Dr. Deah Lieurance led the first all-taxa horizon scan to identify invasive species threats in the U.S. Through her work, she not only hopes to protect the integrity of natural and agricultural ecosystems, she also actively promotes diversity, equity and inclusion in scientific fields. NYISRI is pleased to feature her in this month’s researcher spotlight:
What kinds of research questions related to invasive species are you currently asking?
I conduct research that aims to improve our ability to prevent biological invasions in Florida, the Southeast, and the United States. Prevention is critical when considering the tremendous negative impacts invasive species have on natural areas, biodiversity, and economy. My research strives to identify the species that pose the greatest invasion threat before they get here. Most recently, I led the first all-taxa horizon scan to identify invasive species threats in the U.S. Our working group identified 42 threats and their pathways for arrival to Florida. We will be repeating this process in 2022 for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
What are the basic methods you are using to answer your research questions?
Generally, I use decision support tools such as risk assessments and status assessment to identify potential invaders and diagnose the invasion status of species already in the landscape. Horizon scanning is a bit different. This process incorporates consensus-building among experts with rapid risk assessment to collaboratively rank potential invaders.
Do you have a personal story or path that led to your interest in this research?
In all honesty, when I started my position with University of Florida, I thought this would be a short run, like a post-doc with more benefits. As I learned more about risk assessment and prevention, I became more passionate about this work. Eventually, I was promoted to a faculty position, giving me more freedom to pursue the research I mentioned before and to work on other projects like developing and improving screening tools to ultimately improve our ability to stop invaders before they arrive or identify them early enough we can eradicate before they start causing economic or ecological impacts.
How does your research relate to a wider field of invasive species prevention/management?
Risk assessment is used all over the world in invasive species prevention and management prioritization. I interact with experts all over the world to make predictions and work on improving the process in both efficiency and accuracy.
What’s the most important thing about your research for stakeholders, managers, or policy makers to know?
That results of invasion risk and status assessments are evidence-based and very useful in developing policy and decision-making about invasive species management.
What do you hope the long-term impact of your work will be?
Florida has many unique ecosystems, including the Everglades ‘river of grass’, crystal clear freshwater springs, and biologically diverse pine rocklands. Currently, these ecosystems is under threat from the impacts of present and future invasions. We also spend millions of dollars managing current invasions and invasive plants and pests cost the state over $179 million annually in agricultural and forestry losses. I hope the work I do here with UF IFAS will help preserve the state’s biodiversity, protect the integrity of natural and agricultural ecosystems, and reduce the economic impacts of biological invasions.
Is there anything else you’d like to add or tell us about your work?
I am also very active in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in scientific fields. I recently participated in the publication of a series of articles in the journal Biological Invasions, led by Laura Meyerson from the University of Rhode Island, that aimed to identify and address DEI concerns in the journal. One of the articles was the editorial, “Words matter: how to increase gender and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity at Biological Invasions.” In it, we outline the need to use gender-inclusive language and provide guidance on how to achieve this and explain the importance of retroactive name changes for trans, non-binary, and any authors who change their names. If we can increase DEI at the journal, we believe it will lead to a better understanding of invasive species around the world and will make all members of the invasive species community feel welcome.
The learn more about Dr. Lieurance’s Extension program, click here >>
Visit the UF IFAS Assessment website for recommendations on over 900 species.
Read more researcher spotlights:
Researcher Spotlight: Jennifer Andreas
This month, we interviewed Jennifer Andreas, who has worked in biological control for the last 25 years, and provides integrated weed management strategies and education to land managers in Washington State.
Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Andrew Liebhold
This month, we interviewed Dr. Andrew liebhold, a research entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station with over three decades of experience studying invasion ecology of major forest invasives.
Remembering Gary Lovett
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Gary Lovett, a key advisor, collaborator, and friend. His legacy will live on through his highly impactful efforts to connect science to decision makers.
Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Angela Fuller
This month, we interviewed Dr. Angela Fuller, whose work spans a variety of wildlife and conservation issues across the globe and helps guide natural resource management.
Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Steve Grodsky
This month, we interviewed Dr. Steve Grodsky at Cornell University who specializes in the emerging field of energy ecology — the study of interactions among energy development, ecosystems, and people.
Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Annette Evans
This month, we interviewed Dr. Annette Evans, a postdoctoral researcher at UMass Amherst/Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, whose work combines invasion ecology and climate change to inform land management by modeling abundance and distributions of invasive plants.
Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Andrew Newhouse
This month, we interviewed Dr. Andrew Newhouse, Assistant Director of the American Chestnut Research & Restoration Project for an update on the latest research and outlook on chestnut blight.
Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Scott McArt
NYISRI interviews Dr. Scott McArt who leads research on the ecology of plant-pollinator interactions in natural and managed systems, and helps advance our knowledge of pesticide risks to pollinators.
Researcher Spotlight: Stacy Endriss, Ph.D
NYISRI interviews Dr. Stacy Endriss, an evolutionary ecologist who explores creative approaches for improving how we assess the impacts of invasions and their management.
Researcher Spotlight: Kathryn Amatangelo, Ph.D
NYISRI interviews Dr. Kathryn Amatangelo, Associate Professor at SUNY Brockport who studies the genetics and control of European dewberry, mile-a-minute, and Japanese knotweed
Researcher Spotlight: Jennifer Koch, Ph.D
We hear from Jennifer Koch, whose 32+ years of work and collaborations offer a glimmer of hope toward saving our native trees from forest pests, like the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).
Researcher Spotlight: David Wong, Ph.D
NYISRI interviews Dr. David Wong, who seeks better solutions to managing aquatic invasive species, exploring novel tools like detection dogs.