Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Let's Be Franck

If only all scientists were as generous as Franck Courchamp, life could be so much easier for those of us doing research. (But then again, perhaps there would be no journals for us to publish in? :-). Franck recently posted a link, on the ALIENS-L listserver, to an article he wrote about mammal invasions. When I followed the link, I discovered many invasive mammal-related articles, all available as .pdf files from this page. Franck is currently a researcher at the Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique, and you can read a more general description of his projects by going here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Something's Fishy

Has Australia made progress in its quest to create genetically modified carp (Cyprinus carpio)? I'm not exactly sure, but there is this article from Yahoo! News, which suggests that CSIRO and the Pest Animal Control CRC are on track to release GM carp containing the "daughterless" gene, that should cause them to produce only male offspring, in the middle of this century. The article explains that the gene, which comes from carp, is currently being tested on another invasive fish, the gambusia (Gambusia spp.). Neither organization is currently publicizing the project, leading me to suspect this is not really news. You can learn more about the GM carp project from this 2002 blog entry. You may also want to check out this better (and much older) article from

Thanks to Slashdot for posting a link to this article.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Leapin' Lizards!

This article from the Sioux City Journal is a must-read. It describes the work of Jason Kolbe, a graduate student who studies the brown anole (Anolis sagrei), a lizard native to the West Indies that is showing up in Florida, Hawaii and even Taiwan (.pdf file). Jason even spent a month in Cuba with fellow researchers, collecting skin samples or tails from lizards across the island. Using molecular tools, he can then compare the DNA of brown anoles from all over the world, to determine how the species has spread from one place to another. While brown anoles are not yet considered a problem in most areas where they have been introduced, they are thought to be outcompeting the native green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) in Florida. Bonus points to the Journal for using the lizard's scientific name.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The moths return

The winter moths are back in southeast Massachusetts, along with the confusion over their origin. The Boston Globe is reporting that the tiny brown moths (they're actually a pretty copper color up close) are covering people's houses by the hundreds. Scientists are unsure whether the moths have migrated from Canada or are actually native to Europe. Their populations appeared to have died off over the past few days, based on accounts in the Globe article, and the fact that my parent's house in Randolph had a mere 25 under the porch light on Christmas day. The ISW had an entry about 2002's moth invasion earlier this year, along with a photo.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Dog Gone It!

Dogs hunting invasive's not a joke. reports that Kim Goodwin, a scientist at Montana State University, is working with a trainer to determine whether dogs can be taught to identify weeds by smell, and to locate them in the field. The first target, this being Montana, is spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa / biebersteinii). Trials with the first dog, named "Knapweed Nightmare," will begin this spring.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Access of Weevil

HortNews is reporting that forestry researchers in New Zealand are seeking permission to import Cleopus japonicus, a weevil that defoliates the invasive butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii, sometimes known horticulturally as Buddleia). This is in spite of the fact that evidence has shown that the weevils also feed on some of the other species in the genus that are present in New Zealand, albeit non-native. Butterfly bush is quite popular among gardeners worldwide, with many cultivars showcasing an array of brilliantly-colored flowers. The weevil in question, native to Asia, has also been shown to attack native hebes (Hebe spp.) species, but scientists believe the negative impacts of the butterfly bush invasion outweigh the potential weevil risk to native plant species.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Comment away!

I've just installed a comment system on the ISW. Whether you have a related website to link to, or an expert opinion to share, feel free to add comments to any of the posts. This free commenting system for Blogger-based weblogs is provided by BlogSpeak.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Fish Story

Yet another reason to keep those biodiversity surveys going: CNews is reporting that Canadian scientists surveying the Don River back in October found grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) among the fish they were cataloguing. Only a single fish was found, and there is no evidence to suggest there are established populations of the carp. However, officials remain concerned, due to the fact that this fish find occurred at the mouth of a river that feeds into Lake Ontario. Grass carp are the same species often sought after to control aquatic invasive plants such as hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) (see previous blog entries). You can also read an older article about the grass carp in Lake Ontario from The Globe and Mail.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

A not-so-distant star

A government study of Port Phillip Bay, Australia found that fish populations have plummeted, and that the likely culprit is the Northern Pacific sea star (Asterias amurensis). As described by The Age, the report concludes that the sea stars are "like a vacuum on the bay's floor," and have drastically altered the ecosystem in a way that makes it inhospitable to bottom-dwelling fish species. The report also places some blame on scallop dredging in the 1960s, since that massive disturbance likely facilitated the sea star invasion. Northern Pacific sea stars are thought to have been introduced to Australia via ballast water.

