August 2022
Tracking Invasives from Space

Researchers have been trying out new ways to monitor and track invasive species spread for decades, using everything from visual monitoring, different kinds of apps and mapping tools, drones, and now satellites.

A research team at the University of Minnesota has developed deep learning models known as ‘convolutional neural networks,' which allow a computer to learn to identify objects of interest (in this case invasive plants) in satellite images, essentially allowing them to track invasive plants from space. The researchers told the computer to look for an invasive plant called leafy spurge (Euphorbia virgata) and using the deep learning models, had the computer scan satellite images of the Twin Cities region looking for the ‘object of interest.’ The research team found that the deep learning models detected the object of interest with a greater than 96% accuracy. Detection was accurate with both high and low resolution satellite images. Higher resolution images are taken more rarely, while lower resolution images are taken daily. The study also found that the models incorporated a temporal series of images which allowed for timing of plant emergence, flowering and senescence. Since time series analysis is relatively new in this type of deep learning model, having positive results is beneficial in discovering temporal patterns and provides results that were previously impossible to obtain. Surveillance of invasive vegetation via satellite is a low-cost method with a lot of potential, but still requires further research.

Read the research: Lake et al., 2022



 lake et al 2022Left panel: Map of study areas in Twin Cities, Minnesota, used to develop deep learning models. Red points indicate geo-referenced occurrences of leafy spurge (Euphorbia virgata). Right panel: Large leafy spurge populations. Credit: Lake et al., 2022

lake et al 2022 image 2Samples of satellite images and predictions for leafy spurge using deep learning model. Credit: Lake et al., 2022

Crop Pest Monitor

Visually scanning a field crop field for pests is always challenging, and monitoring with traps, though somewhat effective, is never without its problems and flaws. A large group of researchers in China have developed an interesting new strategy for monitoring vegetable crop pests. They have done this by creating an algorithmic learning model, or a ‘bag-of-features’ model, that identifies the type and quantity of pests present on the crop, i.e. level of infestation. The researchers developed an automatic pest monitoring system which combines remote information processing technology and machine vision technology. The system will be able to be implemented in a vegetable crop field to monitor for the following four major pests: the striped flea beetle (Phyllotreta striolata), the invasive western flower thrip (Frankliniella occidentalis), the tobacco white fly (Bemisia tabaci), and the diamond-back moth (Plutella xylostella). These pests can significantly affect vegetable crop yield. The team demonstrated an error rate of less than 10% when compared with visual inspection and manual counts. The algorithm was able to quickly and accurately acquire type and quantity information of the major vegetable pests present when used in a controlled field environment. The algorithm still requires further testing in realistic, less controlled vegetable-growing environments, but it displays much promise.

Read the research: Zhang et al., 2022

western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis)Invasive western flower thrip (Frankliniella occidentalis). Credit: Jack T. Reed, Mississippi State University.

Adult striped flea beetle (Phyllotreta striolata)Invasive striped flea beetle (Phyllotreta striolata). Credit: P. Beauzay, NDSU.

Mosquitoes and Your Smartphone

There are many technological innovations and advances that are leveling the playing field between us and invasive species. Some of them are mentioned in the articles above. Others remain unmentioned because there just isn’t enough article space. However, one last amazing innovation needs to be mentioned.

A global dashboard that tracks invasive mosquitoes and is driven by citizen science reports has been created by the University of South Florida researchers. Researchers hope this database will help combat the ongoing threat of mosquito-borne diseases worldwide and prevent deadly outbreaks. The dashboard combines data from three international available apps, Mosquito Alert, NASA’s GLOBE Observer, and iNaturalist, which allow people anywhere to upload photos of mosquitoes using their smartphones. The dashboard can be used by researchers and mosquito control professionals to monitor invasive species populations, such as Aedes scapularis, an invasive species that causes yellow fever. It can also be used to detect and monitor disease vectors by geo-referencing citizen scientist reports. Since only a small number of mosquito species transmit diseases, identification and geo-referencing is critical in community defense. The dashboard was tested during a preliminary study that targeted primary vectors of Zika, yellow fever, dengue and Chikungunya. One of the citizen scientists' reports led to the first U.S. iNaturalist observation of Aedes scapularis. This information was supplied to local vector control officials in Texas. A.I. algorithms for species recognition are still being developed, and further development and testing will be conducted in Africa as part of an urban malaria vector campaign.

