Kayakers, canoers and others who enjoy paddle sports now have an opportunity to help protect the waters they enjoy exploring. MI Paddle Stewards is a self-paced, online program to learn about identifying and preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species that can damage and destroy the state’s rivers, lakes and streams.

LANSING – In this era of social distancing, many people are discovering, or rediscovering, the pleasure of time on the water. 

According to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), paddle sports are a great way to explore the beauty of Michigan’s lakes and rivers, and now they also can be an opportunity to protect these precious resources.

With support from the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program, Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension have developed MI Paddle Stewards, a self-paced, online program for paddlers to learn how to identify, report and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. 

The course consists of six short sessions that include information on using the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network mobile app to identify and report invasive species from anywhere with a mobile phone, as well as tips on recognizing “watch list” species – those that pose the greatest threat to Michigan’s waters. 

Most importantly, according to the DNR, canoe, kayak and stand-up paddle board users will learn how to effectively clean their watercraft and gear to ensure invasive species don’t travel with them on their next adventure.  

Anyone interested can register for the program at under the Educational Programs tab. A $20 registration fee will earn participants a certificate, bucket hat, towel, waterproof phone case, dry bag and more upon course completion. Participants can take the course for free if they choose not to receive these items. All six sessions must be completed by Dec. 31.

For questions and more information about the MI Paddle Stewards online course, contact MSU Extension educator Mary Bohling at