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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fun With YouTube  

Recent YouTube videos with a fresh, crisp, invasive species theme:

  • The Statesman Journal has an interesting report about the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's search for non-native fish species in the wild. There's one about invasive American bullfrogs as well.
  • Someone was nice enough to capture the lecture given David Orwig of Harvard Forest about the hemlock woolly adelgid and stick the whole thing on YouTube.
  • The Florida Department of Agriculture has a creepy, crawly PSA about the Mexican red-rump tarantula.
  • The Great Lakes Mayors hosted an hour-long panel on invasive species issues.
  • The Zoological Society of London posted a video about surveys for invasive species in the Thames River, including the Asian clam and the zebra mussel.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

EAB In WV, K?  

Not sure how this slipped under the ISW radar, but apparently the emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis) wast discovered in West Virginia last October. The Charleston Gazette is reporting that the discovery has prompted a firewood and ash wood product quarantine in Fayette County, where ash borer larvae were discovered in a trap tree deliberately set up to attract the invasive insects. For more on the arrival of the EAB in WV, check out this press release from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

In related news, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture recently released this notice warning anyone in their state who recently purchased a wooden planter to check it for signs of EAB damage...seems a company in Indiana made planters from ash wood and bark and shipped them to several other states.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Retreat, Regroup, Reformulate  

The Californian is reporting that their state's Department of Agriculture has stopped spraying for the light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana, or LBAM)...for now. The halting of the aerial applications of moth pheremones are in part due to the many complaints received from California residents concerned with the potential human health impacts of the chemicals. The USDA is currently seeking a longer-lasting formulation of the spray that won't need to be applied as frequently, and will work with the CDAR to come up with a new management plan for the LBAM once their investigation is complete.

For more background from the ISW on the LBAM invasion in California, click here.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Antarctic Blast  

Reuters is out with a report on the burgeoning problem of invasive species in Antarctica. The piece has more meat to it than the BBC report on the same subject from back in 2006, with Reuters listing several examples of introduced species and delving into the restrictions that are placed on those who visit in an attempt to protect our most southern of continents. Definitely worth a read.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weekend Photoblogging  


Lionfish
Originally uploaded by Fordan
Flickr member Fordan captures an image of a lionfish near San Salvador Island, in the Bahamas - far from its natural home in the Pacific Ocean.

(Thanks to Fordan for sharing this photo under a CC license.)

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Friday, January 25, 2008

SCUBA Dooby Doo!!!!  

Great story in the San Juan Islander about a diver who discovered some odd-looking creatures while he was diving off the San Juan Islands in Washington state. The blob-like tunicates that Nick Brown found turned out to be Ciona savignyi, an invasive species previously unknown in those waters. The diver's sharp eye can be credited to the invasive species identification training he received from REEF, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that has been training divers to identify marine organisms and participate in surveys for over a decade. Nick's id skills and photo were enough to get two scientists out to the site, where they discovered and removed several of the tunicates. The site will continue to be monitored for the presence of Ciona for the near future.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Heaven Sent Away  

The Herald-Leader is reporting that the first major steps have been taken to remove the tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) that has invaded the Henry Clay Estate in Kentucky. The trees have been targeted because they are encroaching upon one of the last remaining populations of running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), a federally listed endangered plant that is so rare, it was once considered to be extinct. Full-grown trees are being cut and carefully removed, so as not to disturb the clover, and volunteers have been working to remove tree-of-heaven seedlings as well as the invasive Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum).

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tangled Bank is Here!  

A new edition of the Tangled Bank blog carnival is up at The Innoculated Mind. Lots of good stuff, as usual.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fish Feud  

This report over at NewScientist details a recent study revealing that invasive guppies (Poecilia reticulata) are sexually harassing native fish in the waters where they have been introduced. The badgering of females of other species by male guppies prevents native males from getting their mating time, and may discourage females from mating altogether. It doesn't help matters that the mating rituals of the guppies tend to be much more violent than their native competitors. The research, which focuses on the impact of the establishment of this popular aquarium fish in Mexican waters, was recently published in the journal Biology Letters (sorry, that's abstract-only, unless you or your library has a subscription).

