Posted May 6, 2016 by Rachel Smith
As stated in the previous blog post, Springing into Action, KISC has been quite busy this year. Each department in our organization has been working diligently on different assignments. Outreach staff has finally paved the way for the Pono Endorsement Program launch, the field crew is closing in on a few of our target species, and the KISC Early Detection Botanist, Kelsey Brock, is working on finalizing a new list of potential plants for KISC to take on as targets.
Take a look at our KISC Pest page. Most likely, you haven’t seen too many of those plant species widespread and growing in the wild on Kauai. This is because they are in the “early detection” stage. This means, if we can detect a new species before it naturalizes, then we can rapidly respond, and stop it before it becomes the next Albizia or guinea grass. Kelsey is currently in the process of surveying the ENTIRE island of Kauai to find new species’ that fit within the early detection category. You may think, “well, I sure can think of a lot of weeds in my yard that I could tell you to remove”. However, Kelsey has developed an ecologically based matrix to cross reference with the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment, in order to thoughtfully and scientifically choose potential new KISC targets.
So if you have lived on Kauai for more than 24 hours, you might notice there are a lot of plants here, and quite a few of them are rather weedy. Given that knowledge, one can see that Kelsey’s job of surveying the entire island for every weed, determining each plant’s distribution, and it’s invasiveness, is quite a large undertaking. How does she do it?
Surveys consist of driving and hiking. You might find Kelsey on some common hiking trails around the island, as well as deep into the forest creating her own trails. More often you might find Kelsey conducting roadside surveys. Therefore, if you get stuck on a road behind a KISC truck, driving 3 mph, with a sign on the side of the truck stating “Botanical Survey”, that’s Kelsey…driving very slow, looking at plants. Sounds like a pretty cool job to me! Well, it doesn’t stop there. Kelsey has access to the National Tropical Botanical Garden and Bishop Museum herbarium databases. Between these two facilities, there are over 780,000 collected plant specimens that Kelsey can use to verify plant identification and confirm where and when a plant was previously collected or first identified. For those plant nerds out there, an herbarium is simply a giant plant library!
Between her plant seeking excursions and her time spent in botanical libraries, Kelsey is essentially trying to determine the naturalization of collected plants on Kauai. If one fits with in the guidelines of her matrix, she places on a list to be reviewed as a potential new KISC target candidate.
The field crew is making some pretty serious headway with eradicating some of our other target species, Long Thorn Kiawe (LTK), being one of them. Therefore, as we continue to make progress on other plants, we can make room for new species. Once Kelsey’s list is developed, KISC will hold a strategic planning meeting to broaden our target list. Kelsey’s hard work this year is paying off. KISC has not taken on any new targets in two years. We are so excited to have Kelsey working on this project and grateful for her extensive botanical knowledge. If you see her out there on the road or hiking a trail, please be patient, take a moment to say “hello”, and remember, Kelsey’s work could potentially protect Kauai from the next monster weed popping up in your yard!