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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging  

blackberry removal
Originally uploaded by EdCC HELP Club.

Volunteerism! Here the Edmonds Community College HELP Club in Washington attacks some invasive Himalayan blackberry. No worries - the volunteer in the front is wearing gloves! More photos here.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

These Boots Are Made For Algae  

Interesting story at stuff.co.nz about how footwear may be contributing the spread of the invasive freshwater alga known as didymo (Didymosphenia geminata, also known charmingly as "rock snot"). Apparently the felt-soled boots that have become popular among anglers are impossible to clean or disinfect in a way that assures they are algae-free. The cleaning products that anglers normally use cannot penetrate the felt properly, and the felt stays wet for a long time, allowing any embedded algae to survive.

While there is currently no legal regulation outlawing the use of felt-soled boots, freshwater anglers are being urged to switch to foam-soled ones that dry out faster and are easier to clean. As far as I can tell, the advantage of the felt soles is to prevent slipping, but IANAF so anyone who knows for sure should feel free to leave a comment.

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I and the Bird...and I  

The ISW has a post featured in the current "I and the Bird" carnival, hosted over at Natural Visions. While you're there checking it out, be sure to click over to the post from the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory blog about climate change and bird range expansions.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Olive You Too!  

The Chico Enterprise Record has an article, written by the Deputy Agricultural Commissioner of Butte County, California, about invasive olive trees - true olives (Olea spp.), not Russian or autumn olives (Elaeagnus spp.). The Deputy Ag Commissioner notes that abandoned olive groves in California have become vectors for crop pests, like the Olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae), and these pests are threatening active olive orchards. The fruits of the abandoned trees are also being dispersed by birds, and some trees have been found in wild areas.

A story featured on the ISW back in April of this year noted that the olive trees in Australia have gone feral as well.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

History Trumps Ecology, Again  

According to this report from the Palm Beach Daily News, the town of Gulf Stream, Florida is going to great lengths to maintain the historical look of a road lined with invasive trees. The Australian pines (Casuarina equisetifolia) were planted back in the 1920s as a salt-tolerant barrier to ocean spray and erosion. Unfortunately, the pines have a shallow root system, making them prone to uprooting in high winds, and not so great for erosion control after all.

Determined to keep the look of their road historically accurate, in 1996 the town had part of the road designated a "scenic vista." Now that the original plantings are dying off, the town's Landmark Preservation Commission, noting that "podocarpus is not a suitable replacement," is working to find a way around the state of Florida's ban on Australian pines. One possibility being considered: the grafting of "sterile" cultivars onto Australian pine bases.

I'm guessing the podocarpus reference is to the yew plum pine (Podocarpus macrophyllus), also a non-native species, but not considered invasive. Are any good native species to replace the pines? One potential alternative is sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera), though it may not be able to attain the proper tree stature...and of course it is completely historically inaccurate :-).

Interested readers will want to check out this ISW post about Australian pine removal in the Florida Keys, and this post about historic Paulownia trees in Philadelphia.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Shrimply The Worst  

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that a new non-native species of shrimp, Hemimysis anomala has been discovered in the Great Lakes. The shrimp, considered native to both the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, was found in great numbers this past November, near Muskegon port in Lake Michigan. Because that port does not see a lot of international traffic, it is thought that the shrimp were originally introduced elsewhere in the lake - biologists are expecting to find more populations closer to the point(s) of origin.

The article notes that two Canadian researchers predicted (.pdf) the arrival of this very species over eight years ago - it is the 183rd recorded in the Great Lakes, if you're keeping count :-).

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Jacked Sparrow  

The Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food is reporting that a man who spotted what he thought was an odd-looking bird ended up helping prevent the establishment of an invasive species in WA. The man reported the finding to his local DAF office, and when biosecurity officers went out to the site, they were surprised to discover a tree sparrow (Passer montanus). The bird, which was captured and removed, is thought to have arrived in WA on a ship at a nearby port. Tree sparrows (.pdf) are native to Eurasia, and while discoveries of individuals in Western Australia are not infrequent, the species has not yet established any feral populations there.

