September 2015
Texas Gulf Region CWMA Holds “Eat the Invasives” Event in Port Aransas

The Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area, formed last year, held an “Eat the Invasives” community event yesterday (September 30), in Port Aransas. The event was held in the evening in the parking lot between the historic Tarpon Inn and the Tarpon Bar and Grill (224 Cotter St.). Free feral pig tacos, grilled lionfish, and grilled Asian tiger shrimp, with Brazilian peppertree peppercorns on the side, were served with side fixings! Members of the TGR-CWMA were available to answer questions and inform attendees about invasive species in the Port Aransas area, with particular emphasis on the Brazilian peppertree, which is its focus species. It was estimated that 85 people attended, and there was ample opportunity to discuss invasive species.

We would like to thank the Tarpon Inn and the Tarpon Bar and Grill for their tremendous support!


Preparing lionfish for, and feeding the crowd at, the "Eat the Invasives" event.

Photographers: Katie Swanson, TGR-CWMA (lft); Hand Landel, LBJWC

High School Teacher Incorporates Texas Invaders Training Into Her Classroom

Laura Cook teaches Environmental Science to 100 seniors at Jacksonville High School in Cherokee County. As part of the work she requires of her students, she has them become Texas Invaders citizen scientists. Last month, Mike Murphrey of the Texas A&M Forest Service visited her classes and provided the necessary training. Now the students will be working on a project to identify, locate and eradicate invasive species on her high school campus. This is a very important project, because it trains citizen scientists that have the potential for a long lifetime of awareness and action. We at plan to incorporate such training into curriculum, including kits we will be developing, over the next few years, to expand this important group of citizen scientists.

Thanks, Ms. Cook!

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Mike Murphrey of TAMUFS instructs students of Laura Cook's Jacksonville High School class about invasive plants.

Photographer: Laura Cook, Jacksonville HS
Texas Invaders Satellite Group from San Antonio Subject of Interview

As part of The Invasives Initiative and the Millennial Trains Project, Erin Spencer traveled by train to several cities along the southern United States to report on various ways local people are addressing the invasives species threat. One of her stops was in San Antonio, where she accompanied members of the Balcones Invaders satellite group of Texas Invaders to observe how they work to eradicate invasive species there. She posted a short blog on her experience with lots of great pictures (one of which you can see to the right).

The Balcones Invaders are very active. They have been working hard to eradicate invasives since February 2009. Collectively, their volunteers have contributed over 4400 volunteer hours, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the total volunteer hours in the Eradicator Calculator of the website. This translates to over $108,000 in volunteer contributions, including staff time and supply costs. This is just one example of the great work being done Texas Invaders citizen scientists across the state. Way to go!

By the way, two members of the Balcones Invaders, Lonnie and Judith Shockley, were spotlighted as Citizen Scientists of the Month in the October iWire.

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Judith Shockley (left) and Cheryl Hamilton discuss their work while being interviewed by Erin Spencer for her Invasive Species Initiative project.

Photo credit: Erin Spencer

Elephant Ear Control on the Llano River

Elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) is an invasive aquatic plant that has invaded riparian ecosystems of many Texas rivers. Employees of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Tech University Center at Junction, the Upper Llano Watershed Protection Plan, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center spent a day in September walking and kayaking along the Llano River around Junction, looking for elephant ears. In previous management efforts, an herbicide that is EPA-approved and labeled for use in aquatic habitats was applied to the plants, which is currently the only known effective way to treat elephant ear. The group was very pleased to find that in most cases these previous efforts appeared to have been successful. Where it still had a stakehold, workers applied the herbicide to the elephant ears. We are hopeful that the management efforts will continue to be succesful.

For more information on elephant ears, see this entry in


Elephant ears along the Llano River near Junction.


Tyson Broad (with the Upper Llano River Watershed Protection Plan) floats by a patch of elephant ears.

Photographer: Megan Bean

More News

Hill Country Authorities Move to Kill the Giant Reed
Fredericksburg's Frantzen Park became a demonstration area as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department combined forces with the Hill Country Alliance and others to treat an Arundo donax (giant reed) infestation. Armed with knowledge and approved herbicide, the groups participating in the demonstration are fighting more than a water greedy invasive, they are fighting misinformation and misconceptions pertaining to the removal of the plant. Learn more about Arundo donax removal methods and treatments at my statesman.

