January 2016
6th Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference - Registration now open!

The 6th Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference is scheduled for March 9-11, 2016, at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX. The Conference is a professional level meeting including keynotes, concurrent sessions, workshops, field trips, posters, and symposia designed to serve scientists, land managers, state and federal agencies, environmental organizations, local governments, other professionals, and others with an interest in Texas' invasive species. This year's conference is co-hosted by the Texas Invasive Plant & Pest Council and the Texas Invasive Species Institute (TISI). Plan to attend!

Summary Schedule

  • Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - Travel Day, TIPPC Board Meeting, Open House at SHSU’s Natural History Collections
  • Wednesday, March 9, 2016 - TIPPC Business Meeting, Speakers, Concurrent Sessions, Posters, Exhibitors
  • Thursday, March 10, 2016 - Speakers, Concurrent Sessions, Posters, Exhibitors, Report from Session Chairs, Awards Banquet
  • Friday, March 11, 2016 (Half day) - Field trips and workshops
    • Tour of the SHSU Biological Sciences Field Station
    • Ranger-guided tour of Huntsville State Park and Nature Center
    • Invaders of Texas Train the Trainers Workshop

Important Information

  • Deadline for submission of symposia proposals: February 3, 2016
  • Deadline for abstracts (presentations and posters): February 12, 2016
  • Early-bird registration: ends by February 24. $50 for students and $150 for non-students
  • Student travel grants: application due by February 5, 2016
  • Calls for sponsors and exhibitors
  • Continuing education credits available

To register and for more information on the Conference, Call for Papers, Abstract submission, Sponsors and Exhibitors, Lodging, Continuing Education Credit, Student Travel, etc., please visit the Conference website.




Lone Star Lionfish Symposium Hosts Public Forum

The public will soon have a chance to ask the experts about the spiky, venomous fish invading Texas coastal waters. The Lone Star Lionfish Symposium will hold a public forum from 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at the Texas State Aquarium, during which the public can ask the attending experts questions about lionfish (Pterois volitans) threats and management. Doors to the forum open at 6 p.m.

The Aquarium is located at 2710 N. Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi, Texas 78402. Guests will enter at the Wild Flight gate to the left of the building, and they will be directed to the Aquarium lobby where the forum will be held.

Lionfish, which are native to the Indo-Pacific, have become a problem in recent years as they degrade coastal and marine ecosystems in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, reducing the number of fish, shrimp and crab species, degrading reefs, and causing economic harm.

The symposium, co-sponsored by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (among others) on Feb. 2 and 3, will host partners from around Texas and the Gulf of Mexico to develop a unified, proactive and multifaceted approach to managing Texas’ lionfish invasion. Participants include private industry, universities, government agencies and various non-governmental groups.

For more information on the lionfish, go to Texasinvasives.org.


Photo credit: NOAA Archives



Teachers! Texas Envirothon Competition to Focus on Invasive Species

Envirothon is North America's largest and most academically challenging high school environmental competition. Its goal is to enhance students' environmental literacy and enable them to make informed decisions regarding the environment. Student teams from each school prepare for a state competition, where they are tested on environmental topics and a current environmental issue, which this year focuses on invasive species. Teams must work together to answer questions in outdoor field-testing stations and to solve real-life problems. The wining team at the state level earns an expenses-paid trip to the five-day NCF Envirothon to compete for scholarships totaling $25,000.

The Texas Envirothon will be held April 2-4. Deadline for registration is March 4, 2016.
Please go to the Texas Envirothon website for complete information.

Envirothon logo


UHCL logo

Invasive Spotlight:
Imperata cylindrica)

Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) was originally introduced from Southeast Asia to Southeastern United States in the early 20th century for soil stabilization. Parts of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi are now heavily infested, with the grass spreading as far west as Texas and as far north as North Carolina. It is ranked as one of the ten worst weeds in the world.

Cogongrass requires full to partial sun, which allows the grass to take over pastures, meadows and even wooded areas quickly. This perennial grass utilizes disturbed ecosystems such as rights of way as well. It spreads via white, scaly rhizomes that create dense circular mats. The stiff leaves grow up to 4 feet in height and an inch wide, have finely serrated margins and an off-centered white midrib (see picture at right), are covered in hairs on the upper surface at the base (see picture at right), and terminate in a sharp point. Silky white flowers form on a panicle that can reach up to 11 inches long.

