Volunteers are Critical to Invasive Species Work

Volunteers are Critical to Invasive Species Work

The New Year is a great time to reflect on our blessings and reach out to others.  One way to have a lasting impact on the world is to volunteer your time and services to an agency or cause of your choosing.  Volunteers are invaluable and can make a huge difference in many aspects of community development, and volunteering is a strong component of the fabric of our nation.  The Corporation for National and Community Service website estimates that in 2012, 64.5 million Americans gave 7.9 billion hours of volunteer service worth $175 billion.  Plus, volunteering can be a great way to develop skills, learn more about career options, acquire new professional contacts, make friends, get exercise, and spend time in the great outdoors.

Volunteers that assist scientists with their research are referred to as Citizen Scientists.  Citizen scientists help collect data of scientific importance, and raise awareness and identify solutions to matters of ecological and environmental concern, including invasive species.  First detectors are citizen scientists that help promote the early detection of destructive invasive species, whether they be plant pathogens, arthropods, nematodes, or weeds.  First detectors are the front line of defense against pest infestations, and are critical for responding to the growing threats of invasive species.

Thanks to surveillance work by various federal and state agencies and engaged volunteers, many new exotic pests have been detected and targeted for eradication and management campaigns.  For example, a citizen survey effort led to one of the earliest detections of the emerald ash borer in Connecticut (Rutledge et al. 2013).  More locally, concerned community members and USU Master Gardeners were among the first to detect the brown marmorated stink bug and the Japanese beetle in Utah.  In addition, Utah volunteers have sprung into action to help beat back invasive species that have taken over our landscape.  For example, in 2013, volunteers from many organizations helped remove teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) from the Nibley wildlife reserve (Macavinta 2013).  In 2012, Eric Babb of Utah County was recognized for his five years of service work to rid the Highland Glen Park of the invasive weed Dalmation toadflax.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week is scheduled for February 23-28, 2015, and below you will find a list of some local groups that have invasive species programs, and that may have volunteer opportunities available in February (or anytime, really).  Note that this list is not exhaustive.

You can also download the Invasive Insect Field Guide for Utah and then set foot looking for some of these insects (keep in mind, however, that some of the insects described in this guide have not been found in the U.S.).  Bound copies are available for purchase ($5) from USU Extension (in the "Agriculture" category).

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about invasive species in Utah, consider enrolling in one of the free invasive species workshops taught by a member of the Utah Pests team this spring.  Please note that we are currently in the process of scheduling these workshops, and so this website will be updated as workshops are scheduled.

-Lori Spears, USU CAPS Co-Coordinator

Lori has volunteered for a local animal rescue group since 2009, and has assisted several other non-profit organizations along the way.  She is hoping to develop a First Detector Program for Utah. Stay tuned!