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Scorned Lizard  

The Vancouver Sun has a profile of a very interesting urban critter: the European wall lizard (Podarcis muralis). The reptiles are an invasive species in British Columbia, having escaped from a zoo back in the 1970s. The European wall lizard has also established populations in the states of Indiana and New York.

Bonus points to the Sun for using the lizard's scientific name.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Mangrove Stands...Again  

San Diego has itself a case of invasive mangroves. For a type of tree best known as a component of rare and treasured wetland ecosystems, this may surprise some. Yet several decades ago, someone decided to plant gray mangroves (Avicennia marina) in Mission Bay, California, and according to this story from the San Diego Union-Tribune, they won't go away. Apparently the species was thought to have been eradicated from the bay over ten years ago, but is now back with a vengeance. A team of volunteers led by the Audubon Society is currently working at removing the trees, in the hopes of creating more suitable nesting habitat for endangered birds that frequent the wetland.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Post, Nuclear  

The Post-Standard is reporting that zebra and quagga mussels (Dreissena polymorpha and D. bugensis) were indirectly responsible for the shut-down of a nuclear power plant on three different occasions last September and October. The James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in New York relies on water intake pipes from Lake Ontario, which is inhabited by both mussel species. While the official cause of the shutdowns was wave action leading to the clogging of the intake pipes with the green alga Cladophora, the mussels are being blamed for the proliferation of algae since 1) they don't eat it 2) their filtering abilities are clearing up the lake, allowing sunlight to reach lower depths and spurring the production of more Cladophora and 3) their waste products act as fertilizer to further enhance algae production. Plant workers have responded by enhancing the screens and other contraptions in place to keep the intake pipes clear.

Update: In related news, the mussels discovered late last year in the Pueblo Reservoir in Colorado have turned out to be zebra mussels - a new species for that state. (If you follow the ISW Twitter feed, you found that out about six hours ago.)

(Tip of the virtual hat to the Protect Your Waters website for linking to the power plant story.)

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Real ID  

Have you ever found a weird plant or animal in Hawaii and desperately wanted to know what it was? The Bishop Museum may be able to quench your thirst for knowledge with "Ask a Bishop Museum Scientist," a forum on the photo-sharing website Flickr. You can post photos or descriptions of insect pests or plants or animals that seem not to belong on the Hawaiian islands, and a real biologist will weigh in on the identification, along with information about whether the organisms are native or introduced and their history on the islands. While what gets posted seems to be a mix of native and non-native species, this is likely to be a valuable "Citizen Scientist" tool for spotting new potential invaders and tracking recent introductions. If you are not familiar with Flickr, a Yahoo! site that is free to join, the Bishop Museum provides instructions on how to participate here. And of course, this post would be remiss without mentioning some of the other great Flickr identification forums, all stocked with knowledgable folks: ID Please, What plant is that? and Bird Identification Help Group.

Tip of the virtual hat to KHNL8 TV for posting about this great resource.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Building Strong Mussels  

The L.A. Times is reporting that the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) has just been discovered in the state of California. Over the past several months, California has been dealing with the repercussions of the discovery of multiple populations of quagga mussels (Dreissena bugensis) but until now, had not seen the quagga's better known relative. There is some concern from state officials about the consequences of the introduction since the zebra mussels are located in San Justo Reservoir, which supplies water to farmers and homeowners in San Benito County. As of right now, the extent of the invasion is not known, but it is likely that this will result in some changes over the coming months regarding the way this reservoir and fishing site is used.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Check, Please!  