Cogongrass produces thousands of tiny tufted seeds that resemble dandelion seeds and are carried by wind. Both rhizomes and seeds can be carried to new sites via contaminated soil and equipment.

The dense mats of cogongrass prohibit the growth of other plant species and create a serious fire hazard as they alter the normal fire regime of a landscape. Fires burn hotter and occur more frequently where cogongrass is present, which can destroy native plant species, displacing native animal and insect species by eliminating food sources, shelter and nesting sites.

Because cogongrass infestations pose a serious risk to ecosystems as well as community safety, it is currently on the Federal noxious weed list and is either classified as a noxious weed, quarantined or prohibited in the states of AL, CA, FL, HI, MN, MS, NC, OR, SC and VT. It is also one of the “Dirty Dozen” pest species identified by the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council. Therefore, it is one of the “Report It!” alert species on the Texasinvasives.org website and reporting app.

If you believe you have found cogongrass, please report this species.

Follow this link, this link (pdf), or this link for more information on cogongrass.


Photographer: Charles T. Bryson
Source: USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

cogongrass leaf stripe

Credit: Mark Atwater, Weed Control Unlimited, Inc., Bugwood.org

cogongrass leafhairs

Credit: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

cogongrass plant  cogongrass seedhead
Left: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Right: John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org

cogongrass map

State of the Bay Conference Held in Galveston

The "10th State of the Bay Symposium: 20 Years of Successfully Preserving Galveston Bay" was held on January 13-14, 2016 at Moody Gardens in Galveston. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from regional leaders and local experts, and connect with other leading scientists and natural resource management experts. Among the many topics covered was invasive species, in particular in a session called “Invasive Species Monitoring, Management, and Prevention”. There were also several presentations that covered citizen science. An interesting presentation was given by Dr. Jamie Steichen of TA&MU-G on the implications of the increased shipping into Galveston Bay that will occur once the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed. Given that both the number and size of ships will increase dramatically, and that points of origin for ships will include Asia, there is cause to be concerned about the ballast water these ships will be carrying and discharging into the Gulf.

VOLUNTEERS! It was very clear from the meeting that there is always a need for volunteers to help control invasive species around the Bay.  Please contact your local Master Naturalist and Master Gardener groups, your local Audubon Society, cities, state parks, nature centers, etc.!

Symposium website.
Symposium abstracts (pdf).



More News

Texas Appropriates $6.5 Million to Combat Aquatic Invasive Species
The Texas legislature has approved $6.5 million to fund the control and research of aquatic invasive species in Texas. Giant salvinia (
Salvinia molesta) and zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are just two of many species that are plaguing Texas waterways. Read more about efforts to control aquatic invasive species and the work already started in this article.

A Joint Effort to Save North America’s Salamanders
Because a fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), causes a decline in both domestic and wild salamander populations in Europe, the U.S. Department of the Interior is taking proactive measures to protect North American salamanders. As the domestic amphibian trade is a known source of infected salamanders, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has listed 201 salamander species "injurious" under the Lacey Act. The U.S. Geological Survey has brought together federal and state agencies to devise a conservation plan and identify research needed before the fungus arrives in the United States. Read more about the Department of the Interior's conservation efforts at ScienceDaily.

Establishment of Regulated Area in the Harlingen Area, Cameron County, Texas
Effective November 9, in response to the discovery of a mated female mexfly in Harlingen, Texas, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) established a new Mexican fruit fly (Anastrepha ludens or mexfly) regulated area in the Harlingen area of Cameron County, Texas. The new regulated area encompasses approximately 66 square miles in the Harlingen area of Cameron County. APHIS is applying safeguarding measures and restrictions on the interstate movement of regulated articles from this area, to prevent the spread of mexfly to noninfested areas of the United States. The establishment of this regulated area is reflected on this APHIS website, which contains a description of all the current federal fruit fly regulated areas.

Sea Lamprey Mating Pheromone Registered by U.S. EPA as First Vertebrate Pheromone Biopesticide
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered a sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) mating pheromone, 3kPZS, as the first ever vertebrate pheromone biopesticide in late December, 2015. Like an alluring perfume, the mating pheromone is a scent released by male sea lampreys to lure females onto nesting sites. It has been found to be very effective as bait in traps that collect and remove adult sea lampreys before they have a chance to spawn. Although “pesticide” may be part of the name, the pheromone is not lethal. Read more about the research and EPA registration.

