Monitoring the Spread of Invasive Plant Species at Cannon’s Point Preserve, St. Simons Island
Authors: Caitlyn R. Napier, Christian C. Pscholka, Rebecca L. Cushing, and Victoria C. Martin
Faculty Supervisor: C. Tate Holbrook, Ph.D.
Community Partner: St. Simons Island Land Trust
Invasive species are defined as non-native species that have negative impacts on the environment and/or economy. Invasive species can be found in almost every region on Earth, oftentimes spreading rapidly and dominating the landscape in place of the area’s native species. One of Georgia’s largest barrier islands, St. Simons Island, is no exception. Members of the St. Simons Land Trust (SSLT) have worked tirelessly to prevent overdevelopment of the island’s rare and biodiverse maritime forest, with the 600+ protected acres at Cannon’s Point Preserve being one of their greatest accomplishments. However, several invasive plant species have spread at Cannon’s Point Preserve and other SSLT properties, threatening the habitat and resources that native species rely on. Our service-learning project for BIOL 4020 Conservation Biology serves as a pilot study for future citizen science efforts to monitor and report the spread of invasive species. We are conducting visual surveys of invasive plant species on SSLT properties, reporting their exact locations and recommended removal method to an online database, and mapping their distributions using ArcGIS. We are also utilizing widely accessible, free software including iNaturalist and EDDMapS that could be used by members of the community with the shared goal of conserving our natural environment.