Anybody who's reading this already knows invasive species are a problem, and limited budgets are a problem, too. One possibility for bridging the gap between funding and effective invasive species management lies in volunteer early detection programs. Mobilizing citizens to monitor the introduction and spread of invasives should be considered an important tool in this increasingly urgent battle.
The following case studies were compiled from numerous in-depth phone interviews with administrators and scientists who have implemented, and are responsible for, volunteer-based invasive species early detection programs. All interviews were conducted by students from the University of Richmond in conjunction with the school's Environmental Studies Program.
The case studies can inform those planning to mount volunteer-based early detection campaigns of past successes and failures. As students explored the effectiveness of current programs, they quickly found the most successful to have developed certain common features. These "lessons learned" can prove to be of use to both public and private land managers seeking to overcome lack of funding and manpower by employing volunteers in early detection efforts.
A few of the features common to the most successful programs include:
- Extensive pre-planning in regard to data collection and reporting methods
- Recruiting volunteers with existing abilities from established networks
- Effective motivation for volunteers
- Making use of volunteers' existing abilities
- Targeting a smaller number of species
- Giving volunteers meaningful work, and not changing volunteer's responsibilities from what they initially expected
- Public education
We hope these case studies will be a useful guide to those considering implementation of volunteer early detection programs.
Summary prepared by: Kyle Hegamyer