Researchers Along the River - Pennsylvania iMapInvasives
Story written by Kassia Janesch, Education and Outreach Program Assistant with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership
Thanks to a new program, you don't have to be a scientist to help the health of the Susquehanna River. The Pennsylvania iMapInvasives database is a system for invasive species information which was designed to store locations in an online database, be appropriate for plants and animals, and to be available for many audiences (i.e., citizen scientists through professionals). Launched by the Natural Heritage programs in New York and Florida, iMapInvasives is now run in nine states and one Canadian province. (See the full list of participating programs here.)
So how does it work? Basically, professionals or citizen scientists (i.e., groups that monitor invasive species or pull weeds in conservation lands and waterways are often part of a citizen science/invasive species effort) can help collect
Help by improving species distribution maps.
(Distribution of zebra mussels across Pennsylvania according to data received in Pennsylvania iMapInvasives.)
data that is vetted by an administrator and then released for public use.
According to Amy Jewitt, iMapInvasives Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, "The goal of the iMapInvasives database is to provide a platform for storing information, communicating about invasions, and documenting control efforts. With Pennsylvania iMapInvasives, researchers can study distributions, regulatory agencies can view the 'big picture' about invasions, and individuals across varied organizations in a partnership can access project information."
Currently, iMapInvasives has almost 600 registered users in Pennsylvania, many of whom use the database to focus on river-based research. The Susquehanna basin has several high priority invasive species that have distribution data available in iMapInvasives including didymo (Didymosphenia geminata), zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), and hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata).
Ms. Jewitt's final word of advice: "A sighting of an invasive plant or animal may be a valuable finding. When Pennsylvania iMapInvasives staff encouraged a user to record information for a species he believed to be common, we discovered that he had observed one of the first locations of
Monitor the invasive species in your area!
(iMapInvasives offers the use of a mobile app to capture your invasive species findings quickly and easily.)
European frog-bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae) in Pennsylvania. This species is a target of rapid eradication. The lesson of this story is: it's always important to submit data on any invasive species that you find because it just might be something significant."
The Pennsylvania project homepage provides a list of species which are tracked in the Pennsylvania iMapInvasives database as well as reference guides, a gallery of invaders, and access for logging into Pennsylvania iMapInvasives, among other things. To obtain a free login account for Pennsylvania iMapInvasives, visit iMapInvasives.org or email i.
(Link to original online article can be found here.)