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Battling invasive Asian carp focus of new, unusual Michigan contest
Michigan Correspondent
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan is getting ready to launch a crowd-sourcing effort to help the state deal with the threat of Asian carp to the Great Lakes through an innovative technique, and is backing up its plans with $1 million in appropriated funds.
In his State of the State address Jan. 17, Gov. Rick Snyder announced the beginnings of the effort, which will be ongoing. “Invasive carp (is) one of the greatest threats to our state. We need to do more. We’ve invested resources, but we need to catalyze all the Great Lakes states on doing more and our nation,” he said.
“One of the ways we are going to do this is, I’m excited about, we’re creating an international crowd-sourcing challenge to invite the brightest minds in our country to come together with innovative ideas about how to address this challenge. We are going to be launching this challenge early in the year.”
Snyder and the state legislature have appropriated $1 million to launch a global search for innovative thinkers who can provide the best solutions to this looming crisis, stated the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Silver and bighead carp are within 10 miles of the three electric barriers built to prevent invasive carp from entering Lake Michigan through the Chicago Area Waterways System.
A 2015 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study shows the potential for small fish to be trapped and carried by barges through the system and existing electric barriers. The fish can grow to over 100 pounds. They jump out of the water to threaten boaters, out-compete native species for food and can take over an entire river system.
“If that happens in Michigan, it will affect the core of who we are as Michiganders and what we love about our great state,” DNR said. At stake is a $7 billion fishing industry in the Great Lakes, as well as water recreation, a major attraction in Michigan’s tourism economy, which generates $38 billion in economic activity.
It would also affect the health of the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world. The DNR has provided a web page where anyone can sign up for this effort and state officials have hired a crowd-sourcing firm called InnoCentive to handle the project.
“We’ve already gotten 3,000 people on that response list, so we’re pretty excited about it,” said Joanne Foreman, DNR’s Invasive Species communications coordinator. “We’ve gotten a lot of response to this from China in particular. A lot of Chinese eat Asian carp. In China, Asian carp compete with other species. It’s not as big a problem there as it is here.”
Cash prizes will be awarded for one or more solutions submitted in the upcoming challenge. Ideas at any stage of development will be accepted, from concepts with sound rationale to projects already in development or testing phase. Anyone  with an innovative idea is encouraged to apply, except for agencies directly involved in the challenge.
Seven hundred thousand dollars is being earmarked as awards for the effort. According to Foreman, the official launch of the challenge will be in July. “People who can do this are not necessarily researchers,” she said. “It could be someone who’s working on something similar, but who can apply their work to this.”
Foreman added she’s concerned about talk of proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, since money for this program is being used for electric barriers and other efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. This makes the Michigan challenge that much more urgent.
Anyone wanting to learn more or put their name on the list for the challenge should go to