Thanks to Sandy L. for sending this story in to the ALIENS-L listserver.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cacto Blasters  

The San Antonio Express-News is reporting that concerned scientists have put out an alert asking Texas landowners to keep a lookout for the invasive cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum) whose arrival in Texas is apparently imminent. The moth, which originates from South America, is a threat to native prickly-pear cacti (Opuntia spp.), and in fact has been used as a biological control in other parts of the world where prickly-pear cacti are considered invasive. Cactus moths were discovered in the U.S. in the late 1980s, and have been spreading both from Florida westward and from Mexico northward. If you're in Texas and you think you've spotted the moths or the caterpillars of this species, you should contact Texas Cooperative Extension (I can't find a related webpage - more information can be found here (.pdf), or call Barron Rector at 979-845-2755).

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tangled Bank is Here!  

There's a new edition of the Tangled Bank up at salto sobrius, and it manages to be both Christmasy and Grinchy in one big happy bite :-). Check it out!

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Iggies Gone Wild!  

John T. from Birds Etcetera sent in a link to this story about the invasive iguanas in Boca Grande, Florida. While the ISW has certainly posted about this topic before, the article has a couple of interesting parts that make it worth a read. First is the idea of a using "sustainable harvest" to keep populations of green iguanas (Iguana iguana) and black spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura spp.) in check. Magnum Reptiles is one trapping company that has committed to taking in wayward iggies and selling them as exotic pets to people in other parts of the country.

The other thing in the article that caught my eye is much more sinister. Another trapping company, Iguana Busters, appeared this past October on the local Florida news to demonstrate how the iguanas they captured are euthanized by placing the reptiles in a freezer. When the interview was rebroadcast on the Today Show, Iguana Busters received more than 100 death threats from irate animal lovers (read more here). Luckily, at least one of the animal-rights activists was sensible enough to have a real conversation with Iguana Busters, and they are working out a way to do what Magnum Reptiles offered: send captured iguanas to people willing to adopt them. NBC2 News has the scoop on the controversy and also a great video, don't miss it.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Snatch and Crab  

Crabbers in Puget Sound are feeling crabby about the recent drop in the price of crab legs, and it looks like some introduced crustaceans are to blame. The Seattle Times is reporting that Seattle crabbers cannot compete with the price, numbers and sheer size of the king crabs (Paralithodes camtschaticus) coming out of Russia. These are the same king crabs, intentionally introduced to the Barents Sea, that have gotten attention from environmentalists as they spread and multiplied down the Norwegian coastline. I for one am willing to do my duty by helping eat them out of existence! ;-)

Negative bonus points to the person who suggested this post title is off-color. You all can just go snicker someplace else. Go on now. Git.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging  

Fool's Gold
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) in fruit in Montana.

Be sure to check out MontanaRaven's entire Russian Olive collection - some nice shots there.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Pale Male II And Other Stories  

There are pink flamingos in Texas - and I'm not talking about the plastic ones either. This report from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times notes that a pale pink flamingo showed up in January at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, disappeared for several months, and recently returned along with another out-of-place flamingo, a dark pink one from the Yucatan. Turns out the pale male is an escapee from the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas, home to three dozen African flamingos (more about that here). The article has got some interesting graphics, including photos of the cute pink pair and a map showing the path that brought them to the refuge.

Also in the news is this story from The Journal News about a black swan (Cygnus atratus) appearing at Peach Lake, New York. Black swans are native to Australia, and do not migrate, so this wanderer is assumed to be an escapee from someone's private exotic animal collection.

Interested readers will want to check out Floyd the Utah Flamingo, and also this ISW post about odd birds spotted in the UK.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Arrivals  

Some interesting emails have been coming in from the USGS NAS Alert System:

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Professor  

After much paperwork and the jumping through of bureaucratic hoops, approval has gone through for my Invasive Species course at UMass Boston for the Spring 2007 semester. This time around, I will be team-teaching it with Dr. Rick Kesseli, who will be contributing his vast knowledge of population genetics and evolution (from an invasive species perspective of course).

