Invasive Plant Symposium spotlights environmental concerns

The Invasive Plant Symposium was an event put together by the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group to help educate, connect and explore the region’s invasive plant problems, organizations, and solutions with the help of over 50 departments. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Agricultural professionals from all ages and disciplines gathered at the Student Union on Tuesday for UConn’s Invasive Plant Symposium.

It was an event put together by the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group to help educate, connect and explore the region’s invasive plant problems, organizations, and solutions with the help of over 50 departments.

Although this event was free and open to students, there were very few in attendance. The majority of the symposium guests consisted of local landowners and managers most of which were over age 30. From park rangers to agricultural scientists and ornamental landscapers, there were a large number of diverse professionals all here to learn about ways to understand and control invasive plants.

The event ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with plenty to do in between, including a lunch provided by UConn’s dining services. There were dozens of speakers throughout the event and many displays that the guests were encouraged to explore.

The National Resource Conservation Service put out a large display of many of the enemies of Connecticut’s native biodiversity. Here guests could see live samples of the plants responsible for causing all kinds of environmental harm across the east coast.

In the ballroom, posters and stands with data collected displayed all around a common area where these industry professionals could mingle during intermissions.

One of those stands highlighted the works of UConn horticulture and resource economics double major, Christian Allyn. Allyn started the Invasive Plant Solutions (IPS) this year to provide a suite of invasive management solutions to land owners.

IPS was awarded a 2016 IDEA Grant from the UConn IDEA Grant Program. The company was also a 2016 finalist in the UConn Innovation Quest Program for start-up companies, graduating from the UConn Innovation Quest Summer IQbator Program.

“The turnout is very good this year, it’s so good to see so many organizations and professionals commit to such an educational event,” said Allyn.

When asked what students can do to help be a part of the solution he said, “Students just need to get outside, look around and be aware. The truth is, you don’t know what you’re looking at until you really know what you’re looking at. Around campus, the forest undergrowth has become heavily infected with invasive species.”

Another booth operator and one of the program’s organizers Emmett Varricchic touched on some similar notes about how students can help prevent the spread of invasive species.

“Young people just need to go for a walk in the woods and get to know what’s out there. With technology keeping more students inside, it becomes harder for invasive species to be detected,” he said.

Keynote speaker Jil Swearingen, the Integrated Pest Management and Invasive Species Specialist and manager, jokingly talked about looming dangers of climate change and how that makes for the spread of dangerous invasive plants.

In between laughs she said “We have to change the charts so often, it’s really not funny.” She encouraged people, young and old, to use their smart phones as a tool for learning about and reporting invasive species.

“Applications designed to report invasive plants can quickly create powerful data that can be used to lobby and get aid from the state.”


Dan Wood is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.wood@uconn.edu.