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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend Egoblogging  

Every once in a while I get tagged with a meme, and every once in a longer while I indulge my ego and respond...

The Animal Meme:

  • An interesting animal I had: That's easy - my parrot. Clicker is a Senegal parrot, a pet store mascot my husband and I adopted from my dad when he closed his pet store several years ago. At first we balked at taking him, mostly because of my allergies, but my dad was pretty insistent and we have not regretted it one bit. He is a lot of fun to have around and is quite talented at learning new noises to mimic (he has a full repertoire of bodily functions he can imitate). Clicker is quite a popular little bird who even has his own MySpace page...and has at least 3 times more MySpace friends than I do.

  • An interesting animal I ate: Hmm...I guess that would be alligator, when I was in New Orleans. It tasted like calamari.

    Being an (eccentric) invasive species biologist, I keep a life list of invasive species I have eaten. The animal part of the list is sorely lacking. I'm still looking for someone to venture into Chinatown with me and find a place that serves carp. A man from Asia that was at the last GISIN meeting insisted it is quite tasty!

  • An interesting animal in the Museum: When my husband and I were first dating, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together. One that was particularly stumping us included a clue of "hoofed animal." We ended up solving it via the cross-clues - it was "aoudad." We were convinced it was some made-up creature, but later that month we visited the Academy of Natural Sciences, and in their taxidermy exhibit was a big fat aoudad!

  • An interesting thing I did with or to an animal: Having worked in a pet store, it used to be part of my job to feed animals to other animals. I've fed mice to big snakes, goldfish to little snakes and turtles, and crickets to tarantulas. Watching animals catch and eat live prey is an interesting, if brutal event.

  • An interesting animal in its natural habitat: Again, being an invasive species biologist, I am going to interpret this a bit loosely and consider animals in nature. There are too many examples of interesting invasive species, but I have managed to narrow it down by restricting the topic to things I have video for. So here's a cane toad wiggling its toe to attract (and eat!) its young, a red fox in Australia trying to grab a wallaby, and the gruesome story of introduced house mice gobbling up live albatross chicks on Gough Island.

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Weekend Photoblogging  

An African Calla lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica invading Berowra Valley Regional Park in Australia. Invasive Calla lilies!


invasive arum
Originally uploaded by petrichor

Thanks to petrichor for posting this photo to Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Snake River Snot  

The Jackson Hole Daily is reporting that didymo (Didymosphenia geminata, or "rock snot") has been discovered in the state of Wyoming. The discovery of the algae in Lake Creek was made by USGS researchers sampling tributaries of the Snake River this past summer. This is only the second sighting of the algae in Wyoming, the first being in the Popo Agie River in 2006 (see related article in this newsletter from the Lander Region Angler News). Unfortunately, a planned survey of the Snake River has been called off to river conditions. For now, the Snake River Fund has stepped up, working with the US Forest Service and with other non-governmental organizations to set up washing stations at boat ramps in the area. As there is currently no known way to eliminate didymo infestations, keeping it from spreading is the best tool they have for managing the invasive algae.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

What A Weed  

The Star Tribune is reporting that Brazilian waterweed (Egeria densa) has been discovered in Powderhorn Lake in Minnesota. Officials are surmising the plant most likely came from someone's aquarium. Brazilian waterweed tends to thrive in warmer climates than Minnesota, but the scientists that made the discovery say the plant is already well-established in the lake, and has been there for at least a year. That means it has already managed to survive at least one cold Minneapolis winter.

This is the first record for Brazilian waterweed in the state of Minnesota, and according to this map, looks to be a first for the Great Lakes region as well.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Afrika Bombarda  

The New Vision recently posted this report about a workshop on invasive plant management in Africa. Based on a project (pdf) implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme/Global Environment Facility, the meeting included participants from Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, and Zambia. Some of the species of concern included water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus), and lantana (Lantana camara). Organizers are hoping to promote more ecosystem-based management plans for areas impacted by these and other invasive plants, beginning with the difficult task of developing invasive plant management policies within each country.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ballast From The Past  

NOAA and the Smithsonian Institution recently released a report summarizing the body of knowledge of ballast water issues in the US. The lengthily titled "Current State of Understanding about the Effectiveness of Ballast Water Exchange (BWE) in Reducing Aquatic Nonindigenous Species (ANS) Introductions to the Great Lakes Basin and Chesapeake Bay, USA: Synthesis and Analysis of Existing Information" (pdf) is...well ok, that title is so darn long it pretty much describes what the report is about, so I'll skip that part of the summary :-).

