NASA recently accepted an invitation to join the National Invasive Species Council (NISC). NASA, in a research capacity, will assist 12 other federal agencies’ efforts to combat invasive species across the country.

An invasive species is an organism, such as a microbe, plant or animal, which entered America through natural processes or with human assistance and whose presence poses a threat to public health or the economy. One example, Salt Cedar, is an invasive plant widespread in the western United States. It replaced native species and may have significant negative effects on water resources.

“NASA is pleased with this invitation from NISC. The agency is eager to continue our active engagement in applied research projects whose results advance management of invasive species,” said Edwin Sheffner, manager of the invasive species program element in the Applied Sciences Program at NASA Headquarters. “Efforts to manage invasive species annually cost the country tens of billions of dollars,” he said.

NASA will enhance partner’s abilities to respond effectively and efficiently to invasive species’ challenges. NASA provides Earth observations and predictive models resulting from space research and systems engineering expertise. NASA’s track record of achievement in invasive species monitoring led to the invitation to join the Council.

An example of NASA’s impact is work completed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on invasive species in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The USGS improved the accuracy and timeliness of predictive maps of invasive species in the Monument with enhancements to decision support tools from NASA data, predictive models and systems engineering.

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data from NASA’s Terra satellite provides daily information about vegetation conditions. Statistical models applied by USGS, with NASA’s assistance, convert MODIS and other data sources into predictive maps of plant species distribution. The USGS is incorporating NASA’s research capabilities to improve the national response to invasive species through the National Invasive Species Forecasting System (NISFS).

The NISC coordinates federal responses to harmful invasive species. NISC is a cabinet level council established by Executive Order in 1999. The NISC provides leadership and ensures complementary, cost-efficient, effective federal activities regarding invasive species. NISC depends on cooperation from local, state, tribal, private and public partners to perform its mission.

The NISC Web site is the gateway to federal efforts concerning invasive species. Users can learn about the impact of invasive species, and the government’s response; read profiles about specific species; find links to agencies and organizations that handle invasive species issues. To access the NISC gateway on the Web, visit:

The NISFS is an on-line tool for users to combine information about the local presence of an invasive species with observations and predictive model output from NASA and other sources. The model can generate a regional view of the distribution of the species and predict where it is likely to spread. The NISFS will provide on-demand, regional-scale assessments of invasive species patterns and vulnerable habitats. The information is vital for detection, remediation, and management of invasive species.

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