Friday, December 19, 2003


Scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science recently discovered a new protozoan parasite (Bonamia sp.) in populations of Asian oysters (Crassostrea ariakensis) off the coast of North Carolina, according to this report from This is bad news, as many had hoped that the Asian oysters could supplement the Chesapeake Bay's dwindling native oyster populations. This is the first time that Bonamia has been found in the region, though it has been detected in Maine, France and New Zealand. Research is still being done to determine where the parasites are from (they don't appear to be associated with the shipments of Asian oysters), and to what degree they cause oyster mortality. Bonus points to ABCNews for using scientific names.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Mayan Oh My!

As reported by WBBH-TV, experts doing a survey of Charlotte Harbor, Florida, were surprised to discover populations of Mayan cichlid (Cichlasoma urophthalmus) there. This marks the first time the aggressive, brackish-water fish, which is native to Central America, has been found so far north on Florida's west coast. Scientists are currently gutting some of the cichlids to examine their stomach contents, one way of analyzing what native species they pose a threat to.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Barring Barberry in NH?

Officials in New Hampshire are currently at odds with the nursery industry over a proposal to ban the sale and transport of 18 invasive plants and 15 insects, as reported by the Concord Monitor. Among the disputed plants on the list are the Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), two established invaders that have been big moneymakers for some nurseries. You can go here to read .pdf versions of the current NH invasive species laws, proposed rules, and proposed lists of invasive and potentially invasive species.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

More Bounty Huntin'

Louisiana is continuing its nutria (Myocastor coypus) cash exchange program, offering $4 per tail, according to this article from The Times-Picayune (you need to give them your zip code and birth year to read the article). Trappers can also sell the pelts and meat (though that's only worth about another dollar). This $12 million nutria management program is sponsored by the Coastwide Nutria Control Program, which requires that trappers be licensed and bring their bounty to designated trapping sites. Other programs that offer incentives to get the public involved in removing invasives are located in South Africa (trees and herbs), Utah (dyer's woad), and as mentioned in yesterday's post, Venezuela (North American bullfrogs).

Monday, December 15, 2003


If you live in Venezuela, you can make extra money by hunting North American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana). According to this article from The Boston Globe, you can earn 1000 bolivars (about 50 cents) per adult female, less money for males and tadpoles. The froggy roundup is part of an effort to reduce populations of the invasive bullfrogs, which have been observed to decimate biodiversity in the ponds where they take up residence. Read the detailed, well-written article for more about the history of this species in Venezuela (bonus points to the Globe for using the scientific name). For information about North American bullfrogs in Europe, see this site.

Thanks to members of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to the article and the Euro-site.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Aussie Quarantine Officials Get the Boot

Incredibly observant quarantine officials in Australia discovered seeds from the invasive Siam weed (Chromolaena odorata) in the tongue of a work boot, according to this article from The pair of boots was examined during a routine cargo inspection of a shipment from East Timor, and was likely "contaminated" during some sort of field survey. The officials prevented Siam weed from entering the Northern Territory of Australia, where the species is not yet known. The fast-growing plant has already caused problems on a local level when it was found in Queensland, a state in northeastern Australia.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Has your potpourri been bugged?

Alerts have gone out in several states about batches of potpourri infested with adults and larvae of the non-native wood-boring beetle (Chlorophorus strobilicola). The beetles were first discovered last week in batches of scented pine cones being sold at a Target department store in North Carolina. The beetles have since been discovered in Delaware, Florida, New Jersey, and West Virginia. Georgia's Department of Agriculture is also on the lookout. The pinecones are being sold under several different names, and have been found at both Target and Walmart. Experts recommend that if you think you have purchased contaminated potpourri, you should either return it to the store where it was purchased, or double bag it before placing it in the trash. You can also call a toll-free help line at (888) 397-1517, but this may work only in Florida. There is currently very little information about this beetle species on the web, but I expect that will change over the next week or so. Update: The scented pinecone recall has gone national, and now covers potpourri sold at many different stores. You can read an article on the subject from Pest Control magazine, or view a FAQ from the USDA.

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting the original alert.

Friday, December 12, 2003

A Wiki Good Time

Has a new species washed ashore in your town, but you have no idea what it is? Got a new weed in your garden that's not in your field guide? We're here to help. Post images and descriptions to the SpeciesID pages of our Wiki system; the administrator (me) is automatically notified when a page is updated, and will help you if you need to find someone to identify your species. The SpeciesID web will host your images and species descriptions, eliminating the need to send around those gigantic attachment-laden emails. Information about the species will be recorded for anyone in the world to see, a permanent yet evolving record where taxonomists can comment on the validity of an ID, or that someone can use if they think they've found the same species.

