Issue 3: July 2022

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Invasive Species Walk at Heritage Park

The Invasive Species Working Group (ISWG) held its first Invasive Species Walk on March 5th in partnership with the Town of Blacksburg. Joined by Blacksburg's sustainability manager Carol Davis, ISWG members led participants through Heritage Park to identify invasive species, talk about their natural history, and discuss considerations for invasive species management.  

Attendees included community members, VT undergraduate and graduate students, and representatives from nonprofit and governmental organizations in the area. The non-native (but not necessarily invasive) Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera; pictured below) and invasive crayfish were of particular interest to the group. Another important aspect of invasive species that resonated with participants was the indirect impacts of invasive plants on native species. For example, berries of the autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) are highly appealing to birds, but much less nutritious than native alternatives (Smith et al. 2007).

The ISWG intends to hold similar events in the future; stayed tuned for future event announcements in this newsletter!

Photos courtesy of RJ Sussman

Biological Invasion Discussion Group: Student Recaps

After a successful invasive species discussion group this spring, we are excited to share summaries and reflections from participating graduate students based on conversations. Two are posted now:

A bioinvasion tale from down under: the cane toads of Australia

by Cameron Braswell, MS Student with ISWG member Bryan Brown

February 9 discussion with guest Daryl Trumbo,

Research Scientist with GCC faculty affiliate Meryl Mims, Virginia Tech

Invasive plant species management and soil community impacts

by IGC Fellow Melissa Burt, PhD Student with GCC affiliate Meryl Mims

March 2 discussion with Matt McCary,

Assistant Professor of BioSciences, Rice University, Houston, Texas

Congratulations to ISWG Member David Haak 

David Haak was recently promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure as a result of his outstanding achievements in teaching, research, and service.

A big congratulations to six Global Change Center faculty affiliates who also earned tenure and promotion this June, many of whom have conducted research on invasive species: former ISWG steering committee member Erin Hotchkiss, Meryl Mims, Ashley Dayer, Gabriel Isaacman-VanWertz, Susan Whitehead, and Cayelan Carey.

New Southeast Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change Network

The SE RISCC Management Network is a new network of researchers, managers, and invasive species-focused experts concerned with the combined impacts invasive species and climate change may have on resources in the southeast. The primary purpose of this network is to bring together land managers, invasion and climate science researchers, Tribal Nations, students, and representatives from state and federal agencies to reduce the compounding effects of invasive species and climate change. The network will include invasion scientists, climate scientists, natural resource managers, policymakers, and stakeholders from the broader public.

Provide input: Take a 10-minute survey to assess your invasive species management priorities based on your role: Land manager survey or Research/Extension survey. If you have any questions, you can contact the team at


Blue Ridge PRISM Summer Webinars

Hosted by the Blue Ridge Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management

Blue Ridge PRISM is hosting two free online events this summer:

"Simply Stiltgrass"

Wednesday, July 20, 11:30 AM-1:00 PM

Address ways to control Japanese stiltgrass on your land

Register Here

"Tree of Heaven & the Spotted Lanternfly"

Wednesday, August 17, 12:00-1:00 PM

discusses the relationship between and control of these two invasive species.

Register Here

Race Against Invasive Species

From Sustainable Blacksburg:

Sustainable Blacksburg is challenging you to help remove invasive plant species to protect our native plants and wildlife on your own property or through local volunteer projects. With support from the Plant SWVA Natives Campaign, we will have prize drawings for those participating and sharing before and after pictures with us. Find more information and resources on our website. Contact us if you would like to receive more information about volunteer opportunities.

In Case You Missed It:

Weed Science Webinar Series

Weed Science Society of America and USDA-ARS

Recordings are available for 10 webinars based on weed science and research. Topics of interest include "Restoration for managing invasive plants" and "Climate Change Effects on Weeds and Management."

A Conversation on Kudzu

Northeast RISCC Network

The recording is available for the NE RISCC's discussion on kudzu science and management.


Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima

Student Spotlight: Tim Shively

by Tim Shively

Tim Shively is a Ph.D. student with ISWG member Dr. Jacob Barney in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech. He lives in Blacksburg, VA with his wife, Stef, and two children. After eight years in the Army, he earned an M.S. in Natural Resources and Forestry at North Carolina State University in 2021, where he researched fine root dynamics in pine plantations.

