Invasive species experts invaded Rochester this week.
The city is hosting the 2018 Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference along with the North American Invasive Species Management Association at Mayo Civic Center through today.
The conference, the largest in North America, draws experts from around the U.S. and Canada and some from overseas to share their knowledge and latest practices for dealing with invasive species.
As part of the conference, some attendees got a close look at one invasive species that has taken root locally.
For years, buckthorn has been a thorn in the side of naturalists throughout Southeast Minnesota. The invasive species pushes out native plants and animals. Managing it and getting rid of it is an intensive project and no one technique is 100 percent effective.
Dustin Looman, of the Minnesota and Iowa Conservation Corps, gave attendees a field demonstration Tuesday of prescribed burn techniques at Quarry Hill Nature Center. Buckthorn has taken hold in the park. A few years ago, work was done to clear areas of the invasive plant. However, it has since rebounded.
“Without maintenance, that’s what happens in a relatively short time,” Looman said.
Jack McGowan-Stinski, of the Lake States Fire Science Consortium, attended the field demonstration and shared some of his experiences using fire as a wildlife management tool.
“If you do fire at the wrong time and the wrong intensity you could actually promote invasive species,” McGowan-Stinski said. “Invasive species thrive on disturbance.”
McGowan-Stinski was at the conference to present but added he always picks up new information.
“I might hear a presentation and realize, ‘oh, that’s why this plant did that after the burn,’” he said.
The demonstration gave some attendees a chance to see and handle tools used in prescribed burns.
“This is a lot more interactive,” said Adam Gundlach, the field projects coordinator for the Lakeshore Nature Preserve at the University of Wisconsin. “I learn a little bit better hands-on.”
Gundlach gave a presentation about using prescribed burns to mitigate invasive species before the field demonstration. He said the subject is broad because different sites require different burn techniques.
The conference attracted more than 700 attendees and covered multiple topics, species and environments with top experts sharing the latest management techniques.
The conference also marked the 10-year anniversary for UMISC and 25 years of NAISMA improving invasive species management, outreach, research, and policy. The conference concludes Thursday.