Invasive Species Interest Group (ISIG)

The Invasive Species Interest Group (ISIG) (formerly a Working Group) was initiated in 2002 by the NBII Invasive Species Information Node, to facilitate communication on the subject of invasive species and information management, within the NBII and among the Node's partners and supporters. Through regular monthly teleconferences, participants are able to stay informed about projects going on around the nation, and share their experience with colleagues. The ISIG membership includes over 100 representatives from private, non-profit, educational, state and federal government, and non-government organizations from across the United States.

" Thanks for your work putting together the [Invasive Species Interest Group] teleconferences, I find it very informative to hear what other people around the country are doing, and to have access to their excellent presentation materials ." (Peggy Olofson, Director, San Francisco Estuary Invasive Spartina Project,

The group holds monthly teleconferences at 4 pm Eastern Time on the last Thursday of each month (except in November and December). Each teleconference usually consists of a short presentation on an invasive species information management project followed by a discussion. The meeting is concluded with short reports from participants highlighting their recent achievements or issues they are tackling in the invasive species and information management fields. Minutes are recorded during each meeting, and distributed to the members.

If you would like to participate in the Invasive Species Interest Group, please contact:
Annie Simpson (+1-703-648-4281; or Elizabeth Sellers (+1-703-648-4385;

2010 ISWG Year-End Summary


Thank you all for your support and participation in the Invasive Species Working Group coordinated by the USGS Biological Informatics Program (National Biological Information Infrastructure - NBII). We ended the year 2010, with the unexpected and unfortunate passing of our good friend and colleague in the invasive species and botany fields, Dr. Leslie Mehrhoff. We will continue the ISWG teleconferences in 2011 and in the spirit of Les, use them to improve our understanding and implementation of invasive species information management, and early detection, rapid assessment, and rapid response programs.

* For more information about any of these presentations, please contact the authors.

Download this summary ( PDF )


January - Sarah Kirn (Vital Signs Program Manager, Gulf of Maine Research Institute - GMRI) presented on: Vital Signs Program Helps Students Contribute to Invasive Species Research

Vital Signs engages students, citizen scientists and scientists to participate in a statewide effort to find and document invasive species and native species and habitats vulnerable to future invasions. This effort is facilitated by a state-of-the-art web site at that provides background information, resources, discussion forums, and an interactive application to accept the GPS locations, images, words, and measurements reported by participating data collectors. Vital Signs supports reporting on more than 200 native and invasive species in freshwater, rocky intertidal and upland habitats, including high priority species. Within the first 2 months of active deployment into 25 schools across the State, more than 400 data records have been submitted to Geographic distribution of the data includes 12 of the 16 counties in Maine, and this is expected to expand statewide as the program grows. The geo-referenced data undergo multiple layers of quality assurance, peer review, and expert review to ensure the accuracy and usefulness of the resulting data set. Vital Signs and IPANE have begun the process of setting up ongoing data sharing such that the expert-verified, student-collected data in Vital Signs can be displayed alongside other data in IPANE's database, and IPANE data can be displayed in Vital Signs' data mapping and analysis tools for students.

February - Jacoby Carter (Nutria Research Coordinator, USGS National Wetlands Research Center Lafayette, LA) presented on: The Natural History of an Urban Nutria ( Myocastor coypus ) Population Between 2005-2008 and the Implications for Management and Control.

The nutria is an aquatic rodent native to South America, south of the equator. It was widely introduced throughout the United States in the 1930-1940's, through both deliberate introductions and escapes from fur farms. In most of the northern states they did not survive in the wild. However, populations persisted in the states surrounding the Gulf of Mexico and in southern Washington and northern Oregon in the Columbia River Valley. Starting in the 1960s their populations began to expand throughout their range. In some areas, they have cause significant damage to local marshes. The response to nutria damage has varied regionally. In all but two states they are treated like any other fur bearing mammal and problems are dealt with on a case by case basis. In Maryland there is a federally funded eradication program on the Eastern Shore. In Louisiana there is a targeted incentive program, also federally funded, for trappers. While nutria ecology in their preferred marsh systems is well understood, there has been little study of nutria in non-marsh habitat. Non-marsh habitats where nutria have been documented as having established populations include: bottomland hardwood forests, creek and river systems, and the lakes and ponds adjacent to golf courses, housing developments and urban parks. Understanding how nutria use these areas is necessary for developing strategies to prevent nutria dispersal to new habitat and reintroduction to areas where they have been extirpated. This study documents the variety of non-marsh nutria habitat for just one area.

