Chicago Map Society: Steve Novak, The Cartography of Biological Invasions: From Darwin to DNA

Chicago Map Society Meeting
Thursday, March 17, 2011

The voyages of Christopher Columbus set in motion a global biological upheaval, referred to as the “Great Columbian Exchange”, in which European species were introduced into the New World and New World species were introduced into Europe.  During an excursion through the pampas region of Argentina, Charles Darwin noted the infestation of a native European plant (cardoon, Cynara cardunculus) that covered hundreds of square miles.  Darwin drew maps to illustrate this invasion, and he was perhaps the first biologist to muse about the ecological and evolutionary consequences of invasions.  Modern biologists use remote sensing technology, image classification techniques, and computerized mapping to produce sophisticated surveys and maps of invasive species, especially for a species whose distribution is increasing rapidly (e.g., zebra mussels).  As in forensic DNA studies, scientists are now conducting DNA analyses of native and introduced populations to determine the geographic origins of invasive species.  Dr. Novak, Professor of Biology at Boise State University, has long been interested in the geographic distribution of organisms and especially, the spread of invasive plant species.  He will illustrate and explain some of these new surveying and mapping techniques, and show us how they can be used to understand, manage and control such invasions.