Training dogs to detect Zebra or Quagga mussels may be a new effective way to combat invasive species in Montana. Much like cadaver dogs, environmental watchdogs are being trained to sniff out invasive species in coastal waters. Through a collaboration between the state, several federal agencies, and the Montana Invasive Species Advisory Council (MISAC) dogs are being used to inspect boat docks and shorelines for the invasive mussels and prevent their spread. In addition to eating plankton that native fish species depend on for food, Zebra and Quagga mussels clog structures like pipes and disrupt water flow. These invasive muscles have already caused billions of dollars in damage every year in part of the United States like the Great Lakes. The hope is that the watchdogs will be able to detect adult mussels in the water and alert their handlers to the presence of these invasive species. Article by Elaine Hannah in Science World Report.
Susan Lee, Master’s student in Biology
Research from the USGS was recently published in a study on the changing competitive dynamics between native and invasive trout species under climate change. This laboratory experiment examined the effects of warming stream waters in the Eastern United States (which is likely to occur with climate change) on competitive behaviors of native Brook trout. Observations were made with and without the presence of the widespread invasive Brown trout. Native Brook trout were more affected by warming temperatures in the presence of the competitively superior Brown trout. Researchers concluded that evaluation and management of invasive species will need to account for future increases of the interaction between climate change and non-native species effects. This reinforces the complexity inherent in dealing with invasive species issues. Conditions can be radically different through both space and time. The input from many disciplines is needed to act quickly and effectively to curb the ecological and economic costs that can often pile up. Original study published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
Shane Tripp, Master’s student in Geography
Florida may be one of the most heavily “invaded” states, in terms of exotic species. One of the most notable threats to native wildlife in the sunshine state is the Burmese python (Python bivittatus), one of the largest snakes on the planet. Threatened in their native range due largely to overexploitation, the constrictor has established firmly in Florida, where it was accidentally released via the pet trade. Since their establishment over a decade ago, they have decimated populations of native, mid-sized vertebrates (i.e. rabbits, raccoons, foxes) and have even tried attacking alligators. Between these limousine-length snakes and other invaders, such as iguanas, hogs and giant African land snails, Florida has quite the management challenge ahead of it in the future. Not to mention rising sea-levels… Article by Steve Mirsky In Scientific American.
Devin DiGiacopo, Ph.D. student in Biology
"One of the biggest threats to broadleaf forests, the Asian long-horned beetle, could soon face new management practices in its invaded range. As reported in Science Daily, a collaborative project between researchers from the U.S. and Switzerland seeks to sequence the Asian long-horned beetle's genome and develop genomic management tools. So far, the researchers have successfully isolated genes that separate the invasive phytophagous beetle from beetles that do not eat plants. Of particular note is a set of genes that allow the Asian long-horned beetle to detoxify plant-defensive chemicals and continue eating undeterred. Because these genes are part of what make the beetle such a successful invader, they could potentially hold the key to effective management practices. Original paper in Genome Biology.
Henry Fandel, Ph.D. student in Biology
A new non-native species has just been found in the Great Lakes, reports the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. This species, a zooplankton called Thermocyclops crassus, is the first new non-native species found in the Great Lakes since 2006 when new regulations were introduced to reduce transport of non-natives in the ballast water of ships. Scientists are unsure if this species will become invasive or cause damage, but this discovery underscores the need to remain vigilant for potential biological invasions and continue to improve prevention measures.
Andria Kroner, Ph.D. student in Biology