Heron among invasive purple loosestrife near Wrightsville, PA. Photo by Jim Sullenberger
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Researchers Along The River - PA iMapInvasives

January 2016, by Kassia Janesch

Thanks to a new program, you don’t have to be a scientist to help the health of the Susquehanna River. PA iMapInvasives, is a system for invasive species information which was designed to store locations in an online spatial database, be appropriate for plants and animals, and to be available for many audiences (citizen scientist through professionals). Launched by the National Heritage Programs in New York and Florida, iMapInvasives is now run in 10 states, including Pennsylvania and Saskatchewan.

So how does it work? Basically, professionals or citizen scientists (Groups that monitor invasive species or pull weeds in conservation lands or waterways are often part of a citizen science – invasive species effort.) can help collect data that is vetted by an administrator and then released for public use.

According to Amy Jewitt, iMapInvasives Coordinator of 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 on 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 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.” 

To obtain a free log-on for iMapInvasives, visit www.imapinvasives.org or email imapinvasives@paconserve.org.

The project homepage provides a list of species which are tracked in the Pennsylvania iMapInvasives database, reference guides, a gallery of invaders, and access for logging into Pennsylvania iMapInvasives, among other things.