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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Friday, June 29, 2007

My Achy Breaky Yellow Floating Heart  

Residents of Halifax, Nova Scotia seem perturbed by the spread of the invasive aquatic plant known as yellow floating heart (Nymphoides peltata), according to this story over at hfxnews.ca. Within the past two years, yellow floating heart has taken over large portions of Dartmouth's Little Albro Lake, suffocating portions of the water and making boat access to the lake difficult. While the plant is thought to have been in the Great Lakes drainage since the mid-1900s, it has only recently been getting attention in the Atlantic provinces of Canada.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

You've Got A Beetle In Pennsylvania  

philly.com is reporting that the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) has been found in Pennsylvania. The beetles were found June 22 on the western edge of the state, in Butler County. According to this website, Pennsylvania has been surveying the western portion of the state for the presence EAB since 2003

As a result of the discovery, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has placed a quarantine on the movement of all firewood in Butler County and the neighboring Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence Counties. While other states dealing with the EAB have specifically targeted ash wood and wood products, Pennsylvania is taking a more pragmatic stance. Noting how difficult it is to determine the type of tree that firewood comes from, they're quarantining all hardwoods.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Insects Aside  

The Detroit Free Press has a report about efforts underway in Michigan to develop and release biological controls for the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). Two parasitic wasps, Tetrastichus planipennis and Oobius agrili, are being reared by entomologists at the U.S. Forest Service, who had hoped to start test releases of the insects this summer. However, the USDA has stepped in, requiring final authorization for the project and instituting a comment period so that the public can have their say. As of right now there is no set schedule for when (or indeed if) the project will proceed.

The public comment period ended about a week ago, but you can read the Environmental Assessment doc here (.pdf). The TreeNotes blog also has an excellent overview.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Spider Web  

Just came across a new Yahoo! Group called cocoonswapping. It seems full of people with a keen interest in spiders, and I cannot fault them for that. Unfortunately they also seem keen on swapping spider cocoons/egg sacs, and doing so on a global scale. The issue of invasive species has already arisen in the group, which was just created this past month (see this message), and obviously group members have good intentions and are not planning to release the spiders into the wild. However, I still am concerned about the concept of sharing species across continents, especially something very tiny that seems like it would be hard to keep contained. And according to this article from the American Tarantula Society, it's legal to import spiders into the USA - I'm not sure about regulations in other countries. Yikes.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Purple Passion  

One more plug for citizen science projects from the conference at Cornell:

Got purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) in your neighborhood? If so, the US government needs you to help answer important questions about the invasiblity of this plant.

Back in 2003, the USGS partnered with the Great Lakes Research and Education Center to create a citizen science project to monitor purple loosestrife in the Midwest. Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Joy Marburger about the Purple Loosestrife Volunteers program and found her to be very passionate about it. But you don't have to be from the Midwest or even the USA to join in - they are seeking volunteers from all over the world.

Dr. Beth Middleton from the USGS National Wetlands Research Center has undertaken the job of compiling all the data, in order to assess the characteristics of purple loosestrife in both its native and introduced range. The program is looking for people who are willing to locate loosestrife populations and make a few simple observations, such as plant height, number of stems per plant, and tree canopy cover. The data could be used to determine, for example, whether the range of purple loosestrife will be altered by climate change (by taking a look at the vigor of plants along the edge of purple loosestrife's range). To learn more, check out the project homepage - contact info for Beth is at the bottom.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging  

This past week in invasive species blogging:

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Worm Hunting!  

Some action shots of earthworm hunting with Cindy Hale of the Great Lakes Worm Watch.


Worm Hunting!
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Cindy Hale poured a water and mustard powder solution into the soil to scare up some worms...

Worm Hunting!
Originally uploaded by urtica.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Worm Wishes  

Posting on location from Cornell University's Citizen Science Toolkit Conference...

One of the many projects represented at the conference is the Great Lakes Worm Watch. It's a full-featured citizen science project from the University of Minnesota's Natural Resources Research Institute. Volunteers can send in samples, join existing studies, or best of all, design their own earthworm surveys.