U-Haul Joins the ”Don’t Move Firewood” Effort
We would like to give a shout-out to U-Haul for creating a webpage devoted to informing potential customers about the problems with moving firewood. It succinctly but forcefully presents the case for not moving firewood, and provides useful links to It's wonderful to see the company lending a hand in the fight against invasive species.

Native Plant Society of Texas 2015 Symposium
Austin will be hosting the Native Plant Society of Texas 2015 Symposium, October 15-18, at Austin’s Airport Hilton. This year's symposium will focus on the ecoregions surrounding Austin and the plant communities found there. Learn how the Edwards Plateau, the Blackland Prairie, the Cross Timbers and the Post Oak Savanna have influence native plants. Enjoy presentations from a great line-up of speakers, guided hikes, and information about the Invaders of Texas Citizen Science program with Of special note is a presentation, entitled "Spread the Word, Stop the Spread: Just Do It!", by Lonnie and Judith Shockley and Cheryl Hamilton on their satellite's work with  Learn more about the presentations and hikes at 2015 NPSOT Symposium. Don’t miss it, click here to register.

Western Wildfires, Deadlines and Invasive Species
West of the Rockies, a contentious swath of sagebrush stretching from California to the Dakotas faces a triple threat from wildfire, invasive cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and energy development. The undecided fate of the greater sage grouse (
Centrocercus urophasianushas forced officials to reconsidered their firefighting strategies. Read more about how fire, an invasive grass, and a conservation status are changing the sagebrush habitat at the Coloradoan.

Hunting For a Solution to the Feral Pig Problem
Feral pigs cause an estimated $1.5 billion in crop damage a year and unlike other game animals, it only takes two feral pigs a year to become 25 or more individuals. A study done by the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences suggests the key to eliminating a wild pig population is leaving no pig alive. Learn more about the feral pig problem and what's being done at field and stream.

Fishing Guides Import Invasive Bait Fish
Two Smith Lake, Alabama, fishing guides are paying the price for moving an invasive herring into Smith Lake. The blueback herring (
Alosa aestivaliswere discovered by conservation law enforcement officers while making routine commercial vessel inspections. Officials worry over the impact the herring will have on the ecosystem and already spent $300,000. Read more about the blueback herring's impact on Smith Lake at

Starry Stonewort Found in Two More States
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of starry stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa) in two lakes, the first time it's been found in the state. Wisconsin recently also discovered the non-native algae in six lakes. Originally from Europe and western Asia, starry stonewort probably hitched rides in ship ballast, and found its way to Michigan and Indiana. It forms dense mats that prevent light from reaching other aquatic vegetation, and block fish from nesting substrate. For more information, see this article in the Christian Science Monitor, and an informational flyer from the Golden Sands Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc.

The Tomato Leafminer: Tiny Moth, Big Impact
The tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta, is no bigger than an eyelash and can destroy 80-100% of a tomato crop. Originally from Panama and Costa Rica, this tiny moth first found its way into Europe in 2006 and then Africa, where it has already caused massive increases in pest prevention. A Virginia Tech scientist and the USDA have teamed up to create a prevention working group in hopes of slowing the tomato leafminer. Learn more about Tuta absoluta's global impact and the working group at

Argentine Fire Ant Found to Host Novel Virus and Honey Bee Pathogens
Researchers with Victoria University of Wellington, Victoria University's School of Biological Sciences and a group known as "Virus Hunters" from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research have discovered a previously undescribed virus as well as pathogens linked to honey bee deaths. Researchers have discovered that the new virus could negatively impact the invasive ants as well as other insects, which could lead to a new form of species-specific bio-insecticides. Read more about how this virus could eventually mean a reduced reliance on chemical insecticides at

Hunting for Coqui Frogs in California
Herpetologist Greg Pauly led a team of citizen scientists on a hunt for the invasive coqui frog (
Eleutherodactylus coqui). Populations of the Puerto Rican frog have become established in Orange and San Diego counties. Pauly's hunt takes his team to a nursery greenhouse in Torrance, California. Stowing away on plants, the frogs have invaded Hawaii and Florida, causing drops in property values and local insect populations. Learn more about the coqui frog at

Looking to Soil Communities for a Path to Pathogen Control
Researchers at the University of York conducted research into the relationship between soil microbial communities and pathogen invasion, focusing on resource competition networks and how they impacted the success rate of tomato wilt. They found that decreasing resident community competition increased the plant's resistance to a specific pathogen. Read more about the study and resource competition networks at sciencedaily.

