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The Smart(phone) Way to Report Invasive Species

Update written by Nicole Smith, Florida State University student

On a rainy Tuesday in May 2012, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York Natural Heritage Program introduced their new browser-based smartphone tool for iMapInvasives with an invasive species Bio-Blitz workshop in the town of Saugerties.


Following an orientation and brief training at the library, volunteers carpooled to the Esopus Bend Preserve, where they walked the woodland trails, mapping and photographing invasive species with their Androids, iPhones, and tablets. Returning to the library, they were able to view their real-time contributions in the invasive species database.


Invasive species are non-native organisms that thrive outside of their original environment and cause significant harm to the environment, economy, and human health.

In New York, invasive species such as northern snakehead fish (Channa argus), hydrilla waterweed (Hydrilla verticillata), and

Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) threaten aquatic resources. In forested areas, the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) imperils our hardwoods like sugar maple trees, and the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is killing ash trees in several counties. Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), an invasive plant, poses a health hazard to humans. And some invasive species have jeopardized habitats critical to the survival of endangered species, such as displacement of the federally listed Hart's-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum) by the invasive vine, pale swallowwort (Cynanchum rossicum). 

The key to success in controlling invasives is early detection, and concerned citizens are often the first to spot new invaders. Amateur naturalists and conservation professionals alike can submit reports to iMapInvasives, a collaborative online database and mapping system. iMapInvasives overcomes a major challenge in managing invasive species by providing a single system where multiple organizations can gather and share data. 


By sharing invasive species data via mapping and web-based technologies, this unique database allows land managers to access precise location data from multiple sources. Reports from the public provide valuable information to New York’s natural resource preserve

managers, regional planners, and other land and water managers,

helping them prioritize control projects and other work aimed to prevent the spread of invasive species. 

With the release of the iMapInvasives smartphone app, citizens can now contribute data to iMapInvasives instantly, aiding early detection and ensuring that citizen-scientists’ observations get reported. 

So how effective was the Bio-Blitz Workshop for the release of the iMapInvasives smartphone application? With the help of 21 attendees, the group overcame the rain to enter 38 new observations into iMapInvasives in just one hour. In addition to making a significant contribution to New York’s distribution maps, the effort helped raise public awareness while training a new batch of citizen scientists.

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