March - John D. Madsen (presenter), Richard L. Brown, Gary N. Ervin, Victor L. Maddox, and Clifton F. Abbott (Mississippi State University, Geosystems Research Institute) presented on: An Update on the Invasive Plant Atlas of the MidSouth Project.

Invasive weedy plants are a widespread problem throughout the United States. Their growth is often widely dispersed, with little scientific ability to predict why they occur in a given location. In addition, historical human activities such as urbanization, agriculture, and forestry have a marked effect on the distribution and spread of invasives. This project will quantify relationships of weed distribution and spread with land use, then use that information directly in educating agriculture stakeholders, natural resources managers, and other interested parties on potential human-induced opportunities for invasive species spread. The Invasive Plant Atlas of the Mid-South (IPAMS) is an integrated research and extension project to develop an invasive plant program for the Mid-South states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Research activities include conducting systematic regional vegetation surveys to assess the distribution of key invasive plants, developing models for predicting the occurrence of target species based on land use and cover, and evaluating the relative effectiveness of professional versus volunteer surveys. For the research component of this project, we have surveyed over 470 points throughout the state of Mississippi, providing data on more than 800 plant species, including more than 70 not native to the region. Initial analyses of these data have demonstrated a strong correlation of land use/cover with the presence of exotic plant species, especially key invaders such as the grass Imperata cylindrica (cogongrass). Outreach and extension activities include developing training programs for volunteers to identify and report invasive species using IPAMS, developing an efficient Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) system for invasive plants, developing best management information, and developing an online mapping system. To date, we have trained numerous individuals in identification of our target forty species. We have developed management information for 27 of the 40 training species, and will complete the remaining 13 species this spring. Two training workshops were held in 2009, and ten more are planned for 2010. Our webpage ( is operational, with over 8700 records of 134 species from 29 states, entered and many more observations completed but not entered into the database.

April - Deanne Dipietro (Sonoma Ecology Center) and Allan Hollander (University of California - Davis, Information Center for the Environment) presented on: French Broom ( Genista monspessulana ) Modeling in the Marin Municipal Water District.

French broom is a non-native invasive shrub that has colonized sensitive habitats in coastal California for decades. Land managers for the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) have been controlling French broom on their watershed lands for many years now because it degrades wildlife habitat and alters the fire regime. In this project, the Information Center for the Environment at UC Davis and the Sonoma Ecology Center collaborated to develop a model to predict where (on the MMWD lands) French broom is most likely to invade in the future. As a basis for the modeling, we used a map of broom occurrences on a portion of the MMWD lands together with a stack of environmental predictor variables which included topographic and land cover variables as well as distances from various categories of disturbance. We used three different statistical modeling techniques: 1) logistic regression, 2) multivariate adaptive regression splines ("splines" are a mathematical method of smoothing linear features), and 3) random forests; to develop maps of susceptibility to broom invasion. We conclude by discussing the differences and advantages to the modeling techniques we used as well as the nature and limitations of such fine-scale predictive modeling of invasive plant distributions.

May - Doug Johnson (Executive Director, California Invasive Plant Council) and Dave Waetjen (Post Graduate Researcher/Ph.D. Candidate - Geography, Information Center for the Environment - ICE, UC Davis) presented by: Developing an Invasive Species List and Online Scorecards for California.

The State of California is for the first time compiling an all-taxa list of invasive species that threaten the state. The list will be used as a baseline for strategic planning, and to help anticipate future pest introductions. To generate this list, the state's invasive species advisory committee has teamed with the Information Center for the Environment (ICE) at UC Davis to develop a collaborative web application. This application enables expert contributors to rate organisms through a "scorecard" template, provide reference attribution, and comment on existing content. User information and content changes are tracked, providing an accountable information trail for this "living" document. Currently, over 1,700 species are listed (including vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and diseases) and over 200 of these have detailed scorecards, providing information on their impacts and the state's ability to respond to them.

