Stopping the Spread of Invasive Species

Compound image with the head of a Burmese python, a frontal view of a Northern Giant Hornet and a patch of yellow fig buttercup flowers.
Giant hornets, Burmese pythons and, perhaps less obviously, fig buttercups all pose threats to North American ecosystems. (Images public domain, via Flickr Creative Commons. Python: NPS, R. Cammauf; Giant Hornet: USDA, Lance Cheung; Fig Buttercup: John K. Thorne)

Burmese pythons! Northern Giant Hornets! Fig-Leaf Buttercups! Okay, not all invasive species sound frightening. But all of them destabilize ecosystems, threaten native species, and/or spread pathogens. That’s why, in honor of Invasive Species Awareness Week, we are sharing ways that you can join researchers identifying, monitoring and controlling the most destructive exotic species.

Controlling invasive plants

Photo of invasive kudzu vines growing over and smothering trees
Kudzu, and other invasive vines like English ivy and porcelain berry, take hold along forest borders, climbing up trees and eventually smothering them to death. (Photo: Alabama Extension, Bruce Dupree)

Invasive vines like kudzu and English ivy rapidly cover and smother native trees to death. Other exotic plants crowd out important native plants, and some are toxic to local flora and fauna. Nature’s Notebook has several campaigns, including Pesky Plants and Shady Invaders, where you help scientists monitor invasive plants. They also offer Pest Patrol, to track invasive insects that threaten native trees.

Help monitor and eliminate invasive mosquitoes

Photo of yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, in flight.
The yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti), along with the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) are of particular concern due to their adaptability to new environments and their ability to spread disease. (Photo: Radio Manatí)

While we love all creatures great and small, it’s okay to love mosquitoes somewhat less. Yes, they are important to many aquatic and terrestrial food chains, but they cause misery and disease to millions of people. And increasingly, exotic species are taking hold in new regions. Join the NASA-supported Mosquito Habitat Mapper project to help predict and control outbreaks.

One Fish, Two Fish, These Are New Fish!

Photo of red lionfish, Pterois volitans.
The red lionfish, Pterois volitans, was introduced to Florida waters and quickly exploded in numbers. Though relatively small, the fish eat large numbers of smaller fish and fry, threatening the subtropical reef community. (Photo: NOAA)

The voracious and venomous lionfish is just one of 46 exotic fish species reported in Florida waters by the iNaturalist project Florida’s Non-Native Fish. And that project is just one of 2670 invasive species projects available on iNaturalist! To free yourself from the tyranny of too many choices, add your locality or organism of interest to your search term (ie, Invasive Maryland Plants) to winnow things down.

What can you do?

Invasive species programs are very local; species that are a problem in one area may not be a concern in others. Therefore, visit the citizen science projects listed above, sign up, and then search for activities in your area. For comprehensive lists of invasive species in your area, visit the USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center. To find state-by-state resources for the United States visit

And for global resources, listed by continent and country, visit:

Finally, visit Project Finder to find additional citizen science projects not listed here. New projects are being added all the time!

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About the Author

Bob Hirshon

Bob Hirshon

Bob Hirshon heads up Springtail Media, specializing in science media and digital entertainment. He is Principal Investigator for the NSF-supported National Park Science Challenge, an augmented reality adventure that takes place in National Parks. Hirshon headed up the Kinetic City family of science projects, including the Peabody Award winning children’s radio drama Kinetic City Super Crew, McGraw-Hill book series and Codie Award winning website and education program. Hirshon can be heard on XM/Sirius Radio’s Kids Place Live as “Bob the Science Slob”, sharing science news and answering children’s questions. At SciStarter, Bob edits the Citizen Science Podcast.