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Flathead Lake researchers seek new ways to fight invasive species

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The Flathead Lake Biological Station is looking to new technology to detect invasive species. (MTN News photo) The Flathead Lake Biological Station is looking to new technology to detect invasive species. (MTN News photo)
Flathead Lake Biological Station research professor Gordon Luikart. (MTN News photo) Flathead Lake Biological Station research professor Gordon Luikart. (MTN News photo)
Researchers are working to keep Flathead Lake safe from invasive species. (MTN News photo) Researchers are working to keep Flathead Lake safe from invasive species. (MTN News photo)
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New test results reveal north-central Montana's Tiber Reservoir remains the only water body in the state that multiple tests reveal the presence of mussel larvae.

But specialists say the threat is still there for other waters to be impacted, and the fight is far from over. Reporter Nicole Miller spoke to researchers at the Flathead Lake Biological Station to find out what's next in protecting Montana waterways. 

Test results from 182 water bodies in Montana have revealed Tiber Reservoir remains the only water body in which multiple sample results showed mussel larvae, but research professor Gordon Luikart at the Flathead Lake Biological Station says that doesn't mean the state is out of the clear.

"If tests come back and they don't detect anything, it's possible something might still be out there, just like cancer you might not detect it even though you have it," Luikart said.

He further explained that's why multiple repeated testing is necessary, "any sampling locations should be sampled and multiple time periods we should do the sampling."

He says different bodies of water may require more sensitive tests.

"We've recently learned it's likely mussel DNA might be closer to the bottom and different tests might perform better on samples near the bottom of the lake which will have more plant material and sentiment in them," Luikart said.

Luikart is eying a long-term sensitive monitoring program and says that with improved technology they can test a large number of samples rapidly, "quite immediate, same day. Perhaps hours."

But he says more funding is needed for the work, "we're working hard and doing a good job on applying new technologies and new tests but it does take time and the main thing, funding has been lacking for technology development and application."

Further testing will continue to determine whether the mussels are present and we'll continue to keep you updated.

The Flathead Biological Station is hosting an expert panel on Jan. 3 for those interested in learning more. Luikart will be a panelist at the meeting that will be held at the Flathead Lake Brewing Company, beginning at 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes declared a state of emergency over the threat of mussels infesting Flathead Lake on Tuesday, and other waters on the Reservation. 

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