Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

Find a volunteering opportunity in your area:

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What do DNR Volunteers do?

Click on the video above to find out!

Download the 2017 DNR Volunteer Annual Report for a listing of all the different kinds of projects volunteers do throughout the state.

Since creating a department-wide DNR Volunteer Program in 1988, citizens have engaged in more than 11.3 million hours of volunteer service focused on managing our state's natural resources.

Metro area and Central MN
Northwestern MN
Northeastern MN
Southern MN






coneflowers in a field

The Trailhead – State Parks and Trails Outreach

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Want to use your knowledge and passion for outdoor recreation to help others find opportunities outdoors?

The Minnesota DNR Division of Parks and Trails is partnering with the Loppet Foundation at The Trailhead, a new and exciting outdoor recreation facility located in Theodore Wirth Regional Park, 1221 Theodore Wirth Parkway, Golden Valley MN, 55422.

The MN DNR Division of Parks and Trails has a kiosk in the new building to provide resources on outdoor recreation opportunities and is looking for volunteers to staff it. Be a part of a new partnership that will continue to encourage getting outside and enjoying Minnesota’s public lands!

As an outreach volunteer, you will be:

  • Trained on topics such as Minnesota State Parks and Trails information, the DNR website and other public lands resources, and other FAQ you might receive from customers
  • Oriented on the logistics of staffing the kiosk
  • Helping customers research and plan outdoor-related trips with knowledge of MN State Parks and Trails
  • Using available technology, maps, and trip guides to answer questions and plan trips
  • Providing insight on recreation opportunities

Qualifications Desired:

  • Experience with outdoor recreation in Minnesota
  • Experience with and/or interest in state parks and trails is preferred
  • Familiar with tablets or iPads (sufficient to help customers navigate to different websites)
  • Familiar with the state parks and trails reservation system website
  • Willing to positively represent the DNR’s goals and mission

coneflowers in a fieldTime Commitment:

  • Weekday evenings and weekend shifts available:
    • Tuesdays 4 – 7 PM
    • Thursdays 4-7 PM
    • Saturdays 10 AM – 2 PM
  • This is an ongoing opportunity and signing up for shifts on a regular monthly basis is required (schedule flexible)

Trailhead volunteering photo.jpg


To Sign Up:

  • Go to the DNR Parks and Trails Outreach volunteer page on the DNR’s volunteer website
  • Follow the link to The Trailhead activity
  • Fill out an application (you will be prompted to create an account first if you do not have one)
  • Starting dates will be determined after passing a background check

For more information on becoming part of the Trailhead Team, please contact Aimee Gerhartz, Urban Outreach Specialist, at [email protected]  or call Kelsey Wotzka, Urban Outreach Coordinator, at 651-402-0665.



jack-o-lanterns lined up

4th Annual Jack-o-Lantern Walk – October 26

(Central MN)

Take part in helping prepare for the Halloween tradition of the Sibley State Park 4th Annual Jack-o-Lantern Walk! Up to 10 volunteers are needed for this event. Grab your friends and enjoy the fall weather while getting in the Halloween spirit!

Volunteer October 24 – 25 (at least 2 hours) to:

  • Gather pumpkins from a pumpkin field located in Atwater - pick up and load into a park truck to transport back to the park
  • Carve pumpkins

On Friday, October 26, the day of the Jack-o-Lantern Walk (at least 2 hours between 12 – 6 PM):

  • Pick up pumpkins from bed of park truck
  • Walk along the trail placing pumpkins along the way
  • Light candles in the carved pumpkins

On Saturday, October 27 or Sunday, October 28 (at least 2 hours between 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM):

  • Pick up pumpkins along the trail to remove them (using wagons and carts on your own or with park staff)

Qualifications Desired:

  • Must be physically able to pick up a maximum 10 pound pumpkin
  • Have the ability to carve a pumpkin with a knife safely
  • Be able to operate a lighter and the ability to bend up and down often to light them

For more information contact Kelsey Olson, Naturalist, Sibley State Park, 800 Sibley Park Rd. New London, MN 56273 at 320-354-2002 or email either [email protected] or [email protected]


play clean go logo

PlayCleanGo Event - November 16-18

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Support the outreach and education campaign "PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species In Your Tracks" by staffing the booth at the Outdoor Adventure Expo at Midwest Mountaineering, 309 Cedar Ave. South, Minneapolis, November 16-18, 2018.