His current project at Virginia Tech concerns the biological control of a notorious, widespread invasive tree called tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), using a native fungal pathogen, Verticillium nonalfalfae. The strain of fungus he is using was first isolated in Pennsylvania, and prior research has shown that it is highly effective at killing Ailanthus while being largely unable to infect non-target, native and desirable plant species. It is also pending approval by the Environmental Protection Agency for availability as a bioherbicide across the country. Stands of Ailanthus throughout the state of Virginia have been inoculated with the fungus, and Tim will monitor their decline. He hopes to provide information on the efficacy of the bioherbicide, possible climatic or methodological limitations to its application, and if restoration efforts are required to prevent ceding treated areas to other invasive plants.


Featured Article: Transformative Learning

In the most recent publication from the ISWG, Haak et al. (2022) present analysis of the working group's 2019 experiential learning course, Advocacy, Science, and Policy of Invasive Species. Students began by creating a model of the interactions between advocacy, science, and policy as they relate to biological invasions. They then directly engaged with government officials, policymakers, lobbyists, and resource managers during a trip to Washington DC. Drawing on this experience, they refined their model to reflect the complex and transdisciplinary reality of invasive species management. One outcome of the course was a shift in students' mindsets from science-centric to more holistic views on addressing biological invasions. The paper, published in Environmental Education Research, is co-authored by the graduate students and ISWG members involved in the course. Click here to see the students' conceptual models and read the article.

Impact of invasive species on native Symbionts

There has been very little focus on the effects of invasive hosts on native symbiotic interactions. While this topic may seem niche, symbioses are vital for life as we know it. For instance, the gut microbiota of animal, and the pollination interactions between insects and plants are both examples of symbioses. This recent publication, co-authored by ISWG member Bryan Brown, presents a framework for the outcomes that are possible when potentially novel host species invade a system, and groups them into four categories: 1) native symbionts have a negative effect on the invader, slowing invasion; 2) symbionts have no direct effects; 3) symbionts have a positive effect in the invasive host, facilitating invasion; 4) the invasive host is a poor host, and symbionts decline.  

Climate change and invasive mosquitoes

How will climate change affect invasive, disease-carrying mosquitoes? It depends on how they respond and adapt to temperature. Current knowledge of Aedes mosquito species' thermal biology is summarized in this recent review, co-authored by GCC faculty affiliate Chloé Lahondère.

Global changes do not intensify the effects of invasive species

Lead author Bianca E. Lopez (U Massachusetts Amherst) et al. examine the interactions between biological invasions and human-caused environment changes (e.g., drought, warming temperatures) in a meta-analysis of 95 published studies. They found that while the combined effects of invasive species and environmental changes were detrimental, in most cases the combined impacts were no worse than the effect of invasion on its own. 


New Television Series Features Invasive Pythons

The comedy show Killing It stars Craig Robinson (Darryl from The Office) as an aspiring entrepreneur in Florida who becomes a python hunter as part of a state-sponsored competition. All 10 episodes of the first season are available to stream for free on Peacock (but you'll need to create an account).

VA Dept of Wildlife Resources busts illegal turtle trade; dozens of invasive turtles seized

by Tyler Thrasher, WRIC

Spotted Lanternflies: invasive species

headed to southern Virginia

by Sahara Sriraman, WRIC

How to get cats to eat pests

instead of songbirds

By Warren Cornwall, Anthropocene Magazine

Earthworms are invasive - and likely hurting insects - in much of North America

by Alex Fox, National Geographic

These large, invasive spiders could spread through the eastern U.S.

by Carrie Arnold, National Geographic

From under to on the rocks:

Invasive crabs become whiskey

by Michael Casey, The Washington Post

Photo ID (from top to bottom): Killer Algae (Caulerpa taxifolia); ToB Sustainability Manager Carol Davis (Homo sapiens) with Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata); Graduate Student Tim Shively (Homo sapiens); Graduate Students and ISWG members outside the US Capitol building (Homo sapiens); Burmese Python (Python bivittatus)

Previous Issues: Issue 1: December 2021, Issue 2: March 2022 | Trouble viewing content? Email us for access

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The Invasive Species Working Group is a faculty collaborative within the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech supported by the Fralin Life Sciences Institute and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost

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