Earthworms are not native to the Great Lakes region, but they've certainly made their presence known. Check out the Worm Watch website to find out more about the way non-native earthworms impact forest ecology, and if you're in the Great Lakes Region, consider joining in on the research!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reminder: ID flora and fauna using invasive plants tonight!  

Just a reminder for you to stop by the Flickr groups Life on the Purple Loosetrife and Life on the Japanese Knotweed tonight from 5-7pm EDT (21:00-23:00 GMT) for a live poster session that will be broadcast at Cornell's Citizen Science Conference. The session officially starts at 6pm but we will be setting up around 5pm. We will be posting photos and hopefully getting some serious insect and plant identification done! In fact, over the past few days over a dozen new photos have been added, several of which could use some id. More details about the project are available in the original post.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New And Notable  

Recent new arrivals in the USA, courtesy of the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Alert System:

  • The brittle naiad, Najas minor, has been reported for the first time in South Dakota, in a lake it has probably been hanging around in since 2003.
  • A Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) was discovered in the Charles River in Massachusetts. Must have been checking out a free concert, as it was found near the Hatch Shell. The person who discovered it claims he saw more of them in 2006. Uh oh.
  • Someone recorded the call of a Rio Grande chirping frog (Syrrhophus cystignathoides) in Louisiana. Normally this species is found only in Southern Texan and Northern Mexico. A range expansion perhaps?
  • Puerto Rico has added yet another non-native aquatic plant to its flora: the white water lily (Nymphaea odorata).

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Chile Con Carne  

The Santiago Times is reporting that Chile's Department of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG) recently came out with a list of undesirable non-native animals for their country. Among the list of feral baddies are:

  • Canadian beaver (Castor canadensis)
  • hare (Lepus?)
  • mink (probably the American mink, Mustela vison)
  • muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus?)
  • roof mouse (Hmmm..."roof rat" is a common name for Rattus rattus)
  • wild boar (Sus scrofa, the feral pig)
  • red deer (Cervus elaphus)
  • feral rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus?)
  • feral goat (likely Capra hircus)
  • feral cat (Felis catus)
  • feral dog (Canis lupus)
  • Argentine parrot (possibly referring to the Monk parrot, Myiopsitta monachus)
If I can find the official list I will post it here.

Thanks to monopolist for coming up with the punny title.

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Weekend Photoblogging  

The strength of weeds
Originally uploaded by Andrea_R.

An excellent depiction of one of the main reasons we don't like Japanese knotweed. Concrete, tarmac, asphalt? They're no match for the mighty knotweed!

Thanks to Andrea_R for sharing this photo under a Creative Commons license.

(A little bit late so just pretend it is still the weekend!)

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

On Their Gourds  

According to this story in the Saipan Tribune, the island of Saipan is having a serious gourd problem. Seems the ivy gourd (Coccinia grandis) is spreading throughout the Pacific island, where it has only been known since 2001. While Saipan originally responded quite quickly to the invasion of this aggressive vine, by releasing the biocontrol weevil Acythopeus cocciniae, a typhoon killed a lot of them off back in 2004. Now new beetles are being reared on the island Guam and shipped to Saipan when they are ready to be released.

Bonus points to the Saipan Times for using scientific names (though the presence of so many presumed Coccina typos on the 'nets confounds me).

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Practice Random Sampling And Sensless Acts Of Volunteerism!  

Are you an arthropod aficionado, or are you quick with the macro lens? If you're into nature and curious about how invasive plants play a part in it, consider joining the Life on the Japanese Knotweed or Life on the Purple Loosestrife project. I started those groups through the photo-sharing website Flickr as a way to collect data about the fauna and flora that use invasive plants. Now, this coming Wednesday (June 20th) from 6pm-7pm EDT, I will be presenting a live "poster" to demonstrate how these projects work, using my laptop and a wireless internet connection, at a poster session for a Citizen Science Conference at Cornell University.