Read the research: Carney et al., 2022

An example of how the new Mosquito Alert app works. Credit USF
An example of how the new Mosquito Alert app works. Credit: USF.

carney et al 2022 image
(Top) Panel from the instructional materials for citizen scientists, demonstrating the proper way to use an inexpensive 60× clip-on lens with a smartphone to photograph mosquito larvae. (Bottom) A selection of citizen science images submitted through the Mosquito Habitat Mapper app. Credit: Carney et al., 2022

Texas Citrus Need Your Help

The Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri) and the Citrus Greening pathogen (Candidatus liberibacter asiaticus) are threatening citrus in multiple Texas counties, and we need your help to monitor the spread. This pest and pathogen are extremely detrimental to Texas citrus, both economically and agriculturally. The presence of either can greatly affect citrus yield.

TISI is offering diagnostic services if you suspect your backyard citrus has either the psyllid pest or the Citrus Greening pathogen.

Contact and you with be provided with all the information needed to send us a plant sample or collect possible pest(s). If you are located within 200 miles of our headquarters, we can collect samples, and/or provide traps and monitoring services. Not only will we share the results and management strategies (where applicable), but you will become part of a multi-county monitoring survey that is striving to improve the health of Texas citrus!

Also Available: TISI offers educational workshops that highlight information about the Asian citrus psyllid, the pathogen Citrus Greening, and what you need to look out for in your own back yard. Your citrus can also become part of a TISI survey that is monitoring Texas citrus for pests and pathogens. If you are interested in this, TISI will providing trapping materials, assist with management strategies, and more.

symptoms of citrus greening. Jeffrey W. Lotz. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Symptoms of citrus greening bacterium. Credit: Jeffrey W. Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,

citrus greening
Leaf mottle on grapefruit, a characteristic symptom caused by citrus greening bacterium but also seen on trees infected by Spiroplasma citri. Credit: J.M. Bove.

Invasive Crayfish Found in TX

Invasive Australian Redclaw Crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) have been collected in Texas. Researchers from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley collected three specimens from an apartment complex pond in the Brownsville area. Supplementary surveys of the surrounding area up to two miles away resulted in the collection of three additional crayfish. This, as well as earlier reports in 2013, indicate that this invasive has likely been present in this location for some time. It is currently unknow as to how far the Australian Redclaw Crayfish was introduced or how far it has spread, but since both males and females have been collected, the potential of reproduction is a real concern. This invasive crayfish can have a negative impact on the native ecosystem. Local authorities plan to monitor the situation closely.

Click HERE to read the full TPWD press release.

  tpwd australian redclaw crayfish
Australian redclaw crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus). Credit: TPWD.

Invasive Beetle Stopped at Border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have done it again. Agriculture specialists stopped an invasive beetle at the Roma International Bridge port of entry, at the Texas-Mexico border. An Acanthoderes funerariawas, a species of longhorn beetle, was found when the specialists were searching through a shipment of agave leaves and other produce in the back of a truck. This is the first time this species has been detected at the border. The beetle is considered an invasive pest that poses a risk to the nation’s agriculture, feeding on wood and plant material. After species confirmation by the specialists, the beetle was sent back to Mexico.

 A. funeraria 
Acanthoderes funerariawas, longhorn beetle. Credit: Ricardo Arredondo T. (CC BY-NC).

Zebra Mussel Watch

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) have been found in Diversion Lake and has been classified as infested. Diversion Lake is a private section of lake downstream of Medina Lake, in Medina County. This section of lake is a reservoir that has been closed to public recreation since 2017.

TPWD emphasized how important it is for boaters, marina operators and others to Clean, Drain and Dry all boats and water craft equipment before moving them, and to remain vigilant to stop the spread of aquatic hitchhikers. If you believe you have seen a zebra or quagga mussels, please take a picture and REPORT IT! here.

 mussel signal flt 
Kylee N. Kleiner, TRIES.

North American Invasive Species Management Association Training Webinars

This program is designed to provide the education needed for professionals and students who are managing or learning to manage invasive species. The courses include the most current invasive species identification, control, and management techniques, and how to comply with local and federal regulations.

Participants may register and enroll at any time, and will receive a certificate of invasive species management from NAISMA upon completion of the program.

All live webinars are open to the public. Recorded webinars are available to members of NAISMA.