Help educate recreationists about invasive species and the simple steps they can take to avoid accidently spreading terrestrial invasive species. The term "invasive" is reserved for the most aggressive nonnative species capable of harming the environment, economy or human health where they establish.

Volunteer Duties at the Outdoor Adventure Expo:

  • Arrive for your assigned shift on time. Shifts are 3-4 hours.
  • Help set up the booth if you come on Friday.
  • Restock any of the materials that have run low (supplies will be under the table).
  • Talk to show visitors about the importance of stopping the spread of invasive species and action steps folks can take to help protect our natural resources.
  • Pass out boot brushes and handouts as needed.
  • Help take down the booth if there at the end of the day on Sunday.

Qualifications Desired:

  • Friendly, open and outgoing attitude
  • A basic understanding of invasive species prevention and management
  • Be familiar with the top 10 least wanted invasive plants in Minnesota including:
    • Buckthorn
    • Canada thistle
    • Spotted knapweed
    • Garlic mustard
    • Knotweed
    • Japanese barberry
    • Common tansy
    • Purple loosestrife
    • Oriental bittersweet
    • Wild parsnip
  • Past show experience is helpful, but not required

Volunteers will receive a free tee-shirt, ball cap and tote bag for helping!

To Sign Up:

Go to the PlayCleanGo Event application
Complete an application and select your day(s) and shift(s)

Contact Susan Burks, Forestry Invasive Species Program Coordinator, St Paul, MN at 651-259-5251 or email [email protected] for more information



Bison Ambassadors – Minneopa State Park, Mankato

(Southern MN)

It’s thrilling to watch bison up close!

Visitors entering the bison range at Minneopa State Park near Mankato are anxious and excited for an opportunity to see and photograph wildlife.  Yet, many visitors may not know where or how to watch bison safely and courteously.  Park staff cannot always be present to provide directions and answer basic questions about bison and bison viewing.  For this reason Bison Ambassadors help establish a link between visitors and park staff.

Be a Bison Ambassador for 2 hours on weekends or holidays!

Responsibilities of Bison Ambassadors:
Authorized work:

  • Become familiar with basic bison safe viewing information and communicate this to visitors.
  • Help the public view bison at Minneopa State Park by answering visitor questions about viewing etiquette and locations bison where may be seen.
  • Answer questions and explain bison drive rules in a cheerful and helpful manner.
  • Act professionally in your official role as a Bison Ambassador.
  • Refer all questions related to DNR policies and procedures to your supervisor or the DNR Information Line.
  • Make at least one entry into the Ambassador Log Book for your shift. Entries could include frequently asked questions, notes on where the bison were, interesting nature observations, visitor behaviors of note, or anything you feel would be of value to share.
  • Occasionally assist with the naturalist program by posting and distributing schedules, publicizing programs or helping with programs.

Restricted work:

  • You must never come within 25 yards (75 feet or 1/4 of a football field) of bison. Do not come within 75 feet of a cow and calf.
  • Never drive a vehicle around or through a herd of bison.
  • Avoid expressing personal opinions while on duty and representing the park as a Bison Ambassador.

Qualifications needed:

  • Be familiar with Minneopa State Park rules and safe bison viewing.
  • Be familiar with basic bison facts (How much you learn about bison natural history is up to you.)
  • Ability to work independently

Safety training topics to be covered with volunteers:

  • Rules of safe bison viewing
  • Ticks
  • Heat and Cold Related Illness

Minimum Time Commitment:

  • Weekends and holiday dates open to volunteer through October
  • Shifts are 2 hours long. 10:00 AM – 12 Noon or 12:00 – 2:00 PM.
  • We prefer you not volunteer for both shifts on a day to avoid fatigue.


To sign up go to the Bison Ambassador Application to sign up as a DNR volunteer and then view available shifts.