Interesting article in the Statesman Journal about the "educational sweeps" for non-native species currently underway by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The ODFW's Invasive Species Coordinator makes routine visits to pet shops across Oregon to make sure they're not selling prohibited species. If the coordinator finds something on the list (and he sometimes does), the store is asked to remove that plant or animal from sale. It sounds like the inspections have the added bonus of providing the ODFW with valuable information about which prohibited species are still in demand from the public.

The article includes examples of species that the state is concerned about and contact information for Oregon's Invasive Species Coordinator. Kudos to the Statesman Journal for yet another great piece in their series on invasive species. If you really want to dig deeper on this topic, you can read the Oregon legislation on the import, possession, transport and sale of non-native species, including the full species lists, for wildlife and for plants.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekend Blog Blogging  

The past few weeks in invasive species-related posts, from around the blogosphere:

  • Paul at The force that through... posts about a Brazilian pepper bush (Schinus terebinthifolius) he found at Disney World.
  • A Snail's Eye View has an interesting post about the invasive white snail (Theba pisana) threatening agricultural crops in Australia.
  • Speaking of snails (who knew there were so many snail-related blogs?), A Snail's Tale posts about some interspecific competition between cats and rats on an island off the coast of New Zealand.
  • Butterflies of Singapore has some excellent photos of a lovely painted lady (Vanessa cardui). While the species has ac osmopolitan distribution (thanks chelydra), BoS questions whether the discovered specimens were bred and released, or perhaps escapees.
  • Politician Glyn Davies has a View from Rural Wales, and that view is filled with invasive American grey squirrels.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Master Boot Record  

If you're into fishing you'll want to check out Brett Prettyman's recent column in The Salt Lake Tribune about how to pick the right boots. Now that felt-soled boots are being frowned upon as carriers of pathogens like whirling disease (Myxobolus cerebralis) and invasive species like didymo algae (Didymosphenia geminata, also known as "rock snot"), Brett has some suggestions for felt-free alternatives. Unfortunately, at $100+ a pair, they don't come cheap, and of course boots with feltless soles still need to be properly disinfected after you've used them...no matter how much they cost :-).

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tsunami Balm?  

In a similar vein to yesterday's post, today the ISW presents another dilemma that pits the problems of invasive species against the needs and desires of humans.

The Indian environmental journal Down to Earth has an interesting article asking whether it is smart to be planting trees and shrubs to act as barriers against tsunamis and other storm action. Many of these "bioshields" are being created from monoculture plantations of Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia), a known invasive species. Scientists want to take a step back and approach the protection of the shoreline by examining the coastline more closely, and as the article notes, native species and natural barriers such as sand dunes can also effective at dampening the effect of wave action. However, the government insists that this approach is not practical with so much of the coastline already developed, and will proceed planting trees "wherever we find land."

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Al. B. Not-So-Sure  

A company that has developed a biomass facility to turns plants into electricity is currently under fire on the island of Kaua'i, Hawaii. According to this report at The Garden Island, Green Energy Hawai‘i has chosen Albizia (Albizia chinensis) as their main source of fuel, which is not sitting well with officials since the tree is not native to Hawaii. As with many species eyed as sources of energy or biofuel, Albizia is prized for its ability to grow fast and to tolerate low-nutrient conditions. Unfortunately, these are characteristics that could make this species a successful invader, and indeed Albizia has already been cited as such on the island of Samoa.

Green Energy Hawai‘i has been planting acres of both Albizia and eucalyptus (also not native) in preparation for starting up their plant, but the company is now being asked to phase out Albizia over the next decade and to find an alternative species to use instead. With a law in place requiring 20% of power generation to come from renewable energy sources by 2020, I suspect Hawaii is going to continue to encounter similar dilemmas in the near future.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hogs Gone Wild!  

Back in April 2007, the ISW reported that feral hog (Sus scrofa) populations in Pennsylvania were on the rise due to the import and subsequent escape of the animals for the purposes of hunting. Now comes word from the Morning Call that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has responded by officially declaring feral hogs to be "wildlife."