UF/IFAS Hosting Free Annual PLANT CAMP for Science and Environmental Primary School Teachers
Summer camp isn't just for kids: the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting a free, week-long Plant Camp for educators. Spend June 20-24, 2016 hiking, discovering native and invasive plants, earning professional development points and receiving free classroom materials while learning from experienced professionals. Space is limited to 24 educators. The application deadline is February 21st, 2016. To sign up click here.

A Q&A with the Stewardship Network
The Stewardship Network is a Michigan nonprofit organization that began as an informal partnership between the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan to combat the invasive species problem facing Michigan's urban natural areas. It now serves as a role model for other states and has won international recognition. Lisa Brush, the Executive Director sat with Rapidgrowth Media to discuss the group, their victories and their defeats. Read more about the conversation.

An Enzyme Could Help Restore the American Chestnut
The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is estimated to have once reached 400 million trees and ranged from Maine to Georgia. An introduced blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) decimated this ecologically important canopy tree. After 26 years, the nonprofit American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project has found hope in an enzyme that is common to all grain crops and some fruits. Oxalate oxidase is a defense enzyme that researchers have found protects the tree from the blight. Read more about the genetic research and the non-patented genetically-modified tree created in hopes of restoring the American chestnut.

Treating Citrus Greening with Lasers
Citrus greening (Candidatus Liberibacter spp.), a disease that attacks the phloem of citrus trees, has devastated the citrus industry. Finding a treatment that can effectively deliver an antibiotic to kill the bacteria had been problematic until researchers from the University of Florida used laser-etching technology. Once used as an alternative way to label fruit, the technique can create a mode of travel for antibioticsinto the plant and to the phloem with minimal damage to the tree. Learn more about the laser-etching technique and how it could potentially combat citrus greening disease.

Regal Damselfish Found in South Gulf of Mexico
Researchers with Nova Southeastern University have spotted the regal damselfish (Neopomacentrus cyanomos) among the coral reefs off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico. Using computer simulations, the researchers are not predicting a widespread range for the regal damselfish; however, the Southern Gulf of Mexico could see more of the species in its coral reefs. It isn't known how the fish, which is native to the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific, entered the area, but it's a popular aquarium fish and is just one of many species associated with the aquarium trade found there. The growing prevalence of aquarium species suggests that people are dumping their pets. Learn more about the regal damselfish discovery.

How the Grey Squirrel Invaded the UK
New research has shown that the grey squirrel (
Sciurus carolinensisis not quite the invader it has been traditionally thought to be. DNA profiling in the UK has shown that many populations are genetically distinct and can be traced back to geographically distant populations. This means that humans played a bigger role in the spread of the grey squirrel than previously thought. Read more about how this species spread and who the worst offenders were.

Screening Technique to Combat Ash Die-off in Europe
Europe's Fraxinus excelsior populations have been hit hard by Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), a disease that has a one- to two-percent survival rate. Researchers have devised a new screening technique designed to identify the genetic markers that indicate an individual ash tree’s ability to survive the disease. The researchers used a group of individuals with varying degrees of susceptibility to correlate gene sequences and expression with symptoms of disease and were able to predict susceptibility in a separate group of ash trees. Learn more about the study and how it could be used to combat other tree diseases.

If you would like your invasive species event or news listed in the next iWire, please send the details to iwire@texasinvasives.org


Sentinel Pest Network and Invaders of Texas Species Workshops

Invaders of Texas workshops train volunteers to become citizen scientists to detect and report invasive species. Workshops, which are free, include information on the Sentinel Pest Network, which serves to increase the awareness and early detection of the Emerald Ash Borer, Cactus Moth, Asian Longhorned Beetle, and other pests of regulatory significance.

Workshops are tailored to meet the interests of your volunteer group, and supplementary session examples include an introduction to the TX Invaders mobile application and the Eradicator Calculator, a feature on Texasinvasives.org designed to help organize and track volunteer-based eradication efforts.

Upcoming Workshops:

Saturday, April 2, 2016
Location: Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center (Humble, TX)
Contact: Rosanne Belzung

For more information or to register to attend a free workshop, please visit the Workshop Page.