So if you are in the Boston area and you are a grad, advanced undergrad, or a non-degree student with a bio/eco background, check out BIOL 648: Invasive Species: Ecology, Evolution, and Management in the UMass Boston course catalog. Classes will be held Monday and Wednesday evenings, likely from 4:30pm-6pm. For a closer look at what the course will be like, check out the blog from my last class, BIOL 697.






Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Males - Who Needs 'Em?  

The title on this Adelaide Now article pretty much says it all: "Sister geckos doing it for themselves." Researchers studying the invasion of the Asian mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) in Australia discovered that all the populations there are female. The female geckos have been reproducing by parthenogenesis, where eggs develop into normal adult females without fertilization by a male. Apparently males do exist but they are rare, and none are known in Australia. With no need for a partner in order to reproduce, the lizards have been reproducing quite rapidly, and researchers are concerned that they are colonizing new areas where native (sexually reproducing) geckos are normally found.

Bonus points to the AAP for using the gecko's scientific name. In case you missed it last week, here's a link to the ISW's an invasive gecko photo gallery.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

One Lump Or Two?  

NPR has been playing some great invasive species-related coverage lately. This latest one comes from last Friday's All Things Considered, and tells the tale of the feral camels (Camelus dromedarius) that roam Australia. That's right: feral camels - 700,000 of them roaming the outback. What do you do when last century's transportation solution is this century's public nuisance? There's the usual hunting, and some eating of camel meat, but the best thing is definitely the camel races, where jockeys try in vain just to get their camels to run in the right direction. The audio here is really worth the listen. Interested folks might also want to check out this paper describing a study of the negative impacts of feral camels on the Australian desert.

Thanks to monopolist for thinking up the snazzy title :).

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging  

This past week in invasive species blogging:

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Win, Lose or Drawdown  

The Berkshire Eagle has a story about a city's efforts to control one lake's problem with Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum). Pittsfield, Massachusetts is so concerned about the invasive aquatic plants in Lake Onota, they are willing to install a pipeline at the bottom of the lake to drain it six feet, a process known as drawdown. Since the milfoil is found mostly along the shoreline, the hope is that exposing this area to the air will cause all the milfoil to freeze and subsequently die off before the spring brings warmer temperatures. Unfortunately, Pittsfield is taking a gamble: if it snows too much over the next few weeks, the snow will insulate the ground and prevent the freeze from occurring. So far this winter, Massachusetts has been without a major snowfall event...

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Carny Barking  

The ISW is featured in two recent blog carnivals: For the best in biology, check out a fresh new edition of the Tangled Bank hosted at Down to Earth. For some creepy-crawly goodness, stop by the latest Circus of the Spineless over at Words & Pictures.

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Dingoes Ate Their Babies?  

Interesting piece over at Cosmos Magazine (not to be confused with Cosmo!) titled "The Dingo Divide." It's about an effort underway by some researchers to encourage the use of the dingo (Canis lupus dingo) as a biological control for feral cats (Felis catus) and foxes (Vulpes vulpes) that roam Australia. These days, dingoes aren't very well-liked, and are often killed to keep them from attacking herds of sheep and cattle. But scientists say killing dingoes could be harming native biodiversity by reducing the numbers of one of the few predators remaining that can actually kill the foxes and cats. Complicating the situation is the fact that the dingoes themselves were also introduced to Australia, but being as that was about 4000 years ago, they seem to have seniority.

Is this a classic biological control case, or should the dingoes be considered a native and natural part of the Australian habitat? After you've chewed on that for a while, check out this great YouTube video of an invasive red fox grabbing (and then losing) a wallaby. It was both shot and sent in by Tom Rayner - Thanks Tom!

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fueling Around  

Sounds like APM's Marketplace will be doing a piece about a Florida company that wants to grow the invasive grass Arundo donax as a biofuel. I say "sounds like" because I can find no evidence of it on the Marketplace website - minus two points to them, and minus 50 points if the report refers to the plant as "e-grass!"

When the story goes up online I will update this post with a link to the audio. Until then, your homework is to read these two previous ISW posts about farming the giant reed, and the recent statement by the Florida Native Plant Society about Arundo donax (hint: they don't like it!).