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Ballast water exchange can be "highly effective" at preventing the introduction of non-native species. However...
  • ...the degree of this effectiveness cannot yet be accurately measured because ballast water management is not properly monitored or regulated. Translation: We need more and better data in order to estimate the rate of introduction of non-native marine species into the US. Thus...
  • ...to accurately measure the effectiveness of different ballast water management techniques, a "standardized sampling program" is necessary.
  • Current ballast water management regulations do not properly address so-called "NOBOB" vessels (NO Ballast On Board), which are also a vector for invasive species introductions.

Much more detail is available, including a list of introduced species present in the Chesapeake Bay, if you click through to the full report, or you can read NOAA's press release here.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Ferry Bad Things  

The Hawaii Superferry saga seems to just go on and on and on. The Honolulu Advertiser is covering the current hearings in Maui that will be the deciding factor in whether or not the ferry gets to resume service until an environmental impact assessment can be completed. A court order and bunches of angry protesters led to a shutdown of the ferry at the end of August. At issue, among other things, is that the ferry will be transporting invasive hitchhikers back and forth between the Hawaiian Islands. An expert testified that the chances of this were negligible when considered along with the many other marine transport vehicles that traverse Hawaiian waters. Before you decide whether he's right, it's worth reading through to the end of the article to get the details of the inspection protocols the ferry will be subject to - officials have taken a wide variety of possible invasive species pathways into consideration, from vehicles being transported on the ferry to the footwear of its passengers.

I'm not sure what the typical "cargo" of marine transport in Hawaii is, but it seems like regular transport of people and their vehicles opens up a whole new set of pathways beyond the whole ballast and hull-fouling issues. Note that an environmental assessment is typically done *beforehand* in situations like these, but the Superferry backers somehow managed to score an exemption from having any assessment done at all.

For more background about the Hawaii Superferry, check out this older article from the Honolulu Advertiser, or this article from the Molokai Dispatch (thanks to Michaek K. for sending those links in!)

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging  

The past week in invasive species posts, elsewhere in the blogosphere:

  • Mapping the Marvellous has an interesting review of two recent invasive species-related art projects.
  • I Can't Remember posts a review of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's book: Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants. Sounds like two enthusiastic thumbs up to me!

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Weekend Photoblogging  

turtle!
Originally uploaded by budak

Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) hanging out in a wetland reserve in Singapore.

Thanks to budak for sharing this photo under a CC license!

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Friday, September 21, 2007

New And Notable  

Recent arrivals in the US and beyond:

  • Large schools of black mollies (Poecilia latipinna x velifera) have been spotted in Indiana. A new record for that state and by far the most northern record of this common aquarium fish in the US...uh, outside of an aquarium, that is :-).
  • There has been an unconfirmed identification of a brackish water snail as Assiminea sp., in Coos Bay in Oregon. Here's hoping it just turns out to be a little known native species, because they found thousands of them.
  • The Asian tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) was discovered last month in Louisiana. An aquaculture escape - last year a record of the same species found in Alabama was attributed to floods caused by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
  • The Sirex woodwasp (Sirex noctilio) has been found in Vermont, its first ever appearance in New England.
  • A new species of fruit fly (Bactrocera invadens), reported to be in India in the last New and Notable, has now spread to Bhutan. It's spreading so fast, its scientific name is "invadens"!

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hybrid Vehicle  

A strange duck sent in a link to this story about hybridization between a native and introduced salamander in California. The interaction between the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) and Eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) is not news in itself (the ISW pointed to research on the subject back in 2003) - Eastern tiger salamanders established in California following the use of their larvae as bait for the past several decades. But now new evidence indicates that the hybrid offspring exhibit what is known as "hybrid vigor" - they are more fit than either parent species.

That certainly doesn't bode well for the endangered California species, whose populations were already on the decline. The researchers are concerned that the greater fitness of the hybrids could lead to the eventual loss of the California species, as over time crossing of hybrids with parent species (and other hybrids) leads to permanent integration of non-native genes into all tiger salamanders in the region.

The NSF does a nice job with their writeup of this study but somehow fails to have more than a passing reference to the actual peer-reviewed article in PNAS. Here's a link to the abstract.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Man, A Crab, A Canal: Panama  

EurekAlert! is reporting that the Harris mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii) has definitely arrived in the Panama Canal. Researchers have discovered breeding populations of the invasive crab, native to the Atlantic coast of the US, in Miraflores Third Lock Lake. The lake has actually been separated from the canal system for decades, but is now scheduled to be reconnected as part of an expansion project. Now it's up to those researchers to determine just how widespread the crab is within the canal system.

The Harris mud crab is already quite widespread in Europe, and can be found in Russia as well. With all the concern about green crabs, Asian shore crabs, and the Chinese mitten crab invading the Atlantic coast of the US (check out all of the ISW articles on crabs), it is interesting to see a species native to that region becoming invasive in other parts of the world.