NAISMA 2020 Webinar Schedule:

  • September 20, 1pm- Utilizing fire and grazing to manage invasive perennial grasses. REGISTER.
  • October 19, 1pm- Invasive plant management on non-industrial forest lands in the panhandle, FL after hurricane Michael. REGISTER
  • November 16, 1pm- Invasive mussel collaborative tools and accomplishments. REGISTER.
  • December 21, 1pm- Understanding ISPM 15 to reduce the risk of pests in wood packaging. REGISTER.


Look At Edible Landscapes, Avoid Invasive Species

The Surry County Master Gardeners volunteers will be holding two online ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions that will focus on invasive species that can be found in your neighborhood, and how to create a garden of delicious edible plants.

9/1/22, 12:00-1:00pm, “Beware of These Invasive Plants,” identify local invasive plants and offer recommendations to control their spread. REGISTER. More information, HERE.

10/6/22, 12:00-1:00pm, “Edible Landscapes,” how to create an oasis of edibles- even in small spaces. REGISTER. More information, HERE.

edible landscapes
Edible landscapes. Credit: Surry County Master Gardeners.

Invasive Spotlight:

Creasted Floating Heart
(Nymphoides cristata)

The crested floating heart (Nymphoides cristata) is a freshwater floating perennial. It has stolons (runners) that aggressively root, but can also be free-floating. The floating leaves are somewhat heart-shaped with purplish undersides. Tall stalks emerge above the water to produce 5-petaled white flowers. When it's not flowering, it can be identified by its clusters of tuberous propagules that dangle from the node where the stem connects to the leaf.

It was intentionally introduced as an ornamental plant for water gardens and subsequently escaped. It is still widely available from on-line sellers. Control is difficult once established because crested floating hearts grow rapidly, covering the surface and shading out other aquatic plants and algae. Mats can choke out and disrupt the entire food web. As it dies and decomposes it can negatively impact water quality and other species. It can spread when fragments float to new locations. Any attempt at physical or mechanical control will lead to broken fragments that can root, leading to further infestation. It is resistant to most herbicides, while others only offer temporary control. The best control method for controlling crested floating heart is preventing infestation in the first place. Water recreationists should clean, drain and dry their boats, trailers, and equipment to prevent spreading this highly invasive species.

To learn more about the crested floating heart, visit the TexasInvasives info page. This floating aquatic is often mistaken for another aquatic invasive, known as the yellow floating heart (N. peltate), which is a Report It! species as part of the Sentinel Pest Network. If you believe you have found a yellow floating heart, please REPORT IT! here.

lake infested with crested floating hearts. Larry McCord. Santee Cooper.
Lake infested with crested floating hearts (Nymphoides cristata). Credit: Larry McCord, Santee Cooper,

 crested floating heart (Nymphoides cristata). Larry McCord. Santee Cooper. 
Examples of crested floating heart stolons, leaves, and flowers. Credit: Larry McCord, Santee Cooper,

look a like. yellow floating heart (Nymphoides peltata). Rob Andress. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Yellow floating heart (Nymphoides peltata), Crested floating heart look-a-like. Credit: Rob Andress, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,

Get Involved Today!!

The Texas Invasive Species Institute (TISI) and The Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies (TRIES) have many surveys and projects underway. These facilities strive to provide yearly invasive species presence and absence data to the authorities. Pre-screening is one of the first lines of defense in the war against invasives. However, sometimes it is hard to do it alone.

With the aid of the public and citizen scientist, we could cover a much wider area, and gather a more substantial amount of data. When it comes to protecting our environment, there is an opportunity for everyone! Together we can make a difference, one research project at a time.

See how you can get involved by reading the projects listed below or see all the available projects on the Texas Invasives website HERE.

Aquarium Watch: Looking for Prohibited Invasive Aquatic Species

Please help and natural habitats by looking for 14 prohibited invasive aquatic species being sold in your local aquarium store. With just one photo you can assist us in finding and documenting which stores are selling prohibited species. will contact the appropriate Texas institutions to remove the species for sale.

If you would like more information please email, and mention you want to assist with our Aquarium Watch.

