iMapInvasives: A collaborative online tool for invasive species reporting and data management

Invasive species – non-native organisms that negatively impact ecosystems, human health, and the economy – have become an ever-present challenge for those tasked with protecting our lands and waters. Conservation professionals need sophisticated tools to track infestations and management efforts, as well as access to data about invasive species across the landscape. Concerned citizens need a way to quickly report new findings to those professionals dealing with invasives. These needs led to the creation of iMapInvasives, an online database and mapping system designed for sharing and managing invasive species data.

iMapInvasives operates on a state/province level, providing a common link for many entities working on invasive species. The Lead Partner Organization of each participating state/province works with groups to upload large sets of existing data and to train users to enter new data. By becoming a collective hub for invasive species data, the system provides a way to communicate across organizations and political boundaries instantly.

Natural resource managers use iMapInvasives to track monitoring and treatment efforts and to stay informed of new invaders. For advanced users, online polygons and detailed data forms provide flexibility for individual project needs while maintaining a standardized data structure. The Geographic Information System (GIS) framework of iMapInvasives gives users the power to perform spatial queries, create custom reports and maps, and receive early detection email alerts based on both species and geography (e.g. county or watershed).

While iMapInvasives was designed around the needs of natural resource managers, much of the power behind the database comes from contributions by the public. Early detection is our best line of defense against new invaders becoming established, and “citizen scientists” are often the first to notice a new organism that appears out of place. Their reports trigger emails that alert state officials when high priority species are entered into the database. In NY, half of the 1000-plus account holders use iMapInvasives as citizen scientists, and in Oregon, a large team of “Weed Warriors” are trained to identify and report priority invasives. And with a smartphone in hand, citizen scientists can upload photos and coordinates on the spot.

The partnership that created iMapInvasives includes the New York Natural Heritage Program, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, The Nature Conservancy, and NatureServe. Now iMapInvasives is a growing, collaborative network between several states, supporting shared resources to help combat the threat of invasive species.

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