Before this ruling, feral hogs, along with any other animals brought onto hunting reserves, were simply considered to be private property. Now they are subject to the state's Game and Wildlife Code, though the immediate effect of the ruling is not entirely clear. At this point Pennsylvania officials aren't really sure of the extent that the hogs were being imported into the state, since the hunting reserves were not being monitored. Whether regulations will be put in place to limit the import of feral hogs or to prevent their escape into the wild remains to be seen. Also, whereas any escaped hogs in Pennsylvania used to be able to be shot on sight, the new ruling means that the animals are now protected from hunting...until the Game Commission sets up an official hunting season. A draft plan for a feral hog hunting season should be out by the end of January.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Deep Woods On  

The internet is hoarding massive amounts of data, yours for the viewing if only you know where to look for it. Take for example the Exotic Forest Pest Information System For North America. A joint effort of international organizations and government agencies from the USA, Canada and Mexico, ExFor is a relatively small but incredibly detailed database of pests that threaten forest plants, from fungi and viruses to insects and other invertebrates. So far, there are only about 180 species listed in the database, with profiles for more than 140 of them. The profiles include risk assessments regarding the potential for each species to establish in North America and to cause economic damage. A complete list can be viewed here, though some of the full reports are provisional and not yet available to the public.

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Weekend Photoblogging  

Feral Parrots
Originally uploaded by zxgirl
ISW Photoblogging is for the birds this week...here are some feral black hooded parakeets (Nandayus nenday) hanging out on the wires in Lido Key, Florida. Flickr has an entire group devoted to feral parrots, associated with the City Parrots website.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Frog Farming  

From the archives of Modern Mechanix comes this gem: In the 1930s, there was apparently a fortune to be made in bullfrog farming (Rana catesbeiana), and you could pick up a whole dozen of them from a company in New Orleans for under $5, instruction manual included!

From the article:

"The advantage of frog farming is the fact that you can start practically anywhere and expand gradually as your profits mount. A vacant city lot, an old orchard, or even a back yard can be utilized."

Hmm, sounds a good way for a bullfrog to hitch a ride to the West Coast.

(Tip of the virtual hat to boing boing)

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Igsicles  

It was raining frozen iguanas following a recent cold snap in southern Florida, according to this report in the Miami Herald. Temperatures dropped so low that the introduced green iguanas (Iguana iguana) went into comas, falling from their perches in the trees and littering the ground (the Herald has a great photo accompanying the story). Alas, it will likely be a disappointment to some Floridians that the iguanas typically recover once temperatures warm up again. Though this does seem like a great opportunity for some easy iguana control, doesn't it?

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wide Open Lab  

I am pleased to announce that my post "Square Pegs" has been selected for the 2007 science blogging anthology "Open Laboratory 2007." It is an honor to be chosen as there are not only many fine posts that will be sharing the pages, but also many more fine posts that were submitted but did not make it in this year.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Red Alert, Indeed!  

The Scotsman is reporting that Britain has authorized the release of more than 250 grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) into the wild over the past two years. Given that the grey squirrel is an American species tied to the decline of the UK's native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), this recent revelation has some environmental groups scratching their heads in amazement.

Unfortunately the article does not provide any information about why the animals were released, or even why they were captured in the first place (probably caught chewing on power lines somewhere ;-))...so for more on the story, head over to the European Squirrel Initiative's news page, where they note that the British government deemed the release of "rehabilitated" grey squirrels okay given that the number they were permitting to be released was tiny in proportion to the number that already exist in the wild, and that they weren't allowing the greys to be released in areas that reds are known to still inhabit.

Animal rights groups in Scotland, where grey squirrels are routinely hunted down and euthanized, are now recommending that all Scottish greys be sent over to England, with one spokesperson noting that

"We don't believe it is acceptable to kill one species of squirrel in an attempt to try to conserve populations of another species of squirrel"

There do appear to be regulations in place to prevent such a transfer from occurring, but they are specifically related to the potential spread of disease.

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