Friday, January 8, 2016

Possible opportunity for PhD students working with Invasive Species to gain international experience in Ireland

Two PhD studentships are being solicited to work on an Irish EPA funded three‐year project led by Institute of Technology, Sligo and partnered with Queen's University Belfast and INVAS Biosecurity, to tackle IAS problems with multiple approaches.

Invasive species are a global problem.  The European Union has ramped-up efforts to enhance collaboration and cooperation between member countries and to improve their abilities to reduce introduction, spread and impacts of invasive species. 

To that end, the EU has initiated several Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action projects focused on invasive species, one of which is COST Action 1209  European Information System for Alien Species  The aim of COST Action TD1209 is to facilitate enhanced knowledge gathering and sharing through a network of experts, providing support to a European IAS information system which will enable effective and informed decision-making in relation to IAS. An overarching priority will be to identify the needs and formats for alien species (AS) information by different user groups and specifically for implementation of EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. Correspondingly early warning tools and rapid response protocols will be developed. 

Center Co-Director Douce has been participating in this and other Invasive Species-focused COST Action projects to gain an understanding of EU approaches to dealing with Invasive Species and to look for possibilities of exchanging information and information technology capabilities that would be beneficial to all parties involved.

The call for applicants came through the COST Action TD1209 communications systems.  
Students will join a range of research projects on invasive species being conducted by these partners to tackle IAS problems with multiple approaches. Each PhD will benefit from research and training in a truly inter-disciplinary environment with further opportunities to collaborate with ecologists, engineers, geographers, sociologists, state agencies, government and regulators, industry stakeholders and local communities.

One PhD will be based at IT Sligo and the other in QUB. Applications can be made to one or both of these PhDs before January 22nd 2016.

PhD 1
Institution: CERIS Research Centre, Institute of Technology, Sligo

Supervisors: Dr. Frances Lucy (IT Sligo), Prof. Jaimie Dick (QUB) and Dr. Joe Caffrey (INVAS Biosecurity,Ltd.)

This PhD student will: (1) address systematic reviews and horizon scans of IAS issues in general and within Ireland in particular; and (2) develop communications for prevention, control and eradication of IAS. Further, the student will examine and develop IAS biosecurity protocols (e.g. surveys of vectors, IAS signage) at points of entry (e.g. ports) and, in the field, develop herbicide/adjuvant control methods for the invasive terrestrial plant, Winter heliotrope, Petasites fragrans.

Application: Submit a CV and Letter of Motivation by January 22 at 5pm to Dr Frances Lucy
Funding: This fully funded 3-year PhD studentship pays IT Sligo fees plus a stipend of Euro 16,000 per annum. Applicants must have a BSc and/or MSc in Environmental Science, Ecology (or similar discipline).

PhD 2
Institution: School of Biological Sciences, Queens University Belfast

Supervisors: Prof. Jaimie Dick (QUB), Dr. Frances Lucy (IT Sligo) and Dr. Joe Caffrey (INVAS Biosecurity,Ltd.)

This PhD student will address: (1) systematic reviews and horizon scans of IAS issues in general and within Ireland in particular; (2) development of communications for prevention, control and eradication of IAS. Further, the student will develop biosecurity protocols with disinfectants, such as Virkon, using ecotoxicological methods and, in the laboratory and field, develop control and eradication methods for the invasive Asian clam, Corbicula fluminea (e.g. based on dry ice application).

Application: Prospective applicants may contact the lead supervisor, Prof Jaimie Dick at

Funding: This fully funded 3-year PhD studentship pays UK University tuition fees (currently £4,052 per annum) and stipend of £14,057stg per annum. Applicants must have a BSc and/or MSc in Ecology (or similar discipline), or equivalent qualifications.​

Dr. Frances Lucy,
Director of CERIS,
School of Science,
Institute of Technology, Sligo,
Ash Lane,
Phone: +353-719305693

Board Member: Inland Fisheries Ireland

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Can the use of prescribed cattle grazing be an effective way to manage certain invasive weeds in rangeland? Results of a 6 year California pasture-scale trial.

Introducing cattle grazing to a noxious weed-dominated rangeland shifts plant communities
J.S. Davy, L.M. Roche, A.V. Robertson, D.E. Nay and K.W. Tate. 
California Agriculture 69(4):230-236. DOI: 10.3733/ca.v069n04p230. October-December 2015.

