Sep 12

Friday Feast! September 12, 2014

Eating invasive species news and notes from around the internet!

Sep 08

Sometimes a net is mightier than a fork!

This post is a guest contribution from Sean Ryan and Meredeth Doellman of The Pieris Project. Read on to see how you can become involved with some exciting citizen science!

Pieris rapae

photo by Flikr user Dendroica cerulea through a Creative Commons license has had fun developing novel ways to engage the public with invasive species, but what do you do with those invasives that aren’t so filling? Answer: Put down your fork and pick up your butterfly net! (at least when the invasive is a butterfly.) Invasive species are not only tasty, but can be useful to study how organisms adapt to new environments and climate change. For example, by understanding how an invasive butterfly – the cabbage white (Pieris rapae) – has adapted as it spread across North America, folks at The Pieris Project hope to gain insights as to how other species may adapt to similar environmental changes. The Pieris Project is a partnership with the public (you!) to collect this invasive butterfly from across the US, and soon the world!

The cabbage white is believed to have invaded the entire US, most of North America, and many other parts of the world; it’s pretty much everywhere but Antarctica. The butterflies were introduced to North America from Europe in the late 1800s and spread from eastern Canada across North America within only a few decades. The caterpillars feed on many agricultural crops (plants in the mustard family such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts), which is in part why they have been able to invade many parts of the world; these invaders are eating our food!

This year, the Pieris Project wants to collect at least 20 butterflies from each US state and as many countries from across the world as they can.  Helping them reach this goal is easy, partly because these butterflies have invaded everywhere, including your backyard! To get involved is easy: visit to learn how to catch them, where to send them, and what cool things we hope to learn about them. By catching a few butterflies from your hometown, you can join the many citizen scientists that are helping to use this invasive species to learn how other native species of butterflies will respond to changes in their environment, such as climate change, habitat destruction, and changes in land-use. Thanks for your help, and we wish you happy hunting!

Aug 29

Friday Feast! August 29, 2014

Eating invasive species news and notes from around the internet!

Aug 25

Notes from the road: spotlights on leading plant invasive species research

HobanInvasivore Sean Hoban recently attended the annual meeting of the Botanical Society of America in Boise, Idaho, which featured a session an afternoon session on some recent studies in plant Invasion Biology. Six researchers presented their latest ecological and genetic findings, from the interactive effects of Amur honeysuckle and white-tailed deer to hybridization among multiple species of knapweed. Overall, the studies give us better knowledge of how and why some species invade, as well as how invaders affect the invaded communities. Here, Sean highlights some interesting findings from each presentation.

Erica Case from UC Davis talked about impacts of goatgrass on the fragile serpentine grasslands of California. These unique habitats only make up 1-2% of California land area but have 10% of the total species! Unfortunately these habitats are being invaded, partly due to increasing use of off-road vehicles, which disperse seeds, and gopher activity, which disturbs the soil and opens a place for the introduced seeds to take hold. Erica talked about how species might be lost from certain local habitats due to invaders, but sometimes they persist in other local habitats. This rare persistence prevents their overall extinction. Her research will help understand what factors help natives persist in some locations but not others.

Next, Gina Marchini from Portland State University presented experimental results working on the invasive bunchgrass Brachypodium sylvaticum (slender false brome), which is native to Western Europe but is invading the Northwest United States. Interestingly, the plant receives much less rain in its invasive locations, so Gina’s aim is to determine exactly what factors allow it to tolerate higher this greater dryness. She found, among other results, that invading individuals can maintain their leaf shape better and their cells are also more elastic than the native source populations, allowing them to keep better hydrated during drought. This drought tolerance ability may be partly due to evolution during the invasion process.

Then, Peter Guiden and Jessica Peebles-Spence from Miami University gave a pair of talks on white-tailed deer and Amur honeysuckle. Using 40,0000 hours or radio-tracking data, Peter showed evidence that deer can eat and then transport honeysuckle seeds up to 8 kilometers. He also found that  31% of pellets germinated even after passing through the deer’s digestive system. Thus, invasivore deer could help disperse, intensify and spread the invasion. Jessica was interested on how the native forest will recover if deer and/or honeysuckle were excluded from plots. She found higher species richness in plots where both of thse invaders were excluded, though it took several years for this native plant community to begin to recover.

The last two talks used genetic tools for different uses. Tomáš Závada from University of Massachusetts Boston used genotypes to determine how many introductions occurred of two knapweed species on Nantucket Island, and to identify hybrids. Lastly, Hannah Marx of the University of Idaho used very large genetic datasets and large computational power to determine how different combinations of species can develop into a community. Specifically she was interested to determine whether evolution of traits that help a species escape competition might be an important mechanism that helps invasive species establish.

Throughout the conference there were many other presentations, posters and discussions on various aspects of plant biology. The next Botany conference will be in Edmonton, Canada in July 2015.

Aug 22

Friday Feast! August 22, 2014

Eating invasive species news and notes from around the internet!

Jul 25

Friday Feast! July 25, 2014

Eating invasive species news and notes from around the internet!

Jul 11

Friday Feast! July 11, 2014

Eating invasive species news and notes from around the internet!

Jun 27

Friday Feast! June 27, 2014

Eating invasive species news and notes from around the internet!

Jun 20

Friday Feast! June 20, 2014

Eating invasive species news and notes from around the internet!

Jun 13

Friday Feast! 13 June 2014

Eating invasive species news and notes from around the internet!

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