For more information:
Contact Scott Kudelka, Area Naturalist, Minneopa State Park, 54497 Gadwall Rd, Mankato, MN at 507-386-3910 or email [email protected]


sign designating a WMA

Prairie Restoration on WMA’s in Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Swift Counties

(Central MN)

Returning land on wildlife management areas (WMAs) to its original state of prairie is a goal of the DNR. Many populations of wildlife depend on prairie species for food and shelter. Help us increase species richness within restored prairie areas at various WMAs in and around the Lac qui Parle WMA located between Appleton and Montevideo in Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Swift counties.

Learn how to:

  • Identify plant species that are ready to be harvested
  • Read maps or air photos of the harvest site
  • Work independently to hand pick seed
  • Properly dry seed
  • Store harvested seed as needed

Volunteers must be able to:

  • Identify different native prairie plant species after flowering (training provided)
  • Work outside in a variety of weather conditions
  • Physically walk over varied terrain and deal with biting insects
  • Hand harvest prairie seed

Time Commitment:

  • 1 – 5 volunteers are needed for at least half a day (groups are preferred)
  • Any day of the week including weekends and evenings
  • Seed collection will continue until the end of October

For more information contact Walt Gessler, Wildlife Area Manager, Lac qui Parle WMA, 14047 20th Street NW, Watson, MN 56295 at 320-734-4451 ext. 227 or email [email protected]


adventure station kiosk

REI Adventure Station – Trip Planning

(Metro Area and Central MN)

The Minnesota DNR wants your knowledge and passion for outdoor recreation! Interested in sharing your love for Minnesota’s State Parks and Trails with others?

The Minnesota DNR Division of Parks and Trails is looking for volunteers to staff the new Adventure Station located at the REI Bloomington Flagship store. The Adventure Station was created in an effort to provide awareness of recreational opportunities and to connect people with outdoor experiences on Minnesota’s public lands.

As an Adventure Station Volunteer, you will be:

  • Trained on topics such as Minnesota State Parks and Trails information, the DNR website and other public lands resources, and other FAQ you might receive from customers
  • Oriented on the logistics of staffing the Adventure Station
  • Helping customers research and plan outdoor-related trips with knowledge of MN State Parks and Trails
  • Using available technology, maps, and trip guides to answer questions and plan trips
  • Providing insight on recreation opportunities
fall scene in frontenac state park

Qualifications Desired:

  • Experience with outdoor recreation in Minnesota
  • Experience with and/or interest in state parks and trails is preferred
  • Familiar with tablets or iPads (sufficient to help customers navigate to different websites)
  • Familiar with the state parks and trails reservation system website
  • Willing to positively represent the DNR’s goals and mission

Time Commitment:

  • This is an ongoing opportunity and signing up for shifts on a regular monthly basis is required (schedule flexible)

Shifts available:

  • Tuesday – Thursday
    • 11 AM – 3 PM
    • 3 PM  – 7 PM
  • Friday
    • 11 AM – 3 PM
  • Saturday and Sunday
    • 10 AM – 2 PM
    •  2 PM – 6 PM

To Sign Up:

For more information on becoming part of the Adventure Station Team, please contact Aimee Gerhartz, Urban Outreach Specialist, at [email protected] or call Kelsey Wotzka, Urban Outreach Coordinator, at 651-402-0665.


black bear

Report a Bear Sighting

(NW, Central and Southern MN)

Minnesota’s black bear range has been slowly expanding southward and westward. To better understand and document this expansion, we need your help.

Go to the Bear Sighting webpage to see the map and report any bear sightings outside of the primary bear range. We are depending on Citizen Scientists like you to help with this research.

The DNR will turn off the public viewing portion of the map for the duration of bear baiting and the hunting season (Aug. 17 to Oct. 14). Sighting submissions during hunting season still are encouraged using the form provided. These records will be stored, but will not display publicly after being entered. Locations of sightings will be turned back on after hunting season.

Your name and contact information will not be made public. The DNR will not respond to nuisance complaints submitted through this form. Please call your local Wildlife Manager or Conservation Officer if you require assistance with a nuisance bear.



