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RISCC Holds Successful Annual Symposium

Wednesday, March 27, 2024
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More than 400 members of the invasive species community recently attended the 2024 Northeast Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change (RISCC) Management Network Symposium, which took place on February 27th and 28th via Zoom. Gathering invasive species managers, researchers, policymakers, science communicators, and boundary spanners to address key issues regarding the dual threat of invasive species and climate change, the event attracted representatives from approximately 30 governmental agencies, 30 research institutions, 25 NGOs, and 15 states. The event’s strong attendance continued the growth of the RISCC Network, which drew 1300 people from six continents to its inaugural international conference just a few weeks earlier.

“It was really exciting to have such a large turnout for the Northeast RISCC symposium,” said Dan Buonaiuto, an NE CASC Postdoctoral Fellow at UMass Amherst and one of the symposium organizers. “The event was a great example of how RISCC has been able to forge an expansive community by connecting people across professions, disciplines, and areas of expertise. Our speakers and attendees came from a variety of backgrounds and represented many different perspectives. The symposium brought together managers and researchers, marine and terrestrial invasive species experts, and early-career researchers and senior scholars, among others. The diversity of ideas and experiences that informed the event was really amazing.”

Featuring 21 speakers, symposium sessions and panel discussions explored several key themes, including challenges and opportunities in early- and late-stage invasions, invasive species impacts on climate change adaptation and mitigation, and communicating about climate change and invasive species. A series of lightning talks on emerging research addressed topics such as the relationship between Lyme disease and invasive plant species cover, development of a climate-smart native plants database, and risk assessment, restoration, and range-shifting plant traits. The symposium was also highlighted by a keynote address, “A Global Perspective on Invasive Alien Species in a Changing World,” from Laura Meyerson of the University of Rhode Island. Finally, the symposium provided an occasion to honor Vice Chief Richard Silliboy of the Mi’kmaq Nation with the RISCC Community Action Award for his work to protect northeastern ash forests from the devastating impacts of the ongoing emerald ash borer invasion. 

“As an invasive species manager and one of the symposium organizers, I found the symposium to be a valuable resource because it both initiated a conversation about the latest research findings on invasive species and climate change and provided an avenue for continuing that conversation beyond the symposium through the formal and informal networking opportunities it offered,” said Shikha Singh, Coordinator for the Jackson, Lenawee, and Washtenaw Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area in Michigan. “The meeting proved to be a great forum for sharing information and building bridges between groups of people who might not ordinarily come into contact with one another. These informational and relationship-building functions are vital to the successful management of invasive species in the face of climate change.” 

The value that attendees found in the symposium was, according to symposium organizer Eva Colberg, made apparent by the enthusiastic participation they displayed throughout the event. “Audience members asked a lot of important questions to our speakers, initiated many lively discussions with one another on our Zoom chat threads, and showed up in large numbers for our networking session,” said Colberg, an NE CASC Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University. “Attendees were hungry to learn more about the overlapping problems of climate change and invasive species. As a result, they were energized by the information, advice and ideas that were shared throughout the symposium. The invasive species community has come to recognize that RISCC offers a lot of important information that is presented in a digestible manner, a combination that explains why our symposia, conferences and other events have garnered strong attendance. Beyond that, though, I think our audience also recognizes that RISCC serves as a source of hope, a way to find solutions to what may seem like an overwhelming problem. We are proof that progress can be made on one of the most challenging issues of our time. It’s exciting to be part of that progress–for our event participants, our symposium organizers, and our broader, rapidly expanding network.”