U.S. Secretary of the Interior Appoints Local Biologist to National Invasive Species
FORT MYERS, FL - Our environment is not always changing for the better and for eminent scholar and director of the Florida Gulf Coast University Whitaker Center, Jerry Jackson, his expertise is leading him to national levels to do something about it.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton appointed Jackson to the Invasive Species Advisory Committee, which helps guide the National Invasive Species Council to identify and deal with exotic plants, animals and pathogens. Jackson is only one of two selected from Florida on the 32-member Committee.
“Working together, we can make progress in the management of invasive species,” Norton told Jackson in his appointment letter.
“Government recognizes that invasive species are major problems in our country and around the world,” Jackson said. “These problems encompass all branches of government. Our job is to help coordinate various efforts between branches.”
While his professional experience is with exotic animals, particularly birds, his work on the Committee is thrusting him into major national issues.
“Some disease-causing organisms are of major concern and considerably broaden the scope of invasive species. In some cases, invasive species issues are really national security issues and for this reason our work is now linked with the Department of Homeland Security.”
Closer to home, South Florida is a sort of ground zero for exotic species, Jackson says. “There are more invasive species here than almost anywhere else in America, with the possible exception of Hawaii, because of the climate and our mobile culture.” Jackson says today, there are over 30 kinds of parrots in the wild in Florida, once home to North America’s only native parrot, the Carolina Parakeet, which has been extinct for nearly 100 years.”
Even tarantulas, the sometimes house pet, is now breeding in the Florida wild although it is not causing major problems. Yet, the same cannot be said for other exotic species, which can take years to explode into a threat, and the lack of education when it comes to dealing with them.
The Monk Parakeet from Argentina was introduced into New York City in the 1970s and now resides in several large cities. The birds’ communal nests can weigh several hundred pounds and they tend to build them on electrical transformers, which can cause costly problems.
“In their Argentine homeland, Monk Parakeets are serious agricultural pests, sometimes consuming up to 50 percent of grain crops. Such problems have not emerged here, yet,” Jackson said. Still, the thrill of seeing a parrot in the wild often slows efforts to return them to captivity.
Jackson promotes understanding of invasive species problems by urging people to use native plants in landscaping and to take precautions to prevent the escape of exotic animals. He guides invasive species research at FGCU, teaches courses about exotic pests to the public through the FGCU Renaissance Academy and provides information about exotic creatures through his two-minute radio show “With the Wild Things,” which airs weekdays at 7:19 a.m. on WGCU-FM 90.1. The show has a supporting web site at:
For more information, contact Jackson at (941) 590-7193.