This is the very first mention of Panama in five years of posts at the Invasive Species Weblog. It's about time, Panama! :-)

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lizard Lounging  

The News-Press is reporting that Florida's Sanibel Island is so fed up with the green iguanas (Iguana iguana) and Nile monitor lizards (Varanus niloticus) roaming the island that they've hired a trapper to round them up. Trapper Wildlife Services will get $20 for every iggie they catch and kill, and will get paid an hourly rate to track down the larger and nastier monitor lizards. This is the same Sanibel that said no to removing invasive Australian pines because it was too expensive. This time things are apparently more serious: a wildlife refuge on the island has contributed $20,000 towards the lizard eradication efforts.

Thanks to Jason at Cephalopodcast.com for sending in a link to this story.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Fishing Pall  

VietNamNet Bridge has an interesting report about fish that have invaded the Tri An Reservoir in Vietnam. Peacock bass (Cichla ocellaris) and red pacu (Colossoma brachypomum), were introduced by fish breeders that kept the carnivorous fish in cages in the reservoir. Both species escaped, though the peacock bass is considered more of a threat since it is breeding quite well in the wild and the red pacu apparently does not. The article also makes reference to yet another introduction, ca lau kinh (a suckermouth catfish, likely a species of Hypostomus) that has made the Tri An Reservoir its home. While the native range of these species is listed in the article as South Africa, they are actually all native to South America.

Tip of the virtual hat to the Protect Your Waters website for posting about this story.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Cohabitatation  

Could European fire ants (Myrmica rubra) and Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, Polygonum cuspidatum, Reynoutria japonica, etc. etc.) be in cahoots to take over North America? Researchers from Skidmore College in New York are aiming to find out. After initial investigations revealed that the ants were dining on the nectar proffered along knotweed stems, via structures known as extrafloral nectaries, a biology professor and his students decided to look more closely at the relationship between these two non-native species. Now they're mapping knotweed and ant populations and doing some neat experiments, including wounding knotweed leaves to check whether the ants come to the plant's defense (they did!). News from Skidmore has the whole story.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Seed Bump  

Australian Food News has a report about the impact of the global seed trade on Australia. According to the Weeds CRC, internet auctions and other online sales are responsible for the introduction and spread of many invasive and potentially invasive plant species throughout the country.

Since online auctions in particular have proven difficult to keep track of, the Weeds CRC is hoping to attack this problem by educating businesses as well as consumers. They are recommending that online retailers point customers to the noxious weed lists for Australia, and are developing a new resource that lists species that are not established in Australia but are known to be weedy elsewhere in the world.

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Tangled Bank is Here!  

A fresh new edition of the Tangled Bank is here, featuring a ton of excellent science-related blog posts. Check it out!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Veti Good, Or Veti Bad?  

From the Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog comes this report about the potential benefits of using vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) for erosion control in New Orleans. Problem is...and considering where you are reading this, you probably know where this is going...yes: vetiver grass, native to Asia, is considered an invasive species in several parts of the world. A sterile cultivar has been developed for landscaping purposes but it is unclear whether that too is invasive. A Pacific Islands study labeled vetiver grass as a low risk invader. The Vetiver Network disputes the PIER risk assessment but they seem biased.

On the pro side, there is the reputed ability of the grass to repel Formosan termites (Coptotermes formosanus) and prevent flooding. Also, supporters point to the fact that the grass has been grown in New Orleans for over 200 years and has not yet caused a problem. The Army Corps is apparently still thinking about it, and has placed vetiver grass on a short list of species being considered for restoration plantings near the levees.

I think continued disturbance is a good way to prod a species into evolving new characters, including ones we might not want, such as an ability to better spread into natural areas. That's the last thing New Orleans needs, with such a massive natural disturbance as a hurricane having left it so ecologically vulnerable. What do you think?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Dancing With The Weevil  

The Miami Herald is reporting that researchers are testing a new biological control to combat a beetle that is damaging plants throughout the southern half of Florida. The Mexican weevil, Metamasius callizona has been attacking bromeliads since it became established in Florida back in the 1990s. Howard Frank, one of the scientists leading the search for a biocontrol, links the weevil's arrival in Florida with repeated importations of non-native Tillandsia plants. Unfortunately the weevil has gone on to attack native Tillandsia species, including some that are endangered. Because the bromeliads are epiphytes, they typically grow all over the surfaces of trees and other plants, making pesticide application a logistical nightmare. Frank is hoping he can instead combat the weevil using a parasitizing fly, Lixadmontia franki, discovered in the Honduras.

