Missourians Making a Difference: Interview with Kara Tvedt 

January 15, 2024 | Missourians Making a Difference, News

Missourians Making a Difference: Kara Tvedt, Fisheries Biologist, Missouri Department of Conservation

Throughout Missouri, there are many individuals making significant progress in the early detection and control of invasive plants. MoIP is pleased to highlight their work! 

Kara Tvedt, Fisheries Biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation, (pictured above) took time out of her busy schedule to describe her work. Enjoy! 

—Carol Davit, MoIP Chair

What is your professional title? How long have you been with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and what are your primary responsibilities? 

My current title is fisheries biologist with a focus on community conservation. As of February 1, I will have worked for MDC for 33 years. 

What is your professional background? 

I went to college at Southwest Missouri State University and graduated in 1992, with a Bachelor’s degree in geography/natural resource management and a minor in biology. In 1990, while in college, I started working as an hourly employee for MDC in Sedalia. The position was in the Fisheries Division and was my first real exposure to this aspect of natural resources. In 1993, I started full-time as a fisheries specialist and then became a fisheries biologist in 2003, which continues to be my current role. However, the focus has changed over the years, and now I am leaning more into projects that can help communities enhance their aquatic resources, including battling aquatic invasive species.  

What are some of the invasive plant control projects you have led over the years?

Back in 2012, hydrilla was discovered in Greene County. With that being one of my counties of responsibility for private waters, I was tasked with working with the landowners to eradicate the species before it spread to more areas. Unfortunately, where it was detected was the headwaters of four major watersheds, which all drain to a major public reservoir, heightening the urgency for control. Since that project started, my colleagues and I have identified 37 different water bodies with hydrilla in southwestern Missouri. 

Like many other invasive plants, hydrilla is difficult to eradicate because it leaves what is basically a “seedbed” of tubers in the sediment of an impoundment. It takes several years of season-long control to deplete a tuber bed. After eleven years of intense work, 81% of affected sites now have non-detectable hydrilla biomass and tubers, and 16% of the sites have been hydrilla-free for five consecutive years without treatment. So, we are making progress. The remaining handful of sites are getting close to reaching an undetectable status.

Controlling aquatic invasive species is a priority among my fisheries colleagues, and I do not see this changing. Aquatic invasives impact everything from small livestock ponds to city lakes to large reservoirs and streams. And, the impacts are far more reaching than to the water body itself—invasive aquatic plants can clog intake structures for drinking water, restrict recreational use, reduce water quality, hamper fish growth, and can be a host to a cyanobacteria that produces a neurotoxin that can be deadly to waterfowl and raptors.

Please share one of your favorite invasive aquatic plant success stories.  

The hydrilla project has been a partnership approach with landowners; multiple local, state, and federal agencies; and nongovernmental organizations working together. No one agency can or could have tackled an invasive like hydrilla alone. It took multiple partners working together on outreach, detection, and treatment to raise awareness and stop its progress.

What are some invasive aquatic plants that are quickly spreading that private landowners and land managers should look for in ponds, rivers, and streams? 

Everyone should still keep a look out for hydrilla. The sooner it is detected, the easier it is to remove from a system. Other invasive aquatic plants to watch for are curlyleaf pondweed and Eurasian watermilfoil. Both are very aggressive and can restrict the use of a water body. Everyone should be familiar with the Clean Drain Dry public education campaign. Whether you have a canoe, a large boat, or just sampling gear, any time you take a watercraft or gear from one water body to another, it first needs to be cleaned, drained, and dried.

Also, MDC is in the process of revising an application that will make it easier for citizen scientists and partners to report locations of aquatic invasive species. More information should be available this summer.

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