Anyone can register to use this Wiki-based system, and everyone is welcome to create new pages or add comments to any of the existing species pages. SpeciesID, maintained by the Morris lab, is still in beta. If you have any questions or comments, you can get help by clicking on the tiny "Send Feedback" link in the bottom right corner of every page.

For an example of the way the SpeciesID web works, see the StinkBugs page.

Thursday, December 11, 2003


Plans to repeat the culling of West European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in the Outer Hebrides (Western Isles) in spring 2004 has outraged animal rights activists, according to this article from The Herald UK. The Scottish group Advocates for Animals, currently protesting the eradication, apparently staged a "hedgehog rescue mission" to save the critters from a previous death threat. You can read a previous ISW post about this subject here. Update 12/17: You may also want to check out the Uist Wader Project page from the Scottish Natural Heritage Project, where you will find links to fact sheets about the hedgehog invasion and native wading birds, as well as links to commissioned reports on the topic.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Tipping the Scales

Questions about scale insects (Coccoidea)? Check out ScaleNet, a repository of information about the more than 7000 species of these plant pests. As reported by the ARS, Douglass and Gary Miller, creators of the site, are considered experts on the subject, and often consulted if species are found that are suspected to be invasive. You can also read the full article, recently published in the magazine Agricultural Research. There are currently at least 253 invasive scale insect species residing in the U.S.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Milestone 10,000!!!!

The Invasive Species Weblog reached a milestone on Monday: 10,000 hits! Thank you to the user at UC Davis who became the ISW 10,000 visitor, please treat yourself to some virtual confetti and party music!

Monday, December 08, 2003

No such thing as 100%

The Washington Post has an interesting article about plans in Maryland and Virginia to release Asian Suminoe oysters, to replace the dwindling stocks of native species. Some of the oysters (Crassostrea ariakensis) are from populations bred with an extra chromosome, and while this is supposed to make them sterile, it is not 100% effective. Experiments are already underway to test the oysters' ability to thrive in the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, some officials are concerned about the potential of these bivalves to introduce disease or to become invasive themselves. Bonus points to the Post for using the scientific name of the oyster.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Caws and Effect

Seems the Indian myna bird (Acridotheres tristis, also known as the common myna or mynah, or sometimes even minor bird :-) is causing problems in Tasmania, as reported by the Examiner network. The birds are already established in parts of Australia and New Zealand, where they are known to damage agricultural crops and impact native bird populations, and can also be a vector for the spread of invasive plant species. Myna birds were originally introduced to many different parts of the world for the control of pest insects.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Report Cards

Looks like it's a big week for invasive species publishing. First there was the release of the National Invasive Species Council's report from the Invasive Species Pathway Team (link is to earlier blog entry). Now there is also FICMNEW's report: "A National Early Detection and Rapid Response System for Invasive Plants in the United States." (direct link, .pdf format). In it are (hopefully) all the objectives you'd need to consider when designing your own EDRR program, from identification of vectors to recognition of potential barriers to rapid response.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Smart Birds?

I happened across this site the other day when doing a web search. Until then, I had no idea that there were people who kept starlings as pets, but it turns out there are quite a few that do. Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), along with a few other non-native species, are the only wild birds that can be kept as pets in the U.S. (though you'll need to check your state's regulations as well, if you are thinking of doing this). This site and several others, including and the For the Love of a Starling site, have been set up to help people who find abandoned starling chicks and want to help them. One interesting article on the Starling Talk website disputes the claim that starlings take over the nests of native cavity-nesting birds. Definitely gave me something to think about, as did the fact that the darn things can learn to talk. Luckily, no one has yet taught the flock of 200+ that hangs out on the power lines near Shopper's World in Natick, MA (do I smell an advertising opportunity here?).

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Path to War...Against Invasives

New from the National Invasive Species Council is a report describing vectors of invasive species introduction, and how to rank them according to priority. The entire report, created by a task force for the NISC, can be downloaded as a Word document directly from this link. There doesn't seem to be any web-based summary of this amazingly well-researched document, though you can read more about pathways here.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver (who is also one of the authors) for posting information about the report.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Counting the Days

I finally got a copy of my invasive plant calendar today, and I have to say on the whole it is pretty cool. I did decide to make some minor adjustments, to fix a couple of the images that were a little bit cut off - I guess CafePress isn't perfect. Can't wait until Phragmites Month (January 2004)! You can click on the image below to purchase your own copy.

image of invasive plant 2004 wall calendar

Monday, December 01, 2003

Win Friends and Nominate People

The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that nominations are now being accepted for 2004 appointees to the Invasive Species Advisory Committee. Terms last for two years, with committee members meeting four times per year. The ISAC "provides advice to the Invasive Species Council" and "provides national leadership regarding invasive species issues". The deadline for nominations, if you're interested, is December 31.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting the announcement.