Can you be around from 6-7pm EDT on June 20th to help id insects and other creatures that are posted to the group, to comment on and tag photos, or to contribute photos sometime that day? During the poster session the Flickr pages will be projected on a wall and I'll be refreshing frequently and letting the conference attendees explore the photo pages. I am even hoarding some images that I will be posting around 6pm to be sure there is proper fodder for id :-).

My goal for the live poster is twofold:

  1. Demonstrate that a crew of Citizen Scientists can work together to investigate valid scientific questions (in this case, What species utilize Japanese knotweed and purple loosestrife? and How does data collected by widely dispersed volunteers compare to similar studies done by rigorous local sampling?)
  2. Demonstrate that identification of flora and fauna can often be done simply and quickly if you get the right person to take a look (it really can, we do it on ID Please all the time!).
There is already a pretty amazing crew of amateur and professional naturalists at Flickr but the two groups could really use more members to help id and to contribute photos, especially people from countries other than the USA and where Japanese knotweed and purple loosestrife are native. If you want to participate but need a reminder email, just leave a comment here or send me an email.

Feel free to cross-post this if you are inclined to spread the word. (Citizens must be getting sick of all these requests for their help doing science!)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Iguana In The Gardd? Shush Your Noise!  

The Daily Mail is reporting that a homeowner in South Wales was startled to discover that there was a large green iguana (Iguana iguana) hanging out in his backyard. A local wildlife expert came by to catch it and it has already been handed over to the RSPCA. The iguana, surely an escaped pet, seemed to be doing well in the Welsh spring weather, but it is thought that the winters there would be much too cold for it to survive.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Climate Out-Of-Control  

Interesting article in The Boston Globe about the spread of the hemlock wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) throughout New England. The ISW has certainly covered this insect pest before, including this NPR story about the problems caused by the adelgid in Massachusetts. Now there is even more bad news: while biologists once thought that the adelgid could not become a problem in the more northern climes of Vermont and Maine, climate change has busted a hole in that assumption. A nice cold winter freeze will kill the insects, but recent climate data indicates that the average minimum temperature in upper New England has risen several degrees over the past few decades. That means it is getting less and less likely every year that a killing freeze will come by and wipe out any lingering adelgids - bad news for the hemlock trees!

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Monday, June 11, 2007

They Eat Their Own  

A new study coming out of Australia suggests that cane toads (Bufo marinus) purposely attract their young with the intention of eating them - ABC News Australia has the report. Researchers at the University of Sydney observed the adult cane toads wiggling their toes in a way that encouraged young toads to come close. When they got too close, they got gobbled up. Laboratory experiments (albeit odd ones) indicated that the cane toads have evolved to do their toe wiggling at exactly the right frequency to incite the young toads, likely because they think they've found an insect to prey upon. Hey, if you're going to have a ton of offspring to offset loss to predators, you might as well reap the benefits by keeping it in the species!

The researchers hope to eventually use this behavior to invent a more effective method of controlling the toads. Details of the study will eventually be published in the journal Animal Behavior (why oh why do universities put press releases out before the research is published???). In the meantime, be sure to watch the toe wiggling video that accompanies the report.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging  

This past week in invasive species blogging:

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Weekend Photoblogging  

Green Square
Originally uploaded by urtica.

A patch of crown vetch (Coronilla varia) at the Boston Nature Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Mitten Mania  

The Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) continues to make its mark on the east coast of the USA...just a few days after sightings were reported in both Maryland and Delaware comes news that the crab has been spotted in New York's Hudson River. This looks to be the first confirmed record of the species in New York state.