Update: Marketplace has posted a transcript along with a link to the audio of the report here. The piece did look at both sides of the issue, but was way too short to provide any real answers: the brush-off of people opposed to the project ("Citizens Opposed to Virtually Everything") was rude, and there was no questioning of the statement that ditch boundaries are an effective control (what happens when there is a flood...or hurricane-force winds?). At least only a passing reference was made to "e-grass" :-).

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sweet Charity: Update II  

The Sweet Charity post from last week has been updated with a few good examples of needy invasive species-related organizations.






Monday, December 04, 2006

Just Say Neigh  

Two horse-related stories in the news recently...First we have the Richmond Times-Dispatch reporting on the wild horses (this site calls them ponies) on Assateague Island. There are so many horses there now that their love for native salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) is causing the beach dunes to erode. While the horses are already subject to population controls, with the females given contraceptives, they are still allowed to bear one foal each...which is apparently too much to keep the population stable. The National Park Service is considering moving all the horses off the island permanently. You can read more about the proposed plan here.

Story #2 comes from North Carolina: The Asheville Citizen-Times recently published this piece about wild horses on Carrot Island (unfortunately "Carrot" Island is not the idyllic place you'd think it would be for a horse :-)). The island is part of a state wildlife reserve, and while this would typically mean any feral animals are subject to removal, an outcry by residents of the nearby town of Beaufort back in the 1980s kept that from happening. Eventually, the horses were overrunning the island, prompting the removal of about half of them a few years later. Now they're kept in check with birth control, but park managers are also studying the situation to determine the best target population size.

Thanks to budak for sending in a link to the Carrot Island story.






Sunday, December 03, 2006

Weekend Invasive Gecko Photoblogging  

I found this photo of a hitchhiking tropical house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) on Flickr:

Hemidactylus mabouia
Originally uploaded by green.thumbs.

...and from there I went exploring. Lots of photodocumentation of non-native geckos hanging out in the USA:

A Mediterranean gecko in Texas:

gecko
Originally uploaded by Fifi LePew.

And another:

Here's lookin' at you kid
Originally uploaded by The Horned Jack Lizard.

In the wrong place for camouflage:

Indo-Pacific Gecko
Originally uploaded by smccann.

And finally, a beautiful-but-not-native gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda laticauda) from Hawaii:

Gecko
Originally uploaded by Max Lewis.

Thanks to green.thumbs, Fifi LePew, The Horned Jack Lizard, smccann and Max Lewis for sharing these photos under a CC license.






Saturday, December 02, 2006

Moth Balls: Update  

Back in July 2006 the ISW reported about a program at UMass Amherst to develop a biological control for the European winter moth (Operophtera brumata). Short story is that the funding for the program was cut by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who indicated that UMass Amherst should pay for it themselves.

Since then, the State Legislature overrode Romney's veto and reinstated the funding, which was promptly cut again in November under the Governor's emergency spending powers. Now the researcher in charge of the project, Joseph Elkinton, is speaking out in this Boston Globe article, noting that he's lost funding he was already starting to spend. The Romney administration noted that since it gave UMass Amherst $30 million "extra" this year, the university should use that money to fund the project. Does this mean they are refusing to acknowledge that the European winter moth is a statewide problem? Will UMass pony up the money for Elkinton to finish his work, or will the incoming Patrick administration reinstate the separate funding? Only time will tell.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Fountain of Truth  

NPR's Morning Edition did a story this week about the antioxidant resveratrol, a chemical compound thought to have anti-aging properties. As this older NPR story indicates, resveratrol is found in red wine...but there is an invasive species angle here too. Though it was glossed over in the audio story linked to above, the invasive plants Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and giant knotweed (Fallopia sachalinensis) are both significant sources of resveratrol, and have the advantage of being much cheaper then red wine grapes. But before you start munching the knotweed along the highway (yikes!) or planting knotweed in your garden (double yikes!), keep in mind that studies have yet to determine the effect of resveratrol on humans, and as such the appropriate concentration and dosage of resveratrol is unknown.

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