There is no official federal job titled “Invasive Species Manager,” yet the need for expertise in spotting, containing, and removing invasives is steadily on the rise. In such a young industry, how do you learn the ropes?
According to Steven Manning, president of Invasive Plant Control, Inc. (IPC ), a private firm in Tennessee, those interested in a career in invasive species management need to “get out in the field” to gain first-hand experience battling alien species. Opportunities include volunteering with habitat restoration crews or joining state task forces and councils working on invasive species control. Aside from field work, says Manning, “it’s a matter of training and education.”
All of Manning’s permanent staff members must have an undergraduate degree in a natural resource management-related field, mainly so they can differentiate between native and non-native plant species and understand the effects of seasonal and regional management techniques. If a university or agency doesn’t offer such courses, there are other options.
For example, Randy Westbrooks — a longtime veteran of invasive species management with USDA-APHIS and the USGS, and now an Associate with IPC — has developed an online Invasive Species Management Training Program for those seeking to learn the basics. His six-course program covers prevention and exclusion (federal/state regulatory programs), early detection and rapid response (reporting, assessment, and eradication), and general control methods — a “foundation,” he says, “that would otherwise take 15 years in the field to learn.” Open to all, the online course is available through the Environmental Science Technology Program at Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, N.C. It is generally offered at one course per semester to fit the schedule of working professionals.
Shauna Lehmann, an environmental engineer with the provincial government of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, is a student in Westbrooks’ program. She found herself challenged when tasked with developing legislative policy and practices for weed management along Saskatchewan highways, so she enrolled in the course to learn about invasive weed impacts, regulations, and management options. “I really needed to familiarize myself with a new provincial weed control act,” Lehmann says. “I could read [it,] but not knowing the background … made it difficult.”
Westbrooks says that many of his students enroll in his courses because, like Lehmann, they enter the workforce without any prior background in invasive species management, only to face a related task down the line. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so supportive of Randy’s program,” says Steven Manning. “We need to fill these jobs with people that have that training. … Having these courses will allow people just coming out of college and those that have been in the industry for 30 years to gain those skills.”
Madeleine Thomas is the Editorial Intern for The Wildlife Professional.