Using Smart Phones to Report Invasive Species

By Kate Howe

Anyone who spends a lot of time in the forest knows that invasive species are a huge and growing problem, with new species and established invaders impacting forest regeneration, mature tree growth, forest understory diversity, and wildlife habitat.  Yet, if you look at invasive plant distribution information in national databases such as USDA’s PLANTS database ( or the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS,, it looks as though there are very few invasive plants in Indiana.  So what’s going on here?  Are we making a bigger deal of invasive species than we should?  Is it true that we don’t have very many in our state?

Screen view of the GLEDN app. This interface allows the user to photograph and report the location of any invasive plants, animals and pathogens.

As you’ve probably realized, the issue is that we aren’t reporting invasive species that we have on our property or see on public lands, because we are busy trying to manage them.  In some cases, people aren’t reporting invasive species, because they are so common that we figure everyone must know they are here.   Others aren’t sure where to report sightings of invasive species. 

The Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN), an online database of invasive species distribution information was created in 2012 through a partnership between the University of Wisconsin, Colorado State University, and the Midwest Invasive Plant Network and provides an easy way to report invasive species sightings.  GLEDN shares data with EDDMapS and other national and regional databases that collect invasive species data, so visiting GLEDN allows you to see data from multiple databases in one location. Reports can be made quickly and easily, and all reported sightings are verified by experts before the data are made public.  Another nice feature of GLEDN is that it allows users to report invasive plants, animals, and pathogens all in the same place.

With the increasing use of smart phones, reporting invasive species is now easier than ever.  The new, free GLEDN app, available for iPhone and Android, allows users to report sightings while they are in the field.  The app uses your phone’s mapping capability to get GPS information on your location and uses your phone’s camera to take photos that can be uploaded to GLEDN through the app.  You can choose whether to submit your reports to GLEDN while you’re in the field or wait until later if you don’t have a signal in the field or prefer to upload through a Wi-Fi connection. 

The more reports that are submitted for Indiana, the better information we will have about where invasive species are, how abundant they are, and which new species are starting to make an appearance on the landscape.  This information is important for obtaining funding for invasive species control, educating the public about invasive species, planning and prioritizing invasive species management, and successfully implementing early detection and rapid response to new invasive species in our state.

To get the GLEDN app for iPhone, visit the iTunes App Store and search for “Great Lakes Early Detection Network.”  To get the app for Android, visit the Bugwood store on Google Play (  For more information or questions about using the app, contact Kate Howe at


Kate Howe works at Purdue University as the Coordinator of the Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN), an organization dedicated to reducing the impacts of invasive plant species in the Midwest.