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The RISCC Network Goes Global: Inaugural International Invasive Species and Climate Change Conference a Huge Success

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Since its inception in 2016, the Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change (RISCC) Network has made significant strides in helping strengthen scientist-manager communities to reduce the joint effects of climate change and invasive species. Evidence of this progress has been most visible in the network’s recent expansion from a regional effort located in the Northeast to an international initiative spanning most of the United States and Canada. Despite this enormous growth–all of which has come in the past three years–the network seems well positioned for further expansion in the near future. This possibility was thrown into relief during the RISCC Network’s International Invasive Species and Climate Change Conference (IISCCC), a two-day virtual event that took place on January 30th and 31st. The first international gathering focused on the dual threat of climate change and invasive species, IISCCC shattered attendance records for previous RISCC events by attracting approximately 1,300 participants from twenty countries and six continents.    

“IISCCC proved to be an amazing event due to its record-breaking turnout and the high level of engagement displayed by audience members throughout the conference’s two-day program,” said Toni Lyn Morelli, one of IISCCC’s organizers, a RISCC cofounder, and a NE CASC research ecologist. “The large and geographically diverse attendance for IISCCC demonstrates that there is an immense global need to address this topic, a point that was reinforced by the flood of inquiries I received from audience members asking how they can bring a RISCC initiative to their country or region. Moreover, the many promising new connections that IISCCC facilitated between conference participants helped illustrate that the best way to move forward in responding to the combined threat of invasive species and climate change is by creating community.” 

Featuring 25 speakers, the symposium addressed a wide array of topics, including neonatives and range-shifting species, the expected implications of climate change for South Africa’s introduction pathways, sleeper species, island ecosystems, the effect of climate change on invasive species in the Pacific Range, and invasive species at the wildlife-disease interface, among others. Reflecting the RISCC Network’s goal to transcend boundaries that have traditionally separated scientists and managers, the IISCCC program was designed to encourage audience participation and also featured a session that highlighted management success stories. 

Jennifer Grentz from the University of British Columbia delivered the keynote address on “How Storytelling Will Shape Invasion Biology in a Changing Climate.” Two additional plenary addresses were given by Jessica Hellman, university director of the Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, who spoke on “Climate Change Adaptation and the Notions of Native and Invasive Species;” and Helen Roy of the U.K. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, who co-presented with Peter Stoett of Ontario Tech University on  “Insights from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Assessment on Invasive Alien Species and their Control.” 

“The conference proved very popular because it provided a unique experience for attendees,” said David Wong, an environmental analyst with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and long-time Northeast RISCC member. “No previous meeting or conference has brought so many scientists, managers, and other experts together from different regions, countries and continents to exchange information on the critical topics of invasive species and climate change. Because these problems are global, people all over the world are seeking the best possible information to address them. And it is RISCC that is now leading the way in helping communicate this information by building communities across disciplinary, professional, and geographic lines.”

While Morelli is encouraged by IISCC’s success, she also recognizes that the RISCC Network must continue to extend its reach by organizing new events that have the potential to draw even larger audiences.  “I’m so grateful that the efforts of our organizing committee–in which I participated along with Professor Deah Lieurance of Penn State, undergraduate Giancarlo Ceja of USC, and Elliott Parsons, a researcher at the University of Hawaii–were rewarded with an overwhelmingly successful conference like this one,” she said. “But there’s still so much more work to be done. Even after eight years, RISCC is still in its early stages with a lot more room for growth. And as IISCCC made clear, the rest of the world is ready to grow with us as we tackle two of the greatest challenges to ecosystems across the globe.”

All IISCCC presentations were recorded and can be viewed here: