“Lake Dudes” videos use humor to stop invading giant salvinia

AUSTIN – Government agencies are often tasked with informing people about pressing issues. Yet information has a hard time competing for attention. People like entertainment. Enter the “Lake Dudes,” animated characters created to catch the attention of boaters, hoping to stop the spread of an invasive water weed that threatens to take over Texas lakes.

“Hey bra, what’s shakin’ lakin’? – Whoa, what happened to you!? – Giant salvinia, dude.” So goes the dialogue in one of the five animated shorts. In the video called Fu Manchu, one of the two dudes, who represent lakes, grows a mustache of giant salvinia that spreads all over him, to the horror of his friend.

The Lake Dudes are one small, yet creative part of a much broader, statewide effort, made possible through a record funding increase in state dollars to fight aquatic invaders in lakes and along rivers. In 2015, the Texas Legislative appropriated $6.3 million to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the 2016-2017 biennium to manage aquatic invasive species, an increase from $1.1 million in the previous two-year funding cycle.

Most of the funding is going for management actions to control the various problem species, but thanks to the increase, this marks the first time since 2011 that TPWD has been able to fund a giant salvinia awareness campaign, which also uses contributions from the Sabine River Authority and Brazos River Authority. The campaign reminds boaters to “Clean, Drain and Dry” their boats, trailers, and gear before traveling from one lake or river to another, since boats are the main way aquatic invasive species are spread. It includes online and radio ads, billboards, gas station advertising, emails, social media and the Lake Dudes animations.

Giant salvinia, a non-native plant first found in Texas in 1997, is a free-floating fern that can double in size in just a few days and can form mats on the water up to 3 feet thick. It can take over an entire cove at a lake in a matter of weeks, choking out all aquatic life below its thick mats and making…

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