White House Effort Wants to Use Data to Kick Out Invasive Species

A group of zebra mussels

A group of zebra mussels U.S. Department of Agriculture/AP File Photo

An executive order signed earlier this month directed agencies to invest in data tactics to prevent invasive species from entering.

The White House wants researchers to focus on curbing the impact invasive plants, animals and insects have on the U.S. environment and economy.

Earlier this month, with just a few weeks until his term ends, President Barack Obama signed an executive order committing to prevent the “economic, plant, animal, ecological and human health impacts that invasive species cause.”

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For instance, a population of zebra mussels were accidentally introduced into the Great Lakes and the infestation then spread into Mississippi River, the Arkansas River and Lake Champlain. By spreading onto water pipes and other hard surfaces, they caused about $5 billion in damage and limited the spread of native fish.

The mandate directs federal agencies to “expand the use of new and existing technologies” to develop metrics, standards and databases that could be used to monitor those species. They’re also tasked with encouraging the use of open data, predictive modeling and information systems to “inform timely, science-based decision making."

It also encourages them to invest in “remote-sensing technologies, molecular tools, cloud computing and predictive analytics; and using tools such as challenge prizes, citizen science and crowdsourcing” to learn more about these invasive species.