Interpretive Center Greeter at Sibley State Park

(Southern MN)

Do you find yourself happy to be at state park and can’t stop smiling? Then the Interpretive Center Greeter is the volunteer position for you!

The center gives visitors the opportunity to learn about Sibley State Parks resources through interactive displays as well as observe wildlife in the back pond. Greeters would be the smiling face visitors see when entering the center and would be available to help check out equipment and answer questions. Shifts can range from 2 – 6 hours.

Our goal is to have the building open 7 days a week with the focus on longer open hours Friday-Sunday. Volunteers will greet visitors and answer basic park questions. Training will be provided. Naturalists will be in charge of opening, closing and cleaning the center.

For more information on how you can be a host, contact Kelsey Olson, Lead Naturalist, Sibley State Park, 800 Sibley Park Rd NE, New London, MN 56273 at 320-354-2002 or email [email protected]


  • From St. Cloud, take State Hwy 23 to New London, then State Hwy 9 west to County Rd. 40. Then go west on County Rd. 40. Go one mile north on 71 to park entrance.
  • From Willmar, take US Hwy 71 north, 15 miles to the park entrance.


woman gathering prairie seeds

Improve Habitat for Wildlife on a WMA

(Metro Area and Central MN)

The State of Minnesota has over 1,000 public wildlife areas designated for wildlife watching opportunities of birds, waterfowl and mammals, as well as offering public hunting of small and big game animals. These Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) need help in maintaining and enhancing the land so wildlife can thrive.

Individuals or groups interested in volunteering to help wildlife can do a one-time event or come back several times.

As part of a typical volunteer workday on a MN Wildlife Management Area (WMA) you could:

  • Collect prairie seeds
  • Monitor and control terrestrial invasive species (i.e. Buckthorn)
  • Help with trail projects and trash pickup
  • Assist with boundary and sign maintenance
  • Clear vegetation from shallow lake and wetland water controls
  • Monitor shallow lakes and wetland water levels
  • Collect and/or seed wild rice

To volunteer on a Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in Stearns, Wright or Sherburne County, contact MN DNR Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Nicholas Snavely based out of Sauk Rapids at 320-223-7872 or email [email protected] for scheduling specific days to volunteer.



Make Geological History!

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

The DNR Lands & Minerals office in Hibbing is home to several large collections of documents relating to past mining and geological exploration in our state.

If you enjoy organizing, proofing, transcribing, (and sometimes sleuthing!) and appreciate geology, peatlands, and/or Minnesota history – this volunteer position is for YOU!

Work closely with geologists, engineers, and reclamation specialists to help:

  • scan historical documents
  • organize collections holdings
  • proof PDF documents of previously scanned work
  • transcribe geological and geochemical data

We are in the midst of tidying up some of our historical collections and online data in order to make room for our expanding collections. These documents allow everyone understand Minnesota geology, mining, and exploration history – all of which is important academically, environmentally, and economically. We need your help to expedite this enormous task!

As a geological history volunteer:

  • You will volunteer for a minimum of 2-3 hours per week, anytime between 8 am - 4 pm, Monday-Friday, at the DNR Lands and Minerals Office, 1525 3rd Avenue East, Hibbing, MN 55746. Please note that Hibbing is located approximately 3 hours' drive north of the Twin Cities. Experience with Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Excel, or Word is desired, but not required. Training will be provided.
  • If you do not live in the Hibbing area, you may volunteer remotely! The current remote volunteer project is to transcribe core log and assay data. To volunteer remotely, you will need a stable internet connection, an email account you check regularly, Adobe Reader (or equivalent), and Microsoft Excel (or equivalent) is required for any volunteers wishing to work remotely. Training will be provided.

For more information, contact Andrea Reed, Mineral Resource Geologist, NE Region, Hibbing, at 218-231-8460 or email [email protected]


deer in woods

Adopt-a-WMA Program

(Metro Area and Central MN, NE, NW and Southern MN)

The Adopt-A-WMA Program was established to encourage sporting, outdoor, business, and civic groups or individuals to assist, on a volunteer basis, in improving and maintaining Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). This program encourages Minnesota volunteers to "adopt" a specific site, parking lot, or project on a WMA area to help maintain these public lands in cooperation with Assistant Area Wildlife Managers and Area Wildlife Managers.


