Friday, December 30, 2011

They're Here: Giant African Land Snail's Invade Miami.

Promotional announcement for last year's traveling exhibition of giant pink snails.
As you know,  I am always interested in invasive species like tunicates, snakes, parrots, lizards, fish and of course snails. Though they can - and often do - have a devastating effect on the environment and the economy, they are often among the most interesting species to study in the field.

At Save the Harbor / Save the Bay, for example, we track the spread of the invasive Asian Shore Crab, and my undergraduate class in Earth Science at Boston University has been tracking a colony of invasive land snails on Lovells Island in the Boston Harbor Islands National Park for nearly 10 years.

When I am on vacation, I often spend my time looking for invasive species wherever I go. They often provide an important window into the health of the environment - and interesting insights into human behavior as well.

While visiting Miami during last year's cold snap - which killed thousands of invasive iguanas - I added the phrase "iguanas falling from trees" to my keywords at Google news. The search returned dozens of articles in the popular press over the course of the winter - which helped me keep abreast of the impacts of climate on these non-native lizards.

Here's a link to one of the many stories I found. Frozen Iguanas

At that time, I also added the keywords "giant snails in Miami" so that I could track the progress of the giant pink snail sculptures that invaded Miami beach last year as part of a traveling exhibition sponsored by Galleria Ca'D'Oro in Rome.

In November of this year (2011)  I was surprised to find that my keywords, which had been relatively quiet, returned a story about a totally different kind of giant snail which has invaded Miami Dade.

Earlier this year the Giant African Land Snail (GALS) was discovered in the Miami area. Though it is popular as a pet in Europe, it is banned in the US because it is a voracious pest that threatens both agriculture and human health.

So far it has spread to more than a dozen different locations in Miami, prompting an aggressive response by state and local officials who are quite right to be concerned about its impact on the environment, agriculture and human health.

Later today I will be accompanying a team from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as they assess a newly discovered "core" infestation just south of Miami. I am certain that it will be interesting. I'll keep you informed about what I discover.

In the meantime, you can find out more at this link to the Department's great GALS site.