Ketchikan to host invasive species conferences

Posted: Sunday, October 11, 2009

KETCHIKAN - Concerns about plant and animal invaders in Alaska will bring scientists, experts and citizens' groups together in Ketchikan Oct. 27-29 for back-to-back invasive species conferences.

A variety of state and national speakers will discuss research and prevention efforts at the tenth annual Alaska Noxious and Invasive Plants Management workshop from Oct. 27 to 28, followed by the fourth annual Alaska Invasive Species Conference on Oct. 29. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will host both conferences at the Cape Fox Lodge Hotel.

Conference organizers hope to raise public awareness of the invasive species problem and to organize efforts that will protect property value, agriculture, wildlife and wildlands. Michele Hebert, agriculture and horticulture agent with Cooperative Extension's Tanana District, said Alaska still has the opportunity to prevent the significant invasive organism problems that plague other states. Invasive plants, however, are already beginning to change Alaska's landscape. Japanese knotweed and orange hawkweed continue to spread rapidly in Southeast Alaska. Bird vetch, an attractive purple flower known by some as "Alaska's kudzu," has greatly reduced the fireweed seen along roadways and elsewhere, she said.

Hebert said coastal residents worry about marine invasives, including invertebrates that arrive in ballast water from cruise ships and freighters and Atlantic salmon that escape from Canadian aquaculture farms. The potential effects of these species on native species are not fully known, but non-native fish can carry diseases that could devastate Alaska's native fish populations. Atlantic salmon are popping up in Southeast," she said. "Our fishermen are right to be concerned about that."

This year's special guests will be Dr. Sarah Reichard, a professor at the University of Washington, and Gary Freitag, a marine biologist with Marine Advisory Program in Ketchikan. Reichard specializes in the biology of invasive plant species and their potential to impact ecosystems. She will be focusing on the biology and ecological impacts of knotweed, a serious invader in Alaska. Freitag specializes in detecting marine invasive organisms in and around Ketchikan's waters. He will be discussing invasive species that threaten the waters of Southeast Alaska. Both Reichard and Freitag will give a free public lecture at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, at the Discovery Center.

Other conference events will include a teacher training workshop to integrate invasive plant curriculums into Alaska classrooms, an award ceremony for two U.S. Customs and Border patrol agents that prevented Asian Gypsy Moth entering the U.S., and several talks that discuss impacts invasive organisms have on natural resources in Alaska. In addition, there will be a poster session from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, at the Cape Fox Lodge. This poster session is free and open to the public.

Register online at For more information, contact Ronda Halvarson, University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, at or 907-474-2450.

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