Invasive weed species in California's rangelands can reduce herbaceous diversity, forage quality and wildlife habitat. Small-scale studies (5 acres or fewer) have shown reductions of medusahead and yellow starthistle using prescribed grazing on rangelands, but little is published on the effects of pasture-scale (greater than 80 acres) prescribed grazing on weed control and plant community responses.

This study provides the results of a 6-year collaborative study of manager-applied prescribed grazing implemented on rangeland that had not been grazed for 4 years. Grazing reduced medusahead but did not alter yellow starthistle cover. Medusahead reductions were only seen in years that did not have significant late spring rainfall, suggesting that it is able to recover from heavy grazing if soil moisture is present. Later season grazing appears to have the potential to suppress medusahead in all years. In practice, however, such grazing is constrained by livestock drinking water availability and forage quality, which were limited even in years with late spring rainfall. Thus, we expect that grazing treatments under real-world constraints would reduce medusahead only in years with little late spring rainfall. After 10 years of grazing exclusion, the ungrazed plant communities began to shift, replacing medusahead with species that have little value, such as ripgut and red brome.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Phytophthora ramorum can survive introduction into finished compost

S. Swain and M.M. Garbelotto.  California Agriculture 69(4):237-241. DOI: 10.3733/ca.v069n04p237. October-December 2015.

Phytophthora ramorum, the causal agent of the disease sudden oak death has killed millions of trees on the north coast of California. An introduced pathogen both in North America and Europe, it was discovered in California in 1995. P. ramorum often forms lethal bark lesions on oaks (Quercus spp.) and the related tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus), but it spreads by spores formed on foliar lesions on scores of other plant species, including common landscape plants. New foliar hosts have been discovered annually since 2002, and the symptoms can vary substantially from host to host.   The disease keeps spreading to new locations through limited-distance natural dispersal, infected nursery stock and perhaps through other yet unknown means To help prevent the spread of the pathogen to new localities, movement of infected plant material is highly regulated.   Debris from infected plants is almost certainly taken to local composting facilities, which are subject to restrictions on shipping product out of the quarantine area if found to be not pathogen-free.  Finished compost has a well-established history of suppressing a variety of plant pathogens when incorporated into potting mixes or planted into soil.  The survival of P. ramorum in finished compost, however, had not previously been evaluated.  The purpose of this research was to address the question of whether P. ramorum may have a high survival rate in finished compost if reached by dispersal propagules that may be transported by wind or water from fresh green waste or infectious plants within or near composting facilities.

The results show that P. ramorum may be present and infectious if introduced into finished compost, and that variations in compost characteristics appear to influence survival rates.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Comparing Invasibility to Degree of Invasion in Habitats

A unified approach for quantifying invasibility and degree of invasion, an article in Volume 96, Issue 10 (October 2015) of Ecology. Authors are Qinfeng Guo, Songlin Fei, Jeffrey S. Dukes, Christopher M. Oswalt, Basil V. Iannone III, and Kevin M. Potter.
Here is the abstract: "Habitat invasibility is a central focus of invasion biology, with implications for basic ecological patterns and processes and for effective invasion management. “Invasibility” is, however, one of the most elusive metrics and misused terms in ecology. Empirical studies and meta-analyses of invasibility have produced inconsistent and even conflicting results. This lack of consistency, and subsequent difficulty in making broad cross-habitat comparisons, stem in part from (1) the indiscriminant use of a closely related, but fundamentally different concept, that of degree of invasion (DI) or level of invasion; and (2) the lack of common invasibility metrics, as illustrated by our review of all invasibility-related papers published in 2013. To facilitate both cross-habitat comparison and more robust ecological generalizations, we clarify the definitions of invasibility and DI, and for the first time propose a common metric for quantifying invasibility based on a habitat's resource availability as inferred from relative resident species richness and biomass. We demonstrate the feasibility of our metric using empirical data collected from 2475 plots from three forest ecosystems in the eastern United States. We also propose a similar metric for DI. Our unified, resource-based metrics are scaled from 0 to 1, facilitating cross-habitat comparisons. Our proposed metrics clearly distinguish invasibility and DI from each other, which will help to (1) advance invasion ecology by allowing more robust testing of generalizations and (2) facilitate more effective invasive species control and management."

Sarah Workman did a rewrite of the research article for eXtension.
Invasive Plants’ Success Depends on Native Species Richness and Biomass