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New App Gives Outdoor Enthusiasts An Easy Way To Report Invasive Species

Charlie Neibergall
A red-eared slider swimming in Mississippi on June 23, 2003. This invasive species in popular in the pet trade, and when released into the wild will outcompete native turtles.

A new app aims to enlist Pennsylvania's outdoors enthusiasts in identifying and cataloging invasive species.  

The app from Pennsylvania Sea Grant is called PA AIS, which stands for Pennsylvania Aquatic Invasive Species. It's a detailed guide to water-based invasive species found in in the state, sorted by county. The entry for each species includes multiple photos, a detailed description and a list of similar species. If a user determines what they see is invasive, they can submit an invasive species report quickly in the app.

"Anyone that's 'boots on the ground,' we really want to have this app on their phone," said the Sea Grant's extension leader Sara Stahlman. "So that they have the mechanism of reaching out to share if they find something suspicious."

If an invasive species is confirmed, the state may take a variety of actions. If a species isn't likely to survive the winter, it's left alone. If it's likely to spread, it's quarantined. Stahlman said the more reports received on the app, the better the state can determine its plan of action.

PA AIS is a digitized version of the Sea Grant's physical field guide to invasive species. Stahlman said in the past, it could take up to two years to update the field guide, even though the Sea Grant is constantly finding invasive species in new places.

"One positive with the field guide app is as soon as we find a new infestation, we can go right in real time and update that county-level information," Stahlman said.

The app is currently only available for iPhone. Stahlman said an Android version is expected to be available in the next year.