Developing a Spotters Network
A Spotters Network often starts locally around an invasive species issue that raises concerns, and can also be put in place in a prevention and early detection perspective. The following list provides the key steps for developing a Spotters Network program. Communication is a central element. In all cases, contact the invasive species council of your province or territory to get help and collaboration.
Key Steps to Develop a Spotters Network:
- Branding and messaging
Develop original messages ideally consistent with other regions in Canada (ex. Clean Drain Dry).
- List of priority species
Select the priority species with experts and policy makers, especially in places without a weed act or stand-alone legislation on weeds.
Ideally target EDRR species. Develop strategies for “actions” once a species is reported. Obtain management commitments from governments, municipalities and landowners. It is important to assure follow up and know what happens after the report is made.
- Reporting system
Develop a reporting form, protocol or app for phones, and a database with dates, locations, geo-references etc. An easy way would be to collaborate with an existing management data system run by councils, ministries, groups or the international systems such as EDDMap or IMapInvasives.
- Data sharing
Using mapping is ideal because it provides a picture of spread (large scale). The systems mentioned above are worth using.
A protocol for verification of observations should be set. Usually, data management systems require a photo of the spotted invasive species from the observers. Volunteer taxonomist or someone who knows the species involved can confirm the observations.
- Training materials
Develop training materials in form of a handbook or modules including the description and list of targeted species. Such tools enable participating organizations in tailoring the program for their needs. Develop of a tool kit to be used in the field by volunteers
Templates for advertisement can be developed. A communication campaign on social media can be successful. Contact local media and try to raise awareness among decision makers.
- Strategies to seek partners
Raise financial supports and tap into volunteer resources. Find out what financial programs are appropriate and solicit governance levels. Prepare ttemplate letters, list of partners or supporting organizations across Canada.
- Strategies to keep volunteers involved
Follow up regularly with volunteers, organize events, involved them in communication activities as spokesmen. Provide them feedback on progression of strategies at governance levels.