Citizen weed spotters wanted

There are quite a few dirty words in the Alberta Invasive Species Council lexicon.

Flowering rush. Yellow hawkweed. Spotted knapweed.

Those are some choice ones, says Barry Gibbs, the council’s executive director.

The council is now enlisting the public to identify invasive species in the province and help clean up the landscape, if not the language used to describe unwanted plants.

“We call it the spotters network,” said Gibbs.

“What we’re trying to do is engage Albertans or any citizen. We try to get people who are knowledgeable about plants or are concerned about them, to just keep their eye open and to report on particular invasive plants that we have put into the program.”

Weed spotters can take a photo of the plant on their iPhone or Android smart phone and, using the EDDmaps app, indicate what they think it is.

The app picks up the GPS coordinates from the phone and then sends it to the AISC.

“Just whip out the phone, use the app and report it,” said Gibbs.

“Then we verify the sighting, the report, based on the photo. Some of (the weeds) are tricky to identify and so we go through a verification process.

“Then we pass on all those re-ports to whoever’s jurisdiction the land falls into, so something will get done about it.”

The AISC relies on the sender to have some idea of the weed’s identity. Those who want a good smart phone guide to weed species can download the Alberta Weed Spotter app developed by the City of Edmonton.

Alberta’s list of prohibited and noxious weeds does not mean all are now resident in the province. Rather, it is a list of weeds the province never wants or plans to eliminate if the species is already there.

EDDmaps stands for Early Detection and Distribution mapping system. It was developed by the University of Georgia and applies to the United States and Canada. A version was customized for Alberta.

Gibbs anticipates most weed sightings will be on public land where people may be walking, hiking or vacationing.

“We just need to engage people, get out and talk to groups and find people who are concerned about invasive plants and who are out and about.”

The AISC app and the weed identification guide can both be found through the app store. The latter program is only available for iPhone.

A list of Alberta’s nasty weeds can be found at www.abinvasives.ca.

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