New awards program of the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force to recognize exemplary work in invasive plant early detection and control. 

As public awareness grows about the harmful effects of invasive plants, the Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force (MoIP) bestowed new awards this year to recognize outstanding work controlling invasive plant species on property in Missouri. 

MoIP Chair Carol Davit presented Columbia Public Schools K-12 Science Coordinator Mike Szydlowski with the Invasive Plant Action Award for an Individual during the district’s October 12 school board meeting. Past Vice-chair Nate Muenks presented the Southwest Missouri Hydrilla Working Group with the Invasive Plant Action Award for a Collaborative Group during the Fellows Lake Hydrilla Event on August 12.

Carol Davit and Mike Szydlowski stand for invasive plant award

MoIP Chair Carol Davit poses for a socially distanced photo with Mike Szydlowski, who won the first MoIP Action Award for Individuals.

Szydlowski coordinated science teachers and students in a district-wide effort to remove invasive bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii and Lonicera x bella). According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, “Woodlands invaded by bush honeysuckle have dramatically reduced diversity and abundance of native plants compared to uninvaded woodlands, and severe infestations develop into impenetrable thickets in which native plants are almost completely eliminated.” Szydlowski’s project is responsible for eradicating approximately 2 million plants. In 2019 the project’s student volunteers accumulated a little over 7,000 service hours. 

hydrilla working group stand for award

Socially distanced members of the award-winning team pictured above are (front, kneeling, from let): Kara Tvedt, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Nate Muenks MDC and MoIP, Tyler Goodwyn, Greene County. (Standing, from left) Glen Locke, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Roddy Rogers, City Utilities of Springfield; Mike Kromrey, Watershed Committee of the Ozarks; Brent Stock, James River Basin Partnership; Ashton Stamper, Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources.

The Southwest Missouri Hydrilla Working Group is a collaborative effort among representatives from City Utilities of Springfield, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources—Southwest Regional Office, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Pomme de Terre and Stockton Lake), Greene County, Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, the James River Basin Partnership, and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to detect and manage Hydrilla. In the summer of 2012, the exotic invasive plant hydrilla was verified in several private impoundments along South Fork, a headwater tributary to the Pomme de Terre River in rural Greene County, Missouri.  Since then, it has been detected in impoundments in the upper Pomme de Terre River, Little Sac River, James River, and Niangua River watersheds. Currently, hydrilla has been found in 35 sites in southwest Missouri. 

Hydrilla’s dense vegetative mats can clog intake structures at water power generation and water supply facilities and can also have negative impacts on recreational boating. States with heavy hydrilla infestations are spending millions of dollars annually to control hydrilla, which is frequently referred to as “the worst aquatic weed in the country.” A significant highlight for the Hydrilla Eradication project in 2019 was the addition of several more sites to the “monitoring-only” phase. Nate Muenks, MDC’s natural resource management planner and past vice-chair of MoIP, presented the working group with its award in August.

A recommendation by a natural resource professional is required to be eligible. Members of MoIP evaluate nominations. MoIP is a resource of the Grow Native! program and the Missouri Prairie Foundation. 

“There are many individuals and groups carrying out impressive invasive species control in every corner of the state,” says Carol Davit, chair of MoIP and executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation. “We want to recognize those doing exemplary work and present them with an aware at an event of the awardee’s choice to be honored in front of their peers.”

By definition, invasive plants are those not native to a region whose abundance and/or rapid spread  harm economic and environmental resources. The Action Awards seek to demonstrate how controlling the spread of  invasive plants on Missouri farms, forests, woodlands, prairies, gardens, roadsides and along waterways is wise stewardship. 

For more information, please visit our Invasive Plant Action Awards page.