Thanks to the perpetually luminous Mr. Sun for sending in a link to this story.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging  

The past week in invasive species, via the rest of the blogosphere:

  • The Urban Pantheist weighs in on the feral cat cookery in Australia, makes a thinly veiled reference to a feline fur trade, and proclaims loudly "I Love Dogs" :-).
  • The West Seattle Blog notes that it can be hard to stay pesticide-free when you're battling Japanese knotweed.
  • Harsens Island News posts about a series of Phragmites workshops on the island, part of Michigan.

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Weekend Photoblogging  
Something ate the kudzu!

(Thanks to Martin for sharing this photo under a Creative Commons license.)

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Friday, September 07, 2007

The Mark Of The Bees  

According to this report from ARS Newslink, scientists may finally have found out what is behind the massive honeybee kills in the US...or maybe they've just found another bee virus. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been linked, mostly unsuccessfully, to everything from cell phone towers to pesticide. Now genetic testing has revealed a correlation between CCD and honeybees infected with Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), which can be spread by yet another honeybee pathogen, the Varroa mite. BBC News is reporting that there is evidence that the virus entered the US via honeybees imported from Australia.

The authors of the study are quick and right to point out that this is just a correlation, and does not implicate IAPV as the cause of CCD - further testing is going to be necessary to solve this complex mystery. If you want to read the full article, "A Metagenomic Survey of Microbes in Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder," published in v. 317 of the journal Science...well...you're unfortunately going to need a subscription to the journal. For free, you can read this supplemental material (pdf).

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sterile Is A State Of Mind  

WTOP News is reporting that around 100 Asian oysters (Crassostrea ariakensis) "escaped" from their cage in the Chesapeake Bay after being hit by a boat anchor. Of course, being oysters, they didn't just run off, but they are missing (more than 500 other oysters from the same cage were recovered). Part of an experiment to determine the feasibility of raising Asian oysters in the Bay, the test subjects were sterile, though there is a small risk that sterilized oysters can revert back to being sexually viable. Scientists say the chance of the escaped oysters having even survived the incident is small.

Tip of the virtual hat to the Smalltalk blog for posting about this story.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New And Notable  

Recent arrivals in the US and beyond:

  • The Suriname toad (Pipa pipa) was discovered in Puerto Rico.
  • The Quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) continues to be sighted in Southern California. Also, a Dreissena sp. was discovered in Arizona - the first record for the genus in that state.
  • The Oriental weatherfish (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) has been discovered in a small pond in New Jersey.
  • India has a new species of fruit fly (Bactrocera invadens), the same one that has been spreading across Africa.
  • Pink meadowsweet (Spiraea alba 'rosea') has naturalized in Belgium (via the ALIENS-L listserver)

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Praying To The Porcelain Crab Gods  

Georgia's got a crab problem...or at least they think they might...well actually, they're not quite sure. This report from newswise describes recent research on the impact of the introduced green porcelain crab (Petrolisthes armatus) on Georgia's oyster and mussel beds. While these tiny crabs are not oyster predators, they are filter feeders, so there is concern that they could be negatively impacting oysters and mussels by stealing away their food source. On the other hand, the crabs are providing a food source for larger crabs as well as fish, and this is altering the dynamics of the food web, possibly meaning less predation on oysters (but wait, won't that lead to more fish and predator crabs...and then???). The long-term impacts of the porcelain crab invasion have yet to be understood, but this three-year investigation has brought a lot of new information to light. To read more about it, check out the original research in the journal Biological Invasions...if you have a subscription. Or you can just download Amanda Hellebone's thesis (pdf) on the subject, no strings attached.

Thanks to budak for sending in a link to this story, and bonus points to newswise for keeping the scientific name of the crab in the article.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Minnesota Mozzies  

Via the sky blue waters report comes this article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the recent arrival of yet another non-native mosquito species in Minnesota. The Japanese rock pool mosquito (Aedes japonicus, also known as Ochlerotatus japonicus), which has been present in the US since the late 1990s, was discovered in Scott County in early August. Unfortunately, preliminary evidence suggests that this is one of several mosquito species that can carry West Nile virus, and there is concern that the mosquitoes may be able to transmit other viruses to humans as well.

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Weekend Blog Blogging (Labor Day Edition)  

The past week in invasive species blogging...from other people's blogs:

  • Walking the Berkshires has an interesting post about the invasive status of horned poppy and rugosa rose in Massachusetts.
  • The Natural Patriot notes the irony in the recent news that house sparrows and starlings are endangered in the UK.
  • Roebrt Emanuel at H2ONCoast writes about the Japanese knotweed in bloom in Oregon.

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Weekend Photoblogging (Labor Day Edition)  

Introduced Pine Sawfly Larva
Originally uploaded by adamantine
Larva of the Introduced Pine Sawfly (Diprion similis), a European import that is a particular pest of pine plantations and ornamental pines.

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