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Help Defend Against the Invaders

They have come to our country from all over the world, brought here in the bowels of ships, in the cargo holds of planes, even on the bottoms of our shoes. They’re called invasive species—plants, animals and microbes from foreign lands that in the absence of their natural competitors, predators or ...

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Purple loosestrife was brought to the U.S. in the 1800s as an ornamental plant, but it has taken over many wetlands. (Courtesy of flickr user poppy2323)




They have come to our country from all over the world, brought here in the bowels of ships, in the cargo holds of planes, even on the bottoms of our shoes. They’re called invasive species—plants, animals and microbes from foreign lands that in the absence of their natural competitors, predators or diseases not only establish themselves but sometimes even do better than the natives. The brown tree snake in Hawaii. Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes. Nutria in Louisiana. Leafy spurge throughout the West. Just to name a few.



Why are they a problem? They might crowd out or prey upon indigenous species, possibly leading to extinctions. They might take over a landscape—look at kudzu problem down South, for example, where the infestation can cover an entire house. They might even transmit diseases.



What can you do to help? The USGS is now encouraging people to volunteer with one of the agency’s invasive species networks to help record and submit data on these pests.

Looking for a good excuse to go outdoors this summer? Why not help the USGS track harmful, invasive species? By becoming a citizen scientist, you can help prevent invasive plants, animals, and diseases that are in ecosystems where they don't belong and harming native species. During your summer hikes, you could be on the hunt for kudzu, giant hogweed, yellow star thistle, snakehead fish, feral cats and much more!


Why is this important? Well, government agencies can’t do anything about these species unless they know what is out there and where it is.



Organizations looking for volunteers include:



The Invasive Plant Atlas of New England

Invasive Plant Atlas of the Mid-South

The Cactus Moth Monitoring and Detection Network

CitSci.org

Purple Loosestrife Volunteers

Invaders of Texas Citizen Science Program

Maui County Report a Pest
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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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