Frontlines | Plant Police Go Online
Courtesy of Mic H. Julien, Invasive.org
Defending the United States against invaders of the vegetative variety is a job that airport agriculture inspectors can't handle alone anymore. Internet plant vendors have proliferated like kudzu, creating a problem requiring a Web-based solution.
"You've got folks shipping things among states and from outside the US through the mail; it represented just a whole new pathway for invasive species," says entomologist and biomathematician Ronald Stinner, North Carolina State University, Raleigh. Working with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Stinner's group is developing the Agricultural Internet Monitoring System (AIMS), a Web crawler and database program designed to find and track vendors of invasive plant species. It's set to launch in December.
AIMS uses about 1,000 search terms, including taxonomic and common plant names, as well as terms typically used on commercial Web sites, such as MasterCard...