December 16, 2011 By Sarah Rich
Burmese pythons and Cuban tree frogs sound like the types of animals you’d find in a zoo, but for some areas of Florida, these animals might roam about and invade the state.
As a way to report these uninvited guests and other invasive species inhabiting Florida, the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health developed a free iPhone app, called IveGot1, to allow users to photograph and report animals as well as invasive plant observations. The information helps agencies in Florida that are responsible for protecting the state from invasive wildlife to respond to the sightings. The app was developed more than a year ago, but the reporting capability was released last October.
Invasive species are non-native species that reproduce and spread, and therefore cause damage to the inhabited area, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. However, this excludes many non-native species that come to Florida but do not appear to be causing problems.
According to USA.gov, more than 1.7 million acres of Florida’s natural areas have endured invasive species infestations.
And not all areas of Florida are as susceptible to invasive species as others are. The Everglades, located in the southern tip of Florida, is a main destination point for many invasive species, said Scott Hardin, the exotic wildlife species coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“That is first of all, largely undeveloped, but [the Everglades] are also in close proximity to the importation facilities like the Port of Miami,” Hardin said. “And also, it has been at least historically home to some of the reptiles and bird breeders.”
Users who download IveGot1 can register on the app, which requires providing contact information. Or they can use the app as a “guest,” but only those who register have the capability to report species, said Chuck Bargeron, the app’s programmer with the University of Georgia. The app then shows a list of invasive plants and animals.
Users interested in reporting on the app are required to submit contact information so that agencies responding to the report can follow up with the user, Bargeron said. If users spot one of the plants or animals that are listed on the app, they can select it from the list, take a picture of it and then submit the report. Latitude and longitude coordinates of the location where the report was made will also be submitted.
Once the observation reports are submitted, the information goes to the University of Georgia since the app integrates directly with the university’s early detection and distribution mapping system (EDDMapS) — a nationwide program for the reporting and mapping of invasive species, Bargeron said.
After the reports are uploaded to EDDMapS, they are emailed to local and state verifiers for review, according to USA.gov.
The university had previously developed a Web app version of the reporting system a few years ago as a way to report invasive plants, however, invasive species from all over the country can be reported through the Web version. Animals were later added to the reporting system.
While the app was developed by the University of Georgia, it was also achieved through a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service and also in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, Bargeron said. Funding to develop the iPhone app came from the National Park Service.
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