Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quaker Notes

Some invasive species are definitely best kept indoors. Take, for example, the Quaker parakeet (monk parrot, Myiopsitta monachus) featured in this Yahoo! News story. The adorable bird, named Willie, recently saved the life of a little girl by screaming "Mama! Baby!" until the babysitter came into the room and realized that the girl was choking. Luckily girl and parrot are both okay. Something tells me Willie got an extra treat that day, and some scratchies, too :-). If this story isn't already sweet enough for you, check out Cute Overload!'s version of the story, which comes with extra shots of cute Quakers.

Friday, March 27, 2009


A couple of ISW readers sent in a link to this CNN video about the latest trend in foot care: letting fish eat the dead skin off your feet. The fish in question, charmingly called "Doctor Fish" are Garra rufa, a species in the Carp family. This method of foot care has actually been around for a few years now, probably longer in Asia. But now that it has made its way to the USA, federal and state officials are keeping a watchful eye. It is currently legal to import the fish into the country, but as the video warns, it's definitely not okay to release them into the wild. Some states, including Maryland, have also gone the extra mile of banning the practice of these fishy foot treatments. See action shot below...

Fish Spa by weegolo, via Flickr

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fighting With Fungus

ARS News has a blurb about research efforts by ARS scientists that aim to find more efficient, reliable ways to select pathogens that will be good biological controls to fight invasive plants. Using a combination of DNA sequencing and a measurement of reaction of the plants to the pathogen, the researchers were able select pathogens that were the most species-specific, thereby narrowing down the time and resources needed to find the best biocontrol candidates. For some reason, ARS News doesn't link to the article the blurb is about, but there is an abstract elsewhere on their website. I will post a direct link to the article, which is published in the April 2009 issue of the journal Biological Control, as soon as Elsevier's website is back online :-).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Out Of Biocontrol

An excellent piece in the Salt Lake City Weekly about the current furor over the impact that a beetle released to attack invasive tamarisk shrubs (Tamarix spp., saltcedar) is having on an endangered bird. Seems the releases of leaf beetle Diorhabda elongata as a biocontrol were a lot more successful than people had anticipated, often leading to massive tamarisk defoliations that left the nests of the Southwestern willow flycatcher completely exposed. Add to that some miscommunication between state and federal agencies and the tendency of tamarisk to take over wide swarths of riparian land, and you've got...a complicated situation.

Tip of the virtual hat to the Aridzona Weed News Forum for posting a link to this article.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


A cutely worded article in The London Times reminds that, yes, even royalty must succumb to the rules of The Galapagos, as Prince Charles and his wife arrive for a tour of South America and are thoroughly fumigated before deplaning, so as to prevent any hitchhiking organisms or pathogens from further contributing to invasive species problems that plague the islands.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Aquarama Clamor

Attendees at Aquarama 2009, this year's International Ornamental Fish and Accessories Exhibition, will be treated to a special one-day conference about invasive species organized by the trade association Ornamental Fish International. The conference will feature speakers from across the world, covering topics from the aquarium industry as an invasive species pathway to the approach that different coutnries take to dealing with invaders. The bad news (for me anyway) - Aquarama is all the way in Singapore. If you're in the neighborhood or up for the flight, register here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ask The Invasive Species Expert

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is hosting an "Ask Today's Expert" forum that aims to bring the environment into the public consciousness. As luck would have it, today and tomorrow feature invasive species expert Michael Browne, eagerly awaiting your queries about the "Role of Information Exchange for Effective Responses to Biological Invasions." Go on, go ask him a question!

Update: Mr. Browne's time as an UNEP expert was brief, but fear not - you can view all the questions plus his responses here.