June - Annie Simpson , (National Biological Information Infrastructure, Invasive Species Information Manager) and Marcia McNiff (NBII Northeast Information Manager) presented on: The Alphabet Soup of North American Invasive Species Policy and Information Management: WAB, NISC, NAISN, CEC, Trilat -- what they mean, what they do, how they overlap, how they cooperate.

There are several international organizations, new and old, that have an invasive species information management element. This brief presentation will provide a context for ISWG members about these organizations with respect to goals/purpose, information activities, how you could become involved, and potential budget/funding opportunities.

July - Gary N. Ervin (Department of Biological Sciences and Geosystems Research Institute, Mississippi State University) presented on: Ecological Genetics of Cactoblastis cactorum at Home and Abroad.

Since February of 2008, we have been developing an ecological genetics research program to better understand the North American invasion of Cactoblastis cactorum . This work has involved data and sample collection throughout Florida as well as across the northern third of Argentina. By combining our data with that from other parts of the moth's global distribution, we have gained some interesting insights to the population biology and ecology of this invader. First, we have found clear patterns of genetic structure in the moth's native range, and those patterns appear to be influenced by a combination of environmental factors and host identity. The constraints on native range distribution seem to have been loosened in the non-native range of C. cactorum, but there remains strong support for the importance of host species in invasive spread. Ongoing collaborations aim to explore mechanisms for the native-range population structure and the role of community-level interactions in the North American distribution of C. cactorum .

August - Joseph LaForest (Integrated Pest Management and Forest Health Coordinator, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia) presented on: Bugwood: What's New and What's Coming. Images, Video and Presentations.

The Bugwood Network was formed to make digital resources easily available for use in non-commercial, educational projects as long as the content is properly cited. The first tool that was made available was Bugwood Images. Since the beginning of the system in 1994, it has constantly evolved and grown to take advantage of technological advances and meet the needs of its users. The database is now the primary engine behind 5 online image resources, provides direct image support to over 30 other web resources, and is widely used as an image source for forestry, invasive species, agriculture, integrated pest management, plant diagnostics, entomology, and natural resources. The interfaces for the 5 online image resources (,,,, has just received a significant upgrade to better handle image usage requests, to allow for better filtering of images while navigating the site, and to provide more opportunities for photographers and organizations to apply their own branding for better recognition of their efforts. Thanks to a grant by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), Bugwood Images will soon be joined by two additional sister-databases: Bugwood Video and Bugwood Presents. Like the image resource, these will make video and presentation materials available for online viewing, direct use in other web resources, or downloadable for incorporation into non-commercial, educational projects as long as the content is properly cited.

September - Pam Fuller & Amy Benson, USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center presented on:
The Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Alert System - our first 5 years.

The U.S. Geological Survey's Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database program ( tracks the distribution of introduced aquatic organisms across the United States. In May 2004, the program developed an Alert System to notify registered users of new introductions as part of a national early detection/rapid response system. Users can register to receive alerts based on geographic or taxonomic criteria. This presentation describes who has used the system during the past five years and what information they were seeking. Users and alerts are summarized by geography, taxonomy, year, alert level, and source of information.

October - Christine Fournier (Project Coordinator, IABIN Invasives Information Network (I3N)) presented on: Open source tool development for invasive species information sharing in the Americas.

The Invasives Information Network of the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (I3N) has been developing and distributing tools for the collection and sharing of standardized invasive species information since 2002. Coordinated by the NBII, I3N is a pioneer in the Americas on invasive species information sharing and capacity building. In 2006 the network released the I3N Database on Invasive Alien Species in Microsoft Access, with an html Web template. Using this tool, there are currently ten countries in Latin America and the Caribbean sharing their species and occurrence records, and five more coming on-line soon. Based on feedback from these and other users over the past four years, I3N has designed an Open Source (MySQL) version of the database template with improved features in a more freely-customizable platform. This presentation will provide an update on the I3N network and serve as a preview of the web interface of the new I3N database in its nearly-finalized form.

November - December - ISWG Adjourned

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