental DNA allows sampling crews to quickly assess whether a specific AIS of concern has possibly been in a waterbody recently, informing crews about where extra sampling effort may be needed

Response Actions

Response Actions

Response crew mixing molluscicide

© Erika Jensen/Great Lakes Commission

Quickly responding to new AIS detections allows agencies to treat and remove AIS from a waterbody before they are able to establish and spread. Accessible funding for these activities is critical as they are frequently unplanned and time-sensitive, meaning that states and provinces may need to quickly secure funding for activities that were not budgeted for:

  • In FY 2017, GLRI funded a multi-agency response to a Michigan detection of hydrilla, a highly invasive plant that can cause severe ecological and economic impacts
  • Since 2012, the state of New York has also funded a number of response activities for hydrilla, highlighting the value of detecting new introductions early and responding rapidly to prevent further spread