Air Potato Survey

Help Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies conduct an air potato survey by actively reporting any infestations seen in your area. The air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) is a fast growing, high climbing vine. Potato-like tubers are the primary means of reproduction for this vine. They can be as small as a marble or as large as a softball. Native yams are often confused for air potatoes, to avoid this confusion please refer to the key below:

- Plants rhizomatous; bulbils never produced in leaf axils; petiole base never clasping the stem; Native D. villosa
- Plants tuberous; bulbils produced in leaf axils; petiole base sometimes clasping the stem; Invasive D. bulbifera

For additional information, please refer to the TexasInvasives information page.

If you believe you have identified an air potato vine, please email and include the following information: an image, an approximate number of vines present, the location (including whether it is on public or private land), and if bulbils are present (the potato-like tubers that emerge from the stem).

Participation opportunities
Participation Opportunities. Credit: KNKleiner, TRIES.

Armorded catfish. Photographer United States Geological Survey
Armored catfish (Hypostomus plecostomus). Credit: United States Geological Survey.

air-potato (Dioscorea bulbifera)2 bulbil. credit Karen Brown
Air-potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), bulbil emerging from leaf axil. Credit: Karen Brown.

More News

More Than 400 Invasive Fish Dumped from Aquariums Found in Texas River
Researchers pulled hundreds of invasive armored catfish (Hypostomus plecostomus, Pterygoplichthys spp.) from the San Marcos River. Their population has exploded since people started dumping them from aquariums.

Climate Change Leads to Invasive Insect Expansion on US West Coast
Climate change has led to warming temperatures, which is leading to latitudinal gradient in species diversity providing high niche opportunities for phytophagous insect to expand their territory, especially invasives.

Snitch On the Snails: Invasive Species Spotted in San Antonio River Can Lay Up To 2,000 Eggs
Giant apple snails (Pomacea maculata) are an invasive subtropical to tropical species that is invasive to Texas. These snails have been spotted in numerous Texas waterbodies, including the San Antonio River Walk.

CRISPR-based tech targets global crop pest
Researchers are using CRISPR—based technology to target invasive pests, such as Drosophila suzukii, fruit flies that decimate valuable food crops.

Help USDA Estimate Feral Swine Damage to U.S. Agriculture
The USDA, in coordination with the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program, is conducting a Feral Swine Survey. They need everyone’s help to collect data.

South Florida's Monarch Population Is An 'Unusual Beast.' Some Butterflies Are Endangered, But These Plan to Hang Around
Florida is dubbed the monarch capital of the world after the monarch is added to the endangered species list, but the butterflies are feeding primarily on invasive Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica).

Invasive Pythons in Colorado? Map Shows Where These Sizable Serpents Could End Up
United States Geological Survey maps the expected range of the invasive Burmese python (Python bivittatus) taking into account global warming models. Only a few parts of the Centennial States are at risk, but many states surrounding Florida are suitable habitats.

Why Researchers Are Interested in Keeping (Some) Lionfish Healthy
Lionfish (Pterois volitans) are considered an invasive species in many ecosystems with many resources and efforts being taken to eliminate or reduce populations. So why are some researchers working so hard to optimize the health and welfare of some lionfish?

Research Shows Pairing Herbicides with Prescribed Burning Improves Downy Brome Control
Downy brome (Bromus tectorum) is an annual winter grass invading millions of acres of western rangelands and wildlands and outcompetes native vegetation. A combination of herbicide and burning seems to be necessary for control.

South American Weevils Released in UK Waterways to Tackle Invasive Weed
The weevil species Listronotus elongatus are being released to kill a problem aquatic weed known as floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides). This is the latest biological agent selected to tackle the economic and biodiversity scourge of invasive species in the UK.


Sentinel Pest Network and Invaders of Texas Workshops

Invaders of Texas workshops train volunteers to detect and report invasive species as citizen scientists. Workshops, which are free, are designed to introduce participants to invasive species and the problems they cause, cover aspects of invasive species management, teach identification of local invasive plants, and train participants to report invasive plants using the TX Invaders mobile application. The workshop is 7 hours long (usually on a Saturday, but scheduling is arranged with each individual host group). The workshop satisfies Master Naturalist training requirements.

Sentinel Pest Network workshops serve to increase the awareness and early detection of a set of particularly important invasive species to help prevent their spread into Texas or their further spread within Texas. Participants learn to identify species such as the Emerald Ash Borer, Cactus Moth, Asian Longhorned Beetle, and other pests of regulatory significance, and to report them. The workshop is 3.5 hours long. The workshop satisfies Master Naturalist training requirements.

Upcoming Workshops: