APPlying New Strategies to Nip Invasive Species in the Bud
Using Smartphones & Tablets in the field to identify & manage invasive species
|Laurel & Charlie Gould try out the app|
The Early Detection App is Ready!
If you have a smartphone, the power to protect the natural heritage of New Jersey is at your fingertips! You can use it to help stop the spread of invasive plants, animals and even pathogens that threaten the natural systems and economy of the Garden State.
If you have an iPhone or Android™ phone: Download the New Jersey Invasives application (it’s free!) and you'll be prepared to report invasive species anytime.
In a Nutshell:
Everyone who spends time outdoors and has an Android smartphone or iPhone can serve as an Invasive Species Detector!
After downloading the free New Jersey Invasives application, you simply keep an eye out for the species in it. The application provides images and descriptions of each species. If you see one of the target species, you simply take a photograph (your phone will tag it with GPS coordinates), enter a little bit of data via a dropdown menu to describe the habitat and other pertinent information, then submit your photo and info. Strike Team experts will review your submission – once verified, your input will be entered into our statewide database AND the national database that is cataloguing invasive species across the United States.
No special training is necessary, but if you want to learn more, or see a demonstration on how to use the app, please attend one of the programs we are offering. See our Event Calendar for a schedule.
Until now, relatively few people have been motivated to conduct survey and detection work. This was largely because the work required people to carry clipboards, pencils, data sheets, cameras, gps units and field guides so that they could accurately identify what they are seeing. The tools that existed to help people become proficient at identifying invasive species were in printed form and on web sites. While books, pamphlets and web sites are very useful resources, they are not practical for use in the field. Clearly we needed to offer people better ways to identify the invasives that threaten our state and to pinpoint where those invasives are located.
Reporting is another component of ED/RR that needed to be improved. Until now, all data collected in the field had to be typed into electronic forms and then submitted to Strike Team coordinators. This step was one that many people simply did not have the inclination or time to complete. For those who did report their findings, the tedious multi-step process was full of opportunities for mistakes in data entry.
Happily, the Strike Team received funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for a project designed to improve the likelihood of success for New Jersey's ED/RR system for invasive species. It involves taking advantage of the proliferation of smartphones in society and the innovative technological advances that allow these devices to easily collect and transmit scientifically useful data. Our project centers on the development and use of a web-based smartphone/tablet app that enables people to identify, collect, inventory, use, track and transmit digitized data on invasive species of concern. The app is available in two platforms – one for Apple and one for Android -- and is being made available to all users free of charge.
NJ Invasives focuses on early detection. It helps users accurately identify and report sightings of invasive species, both emerging and widespread. Based upon the Mid-Atlantic Early Detection Network app (MAEDN) which is used to document invasive plant, insect and disease occurrences across the mid-Atlantic region, our app highlights the species that are new and potential invaders in New Jersey. The MAEDN app is somewhat generic, does not provide users with state-specific information, and is not linked directly to our state database, and therefore required customization to suit our needs in New Jersey. The app also helps users become familiar with widespread species and describe appropriate control measures for them. MAEDN's developers at the University of Georgia's Center for Invasive Species & Ecosystem Health have customized the app so that it provides an easy-to-use, reliable means for people to accurately report sightings of invasive species in our state. The app eliminates the need for cumbersome printed field guides, clipboards and gps devices – it allows smartphone users to submit geo-tagged photos and information via online data entry forms. Data is uploaded directly into the Strike Team database, where it is verified and entered into the national Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System database which is being used to gain an accurate picture of invasive species distribution across the United Sates. Both the state and national data can be searched, queried and downloaded in a variety of formats, and the maps generated over time will help us fill in information gaps and identify likely locations of undetected invasive species populations.
Another tool funded by NRCS focuses on rapid response and ongoing management. It is based on the IPC Connect program designed for Invasive Plant Control, Inc. by the University of Georgia's Center for Invasive Species & Ecosystem Health. IPCConnect.org/NewJersey allows users to track and monitor eradication activities, including tracking pesticide applications as required by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and integrate their data directly into the existing Strike Team database and the nationwide effort of the Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System. This tool takes a little more time than the app to become acquainted with -- please contact us if you'd like more information about using it.
Both tools are helping us ensure that accurate, timely information is being provided to land-owners, the public and governmental officials who are concerned about the status of invasive species within in New Jersey. By vastly expanding the network of stakeholders involved in ED/RR efforts, we will be in a much better position to ensure that our responses to invasions of invasive species are effective and environmentally sound and thereby truly contribute to the protection of New Jersey’s natural and agricultural heritage.