Meanwhile, The News Journal is reporting that three more of the mitten crabs have been caught in Delaware. The crabber who found them says he's been seeing them for years and throwing them back :-(.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Trapper Keepers  

Interesting story over at OregonLive.com about efforts by the state of Oregon to detect the presence of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). This is some serious early detection monitoring we're talking about here - the EAB hasn't been seen anywhere near Oregon, yet the state has has been inspecting trees years. Now forty sacrifical young ashes have been planted around the Portland area to act as "trap trees." Each tree has been girdled and covered with a sticky substance to catch and keep insects that stop by - the perfect delectable treat for the beetle. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is hoping that the trap trees will act as an early warning system to let them know if the EAB enters their state.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Doing The Zoo Thing  

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, Polygonum cuspidatum, Reynoutria japonica, etc. etc.!) is heading to the zoo! According to this article at EastBayRI.com, Rhode Island's Barrington Land Conservation Trust has made a deal with the Roger Williams Park Zoo: the BLCT cuts down all the herbicide-free knotweed they can find, and the zoo takes it to feed to their animals. In the past, the BLCT was sending all the knotweed to a landfill, so this seems like a win-win situation.

Roger Williams is not the only zoo taking advantage of this free invasive food source - the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, Massachusetts feeds Japanese knotweed to one of their giraffes. And while this may sound like an innovative new use for knotweed, some of the original introductions of Japanese and giant knotweed into the USA, back in the late 1800s, were actually for its use as a forage plant. This isn't the first time people have made a concerted effort to feed invasive species to zoo animals either - back in 2006 the ISW featured a story about an effort by researchers to turn carp into fishcakes for the St. Louis Zoo.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Carp Are Comin'  

Robyn D. sent in a link to the myspace page of the rock/folk band Boiled in Lead. Now, before you go checking to make sure you're still reading the Invasive Species Weblog, there really is a tie-in here! BIL has an excellent homage to the Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), an invasive fish "below the radar, above the law." Definitely worth a listen!

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Reel Big Fish  

The Charlotte Observer is reporting that a man in North Carolina recently caught a northern snakehead (Channa argus) that weighed in at an impressive 13 pounds. Barry Faw snagged the giant invader while he was fishing at Lake Wylie. Unfortunately, no one, not the fisherman, nor his friends, nor the person at the neighborhood bait shop, recognized the invasive fish, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission didn't have anyone available to inspect it...so Barry threw it back in the lake. Later the NC WRC saw photos and recognized the fish as a snakehead, but attempts to locate the fish or any of its brethren in the lake by shocking them to the surface of the water have failed. This is the second record of a Northern snakehead in Lake Wylie, the first being from 2002.

Sounds like North Carolina needs more rigorous invasive species outreach for their anglers and their bait shops.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging  

The past week in invasive species blogging:

  • Evange blogs about a cool-looking garlic mustard chimera - now don't anyone go cultivating that in the USA!
  • panoptes and friend keep someone from releasing a pet box turtle into the wild.
  • Over at Finding Ulysses, J. Cook discusses his feelings after discovering that the "native phlox" he was appreciating turned out to be invasive dame's rocket. Be sure to check out the comment section as well - good stuff.
  • There's a new invasive plant blog from Alberta, Canada...so new it's only got one post so far. Click through to learn about early detection and rapid response efforts in Alberta and perhaps join in the discussion as well. Hopefully this is just one of many posts to come.

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Weekend Photoblogging  

Weeds next to a fence
Originally uploaded by Eric Ishii Eckhardt.

Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), doing what it does best...finding a way to grow in every crack in the urban exterior (in this case, New York City).

Thanks to Eric Ishii Eckhardt for sharing this photo under a Creative Commons license.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Drill Teams  

Emergency preparedness drills occur all over the world. Here in the USA, we do them to test our preparedness for terrorist attacks and natural disasters like hurricanes. In New Zealand, they just finished one for invasive species. As reported by the Manawatu Standard, the Horizons Regional Council assisted Biosecurity New Zealand in performing a simulation in order to test how effectively they could deal with the invasion of the freshwater algae didymo (Didymoshenia geminata, also known as rock snot) in the Manawatu River. Didymo has already invaded New Zealand's South Island but has yet to be found in the Manawatu or other rivers on the North Island.

Thanks to Andrew B. for sending in a link to the story. Bonus points to the Manawatu Standard for including didymo's scientific name in the story.

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