Projects for the Adopt-A-WMA Program are typically focused on a minimum 2 year time commitment. Volunteers must be able to work outdoors in various weather conditions safely without direct supervision except for initial guidance and orientation as needed. Hours are flexible typically Monday through Friday with weekends possible depending on the project.

Projects for Individuals, Groups, Organizations or Companies

The work level of project/site depends on the interest and skill level of the volunteer(s):

Level 1: (volunteer work without supervision)
Trash pickup, sign replacement, vandalism reporting, reading water gauges, painting facilities, etc.

Level 2: (volunteer work with initial guidance/orientation) 
Seed harvest, weed removal/vegetation management using hand tools, shallow lake and wetland water control vegetation clearing, wildlife surveys, facility work, fence removal, invasive species control, maintaining forest openings, etc.

Level 3: (volunteer work requiring certifications/licenses, training or close supervision)
Equipment, power tools, chainsaw work, other specialized skilled work, mowing noxious weeds, mow prescribed fire breaks, mow hunter walking trails, prescribed burning, etc.

  • Organizations or companies interested in improving wildlife habitat on a WMA may do so at Level 3 by providing contract services at no cost. This would include access/road maintenance, tractor and equipment operation, farming activities, mowing, power tool use, chainsaw work, prescribed burning, and herbicide application. *Liability and Worker’s Compensation is covered by the organization, rather than DNR, in these cases.

To find the closest WMA to you, refer to the MN DNR’s Recreation Compass and maps of Assistant Area Wildlife Managers and Area Wildlife Managers. Contact them to find out how you can adopt a WMA!


bikers on trail

Volunteer as a State Trail Monitor

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Help keep Minnesota’s State Trails beautiful by volunteering as a State Trail Monitor!  Not only will you be able to spend time outside on the scenic state trails, but you will also be making a difference!

Learn more about volunteering with Minnesota’s State Trails.


campground hosts

Campground Host at a MN State Park or Forest

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

If you enjoy the great outdoors, scenic vistas, and the company of other campers, then consider volunteering to be a "live in" host for at least 4 weeks (one month) during the period of April to October at a Minnesota State Park operated campground.

A host’s primary responsibility is to assist campers by:

  • answering questions
  • explaining campground
  • doing light maintenance work around the campground
  • picking up litter
  • sweeping and stocking supplies in toilet buildings
  • performing emergency minor repairs when possible

Hosts may be requested to assist in the naturalist program by posting and distributing schedules, publicizing programs or helping with programs. Volunteers will set an example by being model campers, practicing good housekeeping at all times in and around the host site, and by observing all rules.

Campground Host volunteers generally work independently. Volunteers are accountable to the park manager who will provide training and orientation for hosts and assist hosts throughout the season with any question or problems that may arise. Length of period, workdays and hours are established with the campground manager, but will generally include all weekends and holidays.  Avid campers or RV’ers are encouraged to apply!

Read more about the Campground Host Program.  Check out the list of parks and forests that still have openings for 2018.   Email your questions to [email protected]  or call 888- MINNDNR (888-646-6367) or in the Metro area call 651-259-5607.

NOTE:  Campground Hosts will be selected from applications that have been satisfactorily completed and submitted in a timely manner.  Interviews will be conducted by the campground manager.  The number of consecutive years that a host may serve may be limited to allow others an opportunity. These limitations are at the discretion of the campground manager. All DNR volunteers must undergo a background check.  This is done at the time of selection.  This also applies to hosts returning from the previous season.


making cookies

Make 100 Tree Cookies

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Help classroom teachers across Minnesota teach children how trees and other woody plants grow, factors that affect tree growth, tree identification, and more You can volunteer to create "tree cookies" which are slices of branches or trunks that show the rings of a tree 100 cookies are enough for about three classes of students, so the more you can make, the better They will be used!

