DURHAM, N.C. – Invasive species have become a large problem worldwide. They cause environmental as well as economic problems. Scientists have been studying numerous invasive species looking at their breeding patterns, suitable habitats for them, and many other aspects of their existence. However, researchers are still having difficulty discovering effective methods to control their current spread as well as to prevent their future spread. Every invasive species is different, and rarely is any control method completely effective.
There are several current methods in use by scientists including chemical, physical, and genetic methods (that prevent reproduction). One popular method in use since the late 19th century is biological control. Biological control is the intentional use of one organism to control the population size of another organism. Biological control has had many disasters throughout its practice. The problem with biological control is that many times, organisms introduced to control one alien species problem, actually cause further negative environmental impacts.
The important questions about biological control is what do you think? What do your friends and neighbors think? Depending on what you say, biological control may soon be coming to your nearest invasive species if you and your neighbors say it is socially acceptable. Jeremy Joven, a student at Duke University, is searching for the answers to these questions that many researchers have ignored for years.
Scientists do not always fully explain scientific processes such as biological control and ask for the average layman’s opinion. However, Joven is about to change all that. Joven is in the process of researching invasive species control methods and their popularity in random samples of people across all dimensions of knowledge in society including representatives of aquatic conservation groups, local, state, and national aquatic managers, international scientists, and average citizens like you and me. He says the current methods of control that are publicly acceptable are largely ineffective and cost inefficient. He speaks of rare success stories with all methods including biological control.
Knowing that the government is unlikely to fund programs and projects containing control methods unpopular with taxpayers, Joven’s goal is to find the “perfect solution” to alien species being both effective as well as socially acceptable. He wants to educate people and differentiate between the actual effectiveness of biological control and its social acceptability. He does not want a repeat of the public relations’ disasters of recent years regarding inhumane killing methods of invasive species.
Joven believes that biological control will be deemed socially unacceptable because of its low success rate and high costs. People want consistent positive results, and biological control is just too unreliable for people to accept as the best method for widespread use. However, Joven believes that his research will lead to further research into determining a publicly approved program with better results. Most importantly, Joven believes his work will lead to an established order for the use of the various control methods on invasive species in the future and bring greater success to invasive species prevention.