What happens to a river invaded by non–native zebra mussels? Why were gypsy moths intentionally introduced to the United States? How do you know if you are pulling up a mile–a–minute vine or good native ground cover?

An updated environmental education curriculum and a new app for smartphones provide some answers.

Wild Things: Investigating Invasive Species offers basic information and activities for grades six to eight. The booklet explains the harm caused by native and non–native invasive plants and animals, provides fact sheets on several widespread invasives (leafy spurge, melaleuca, round goby, zebra mussel, brown tree snake) and gives detailed instructions for several activities—including ways young people can help control invasive species.

The information and activities may be incorporated into field trips or class visits or distributed to local middle schools. One page shows how the curriculum helps educators meet the specific national science curriculum standards followed by public schools in most states. Find Wild Things online at fws.gov/invasives/nwrs.html (under “What’s New”).

Zapped with an App

A new smartphone application designed for several New England refuges enables users to identify plants, photograph and map them. The “National Wildlife Refuge Early Detection Network for New England” can be downloaded for free on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. Staff and volunteers from six refuges received training on the app last summer. Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, MA, plans to use it during the 2013 field season, where several Friends are among the trained volunteers.

As the name suggests, the app can increase opportunities for “early detection rapid response” (EDRR). The app “narrows which species are most important to find early, so that we can recognize species as they arrive,” when it’s much easier to control them, explains Cynthia Boettner, coordinator for the invasive plant control initiative at Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge in New England. The mile–a–minute vine, for example, is already in Massachusetts but not yet in New Hampshire. Boettner will be training volunteers throughout the Connecticut River watershed to limit the vine’s spread.

The app was developed by the University of Georgia EDDMaps (Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System). For anyone without a smartphone, there is also a Web site (www.eddmaps.org/) with printable fact sheets and full–color flashcards for many invasive species.