Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blue Team: Justin Soto

Invasive species are hidden species that without scientific knowledge one may not understand fully. They are better known as the species that affect our environment in a negative way which in turn humans can be affected. Scientists work together to save places such as Lake Alice from these harmful species. I was able to get a firsthand account of the damage that has been done to Lake Alice and the education needed to inform Gainesville.

A prime contributor to the awareness that I obtained was from Steve Johnson who is an Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology here at the University of Florida. “These species harm ecology and the economy” said Johnson. Some people who have animals that are reeking havoc in their backyards come to places such as Lake Alice and leave the unwanted animals. If people continue to do that they will be aiding the bad problems in the lake. Since Florida has many ports of entry cities such as Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami, these invasive plants and animals are coming into this state with no questions being asked. A solution to the problem in which animals are being put into lakes, can be solved by people bringing their unwanted pets to pet amnesty day events. Steven Johnson said “You can bring a tiger or even a gorilla and they will take it off of your hands.” the public must be informed about this matter.

Dr. Jim Cuda an associate professor of biological weed control uses nonnative animals to help get rid of nonnative plants, which works because they match both being exotic. He focuses mostly on screening and evaluating insect natural enemies for classical biological control of invasive weeds. Dr. Cuda said that “Without ecological balance things are out of whack.” He makes a point in saying that he just collects the data and he isn’t the one who chooses the animals that he researches.

Mechanical harvesting and the study of plants also aid the prevention of invasive species. Dr. Bill Haller works to manage aquatic weeds in a different way, through machines in the water. A machine on Lake Alice digs “five feet wide and five feet deep, going through two acres a day” said Haller. After the plants are taken out, they are traditionally taken to landfills or farms. He hopes to get a stronger machine that will increase the longevity of the harvesting and it will enable them to cut nine feet deep. While using the machines he says that “If you see a scuba diver keep going, but if it’s a manatee stop.” Once you see a manatee in the water where you are cutting, you are not allowed to cut in that area ever again.

Botanist Dr. Colette Jacono includes that composting is fantastic for soil growth. Being selective about the plants that you put in your garden can aid in the saving of our environment. “Native species are better in home environments” she said. She also says that “palmettos and wildflowers help animals because of their nectar.” So selection is key, don’t just buy the prettiest plants.

Herbicides are sprayed over the targets in the lake to help get rid of the invasive species that are present. But scientists have to be careful when choosing a herbicide because only twelve aquatic herbicides are legal. “The label tells you everything you need to know about the herbicide” says Dr. Mike Netherland an engineer and manager of studying submerse invasive plants.

What I learned today helped me focus on my role in the ecosystem and what I can do to help my local area and this planet. The City of Gainesville and the University of Florida community should play a role as well. The facts I presented are too important to ignore.

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