How to Make Tree Cookies:

  • Slice the branches or trunk into half-inch thick, wafer-shaped "cookies" that are between three to six inches in diameter.
  • "Interesting" cookies with easily readable rings are preferred (these show a history of disease, disturbance, or other story.)
  • Dry the cookies correctly Do not skip this step or your cookies will rot See detailed instructions.
  • Sand the surfaces until the rings appear.
  • Finish the surfaces with clear varnish.
  • Optional – Label the cookie with the tree species and location cut.
  • Don't use wood from ash trees.

Detailed instructions found in How to Make Tree Cookies

This project can be done individually or with a group (scouts, 4-H, FFA, Kiwanis, etc.) You must provide your own tree or woody plant material, saws, sander, oven, varnish, and labor.

When finished contact Laura Duffey, Project Learning Tree Coordinator, at 651-259-5263 or email [email protected] to arrange for delivery to a school site and to get Minnesota DNR recognition.

Project Learning Tree (PLT) program is a natural resources education program for teachers across Minnesota. Teachers often don't have the time or capability to make these cookies so your help is greatly appreciated.


removing brush

Get Physical on a State Natural Area

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

As part of a typical volunteer workday on a MN Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) you will:  

  • collect prairie and woodland seeds
  • plant seedlings
  • pull buckthorn or other invasive species of plants
  • cut and burn brush such as sumac

Projects are typically carried out on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, unless otherwise noted, on many weekends throughout the year.

SNAs are the premier state lands displaying examples of native prairies, old growth forests, geological features and habitat for rare and endangered species. 

Take a look at volunteering on SNAs, and check out the calendar of events to see when you can come lend a hand!


minnesota master naturalist logo

Be a Master Naturalist

If you enjoy learning about nature, hiking, bird watching, or identifying wildflowers, you'll love being a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer!

Take trainings and learn about Minnesota's biomes (plant and animal communities) including:

  • hardwoods and rivers
  • north woods and Great Lakes
  • prairies

To learn more visit www.MinnesotaMasterNaturalist.org.

The Minnesota Master Naturalist Program is a joint effort of the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.


steve ward

Lake Level Minnesota volunteering... doing your level best!

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Whether it is floods, droughts, or just a normal year, lake level fluctuations (or the lack of them) are important to document. Be a volunteer observer and record lake levels on a regular basis.

Find out more about the Lake Level Minnesota program and Check lake levels with the LakeFinder


firearms safety class

Volunteer Safety Instructors

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

DNR Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor opportunities are available in the following areas:

  • Firearms safety
  • Bowhunter education
  • Snowmobile safety
  • ATV safety
  • Wildlife species

Pass on a love for your sport by teaching youth and adults the ethics and safety you would expect from those you meet in the field.

All new instructor applicants and instructors seeking recertification must meet the requirements of being at least 18 years old and passing a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) background check.

If you are interested in becoming a DNR Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor, the process begins online:  Get started now! And check out upcoming safety instructor courses.  There is no fee to attend.



Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central MN)

If you live on a lake or regularly visit a lake, and you have an interest in loons, you can be a volunteer "loon watcher" in the Minnesota Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey.  

As a Loon Watcher you will record:

  • the number of loons you see
  • nesting success observed in eggs and young birds
  • interesting occurrences and
  • problems that may harm the loons.

For more information about the Minnesota Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey contact Kevin Woizeschke, Nongame Wildlife Biologist, Brainerd, at [email protected] or 218-833-8729.


zebra mussels

Zebra Mussel Monitoring Program

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central MN)

Zebra mussels are spreading to lakes and rivers in the Midwest.

These small invasive mussels attach to hard surfaces in lakes and rivers doing major damage such as:

  • killing native mussels
  • limiting recreational activities
  • clogging water supply pipes
  • competing with larval fish for food

Spend a few minutes checking the docks,  swimming platforms, boats, motors, anchors, and any hard objects that have been in the lake or river where you live.  Early detection for zebra mussels is important in protecting your property and Minnesota's water resources.

Learn more on how you can monitor for zebra mussels .