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Another Side to Invasive Species Management

Managing invasive species is not just about the removal and treatment of the species themselves, but also includes education and outreach to prevent the establishment of invasive species in the first place. WNY PRISM hosts and attends education and outreach events throughout the region to increase awareness and understanding of invasive species issues.

This summer I participated in several of WNY PRISM’s education and outreach events, including The Great Lakes Experience Festival, Alfred Farmer’s Market, Canal Fest of the Tonawandas, and the Buffalo Zoo’s Party for the Planet. When attending an outreach event, I appreciate being given a moment of someone’s day to share my knowledge of invasive species. My goal is to empower people to make a difference in the invasive species cause. In addition to the public feeling empowered to make a change, volunteer opportunities are another way to find satisfaction from attending outreach events. Volunteers increase participation in early detection and management efforts, which means more invasive control can be accomplished. Volunteering is also a great way to learn even more about invasive species!

Julia Kostin at the Wild America Festival. Photo Credit: WNY PRISM.

I’ve noticed that the depth of conversations I have at each event is usually correlated with the kind of event I’m attending. At the farmer’s markets, most people glanced at our table and quickly passed by when they realized we are not selling farm fresh produce or baked goods. At Canal Fest of the Tonawandas, WNY PRISM partners with state and federal agencies to provide information on invasive species management in Tonawanda Creek and the Erie Canal. Despite having hundreds of attendees, it was sometimes a struggle to connect with people busily on their way to get food, play games or jump on a ride. Having been in their position myself, I take no offense to this- if people attend an event with a goal in mind that is not related to environmental education, I can’t blame them for keeping their distance.

On the other hand, events that are geared towards the environment like The Great Lakes Experience Festival, Wild America and Party for the Planet, keep the WNY PRISM table busy. Early in the summer, I perfected my speech to engage the public and not overwhelm them with information. Starting out with the educational purpose of our table, and then discussing what WNY PRISM does, can help ease the listener into scientific language they may not be accustomed to. This is why the first thing I say is typically, “Are you familiar with invasive species?” Starting with a question rather than a lecture invites the individual to turn the interaction into a conversation, and keeps the individual engaged. People scanning the table and then pointing to a familiar species like giant hogweed to say, “I’ve heard about this one!” can also help break the ice and develop a discussion.

Julia Kostin happily spent the day in WNY PRISM’s infamous emerald ash borer costume at Party for the Planet. Some children loved the costume while others were hesitant of its many appendages. Photo Credit: WNY PRISM.

Some of our most enthusiastic conversations happen with children. As an aspiring environmental educator, I’m filled with joy when young kids approach our table and can define the word ‘invasive’ or recognize our resin sample containing zebra mussels. I hope I can always encourage these kids to stay curious and keep learning about the plants and animals that fascinate them. People of all ages can always learn more about nature, and by extension, how to protect it.

You can use WNY PRISM’s website to find out more information about: education and outreach events, invasive species profiles, news and reports, publications, funding opportunities and volunteer opportunities.

This article was written by Julia Kostin, 2018 Invasive Species Management Assistant.