Eurasion Brood Parasites a Threat to Native Bird
As regional climates change, so do the plant and animal communities that inhabit those areas. A recently published paper co-authored by Vladimir Dinets, professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knowxville, examines the potential risk native bird populations face from Eurasian brood parasites that are more likely to cross the Bering Strait now that climate change has made the habitat more amenable to them. Dr. Dinets and his colleagues have discovered that two Eurasian cuckoo species are “on the verge of invading North America”. Learn more about this threat to native bird species at

New Invasive Species Found in Michigan
A native of New Zealand, the Potamopyrgus antipodarum, or the New Zealand mud snail, has been discovered for the first time in Michigan. The mud snail is considered a grazer and will consume algae covering stream beds, likely disrupting the food chain. The reduction in algae affects insect populations that fish need. In the Upper Peninsula, Another algae, Didymosphenia geminate, has begun to appear in large blooms. Didymo, or rock snot, as it is commonly referred to, can cover a river and kill off aquatic food sources. Read more about the mud snail and didymo at detroitnews.

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

Completion of the Changing of the Guard at

The team is pleased to announce that Dr. Hans Landel has accepted the position as the new Invasive Species Program Coordinator for the partnership at The University of Texas at Austin, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In addition, Tara Leblanc has also joined the team to help with various tasks, especially our GIS needs.

Hans brings a remarkable background in science, education and public outreach that translate perfectly into his new job. Before recently coming to Austin, Hans taught biological sciences for over twenty years, most recently at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, WA. During his university tenure, Hans developed curricula for many courses in conservation, wildlife, and natural resource ecology, biology and management that included field courses and field exercises/labs. He developed effective learning materials, presentations and activities for various audiences. Hans also volunteered with various conservation and environmental groups in the Puget Sound area. He earned his Ph.D. in Biology (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) at Purdue University where he studied the behavior and mating success of sharp-tailed grouse in Montana. He has conducted research abroad on the endangered Chinese monal pheasant and on nesting behavior of the highly endangered Philippine eagle. Hans also volunteered at the Wildflower Center as a docent, with education programs, with the former Invasive Species Coordinator Justin Bush, and with the Tobusch Cactus project. As you may already know, he has been the Interim Invasive Species Coordinator since Justin left.

After studying Anthropology at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Tara moved to Austin and attended Austin Community College. While there she was the recipient of the National Science Foundation S-STEM Scholarship and a member of the S-STEM program. She earned an A.A.S. in Environmental Science and Technology from ACC in May of this year. Beginning in the Spring of 2016, Tara will begin her studies towards earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography with a concentration in Resource and Environmental Studies at Texas State University in San Marcos.

Tara began her career at the Wildflower Center as an intern with Justin while at ACC, working with and the Plant Conservation Department.  Among her duties with were updating the invasive species database, validating invasive species observations, creating iWire content, digitizing Brazilian peppertree removal data for the Texas Gulf Region CWMA, and becoming the Facebook page administrator. She is now also the GIS Assistant for the Plant Conservation Department and is helping with the Wildflower Center’s ash tree and milkweed projects.

Both Hans and Tara are very excited and honored to be working on such important projects and with all the dedicated people that make up the team. Please join us in extending a warm welcome to both Hans and Tara in their new positions!

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Dr. Hans Landel, the new Invasive Species Coordinator at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, in various habitats.

Tara Leblanc, new team member and GIS Assitant.

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 include information on the Sentinel Pest Network which serves to increase the awareness of early detection of 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 designed to help organize and track volunteer-based eradication efforts.

Upcoming Workshops:

Stay tuned!

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