Trish Wurtz works for the U.S. Forest Service, and is an expert on the identification and control of invasive species. Invasive species have been found here in Alaska, and Trish is here to talk about what is happening.
Invasive species are defined as species that are not native to a particular environment, and become harmful to the new environment. Essentially, they suddenly appear in an area, and the new environment does not have a way to reign them in.

Many people think that Alaska is immune to such an attack, but we are not. Neither the cold weather, nor our presumed isolation have kept them out. We are just as much at risk as other geographical areas, and in some ways, even moreso.

Alaska is a transportation hub, both by sea and by air. Many invasive species tend to thrive in such places that rely on long-distance transport as a vital part of its economy. Many plants and animals pass through such places, including ones from different parts of the world.

Trish discussed two examples that have taken hold in Alaska, the Green Alder Fly and the Bird Vetch. All over Southeast Alaska, Alder trees were being mysteriously defoliated. It was a new phenomenon that nobody had seen before or understood. The Green Alder Fly had apparently arrived there about 10 or 15 years ago, and had spread like a living wildfire.

Another example is the Bird Vetch. It was brought to UAF for study around 1910, and then escaped and radiated outward from there. It is not all bad, but it did not grow here naturally before then, and its growth has very quick and uncontrolled.

Trish left us with some very important advice. Never dump anything from an aquarium in nature, for many invasive species spread that way. Also, do not use a foreign species of plant or insect as any type of ornament or decoration.

Third, invasive species frequently travel by latching on to wood or wood products, so try not to carry wood far from where you found it. Lastly, if you see something in nature that you have never seen before, including some type of damage that seems unusual, contact Trish at 451-2799. Identification by common citizens is frequently how such invasive species are found.