Dragon Run Invasive Species Initiative

Virginia Commonwealth University

February 24, 2004



- Topics -

1.      Welcome

Dr. Greg Garman

David Fuss


2.      Update on Virginia Invasive Species Council & Advisory Committee


Tom Smith

David Fuss


3.      Update on Phragmites in Dragon Run and flight data

Dr. Greg Garman

Will Shuart

4.      Blue catfish control and assessment


Dr. Greg Garman

Bob Greenlee

5.      "Heritage" recreational angling area concept

Dr. Greg Garman

Bob Greenlee

6.      Results of headwaters inventory

David Fuss

7.      Education - info cards to increase citizen awareness


8.      Other Business





Krista Trono – Virginia Coastal Program (DEQ)

Tom Smith, Rick Myers – Division of Natural Heritage (DCR)

Greg Garman, Steve McIninch, Will Shuart – Virginia Commonwealth University

Andy Lacatell – The Nature Conservancy

Bob Greenlee – Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

David Fuss – Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission




Greg Garman welcomed everyone to Virginia Commonwealth University and gave some brief background on the Dragon Run Invasive Species Initiative’s activities. David Fuss provided context with a description of the Dragon Run Watershed Special Area Management Program (SAMP) funded by the Virginia Coastal Program.


Virginia Invasive Species Council


Tom Smith provided an overview of the Council’s activities. Tom provides the primary staff support to the Council, which includes heads of the Secretariat’s Departments (e.g. DCR, DEQ, DOF, DGIF) and VDOT and VIMS. The enabling legislation for the Council indicates a 2006 sunset date. No funding and no additional staff has been allocated for this initiative. The Council held its first meeting in December 2003. The Council is charged with developing a statewide invasive species management plan. Yet, no other state has done this. Due to few resources, the Council will probably end up with a limited focus on particular species (e.g. Phragmites, zebra mussel, Hydrilla). Some existing documents will serve to guide the Council and the Advisory Committee, such as the DCR/Natural Heritage plant list (ranked qualitatively), the Chesapeake Bay Program lists (tiers and management plans), and the Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services draft list. The Council will appoint a technical Advisory Committee to assist in developing the management plan. Greg Garman offered to serve as a technical advisor representing the Dragon Run group.


Phragmites and Hyper-spectral Remote Sensing


Will Shuart described a cooperative agreement between VCU’s Center for Environmental Studies (CES) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Topographic Engineering Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Will showed a PowerPoint presentation showing 1-m resolution digital multi-spectral imagery used to differentiate species of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Chickahominy River and marsh vegetation for Phragmites control at Parramoor Island. The models used at Parramoor Island could be adapted to the Dragon Run for change detection of the spread of Phragmites. An accuracy assessment at Parramoor showed 90% accuracy overall and 94% accuracy for Phragmites. One note is that the data must be taken at the same time of the year to be comparable to other years for change detection. Another note is that multi-spectral imagery is a standard tool for image analysts, but not necessarily for the entire discipline.


CES acquired raw hyper-spectral data for the Dragon Run at 0.5-m resolution in August 2003 over a 10-km2 block. This data cost about $10,000, but would have cost much more if it had not been combined with several other projects undertaken at the same time. Unlike the multi-spectral data that has only 4 bands, the hyper-spectral data has 124 bands, so it has a much higher degree of accuracy and can be used to differentiate many more species of vegetation. One note is that it is not possible to process the raw data with standard software applications that are used for processing multi-spectral data. An arrangement will have to be worked out with the Army Corps to process the data and this will cost ~$5,000.


Andy Lacatell raised questions of practicality of using the data for on-the-ground Phragmites control, since most of the control methods rely primarily on field assessment and control techniques. The inaccuracy of the data for small areas raised the question of whether it would be too late to control Phragmites patches once they reached the level of detection using the hyper-spectral data. Rick Myers indicated that they had a high degree of accuracy in detecting small patches of Phragmites using low-level helicopter surveys at Parramoor Island. It was noted that using hyper-spectral data could reduce the manpower needed for surveys, elucidate the mechanisms of how Phragmites spreads, and has the potential to identify other vegetation types including other invasive species. It was also noted that there is not currently an on-the-ground Phragmites assessment and none is currently planned.


Andy Lacatell offered to attempt to locate funding for post-processing of the hyper-spectral data for the Dragon Run. Will Shuart indicated that he would discuss how much it would cost to process the data with the Army Corps’ Topographic Engineering Center.


Blue Catfish Control and Assessment


Bob Greenlee provided an overview of blue catfish assessment efforts in 2003. In spring 2003, one individual was collected using high frequency electrofishing. In summer 2003, low frequency electrofishing was undertaken between US 17 and Rt. 3 bridges. No individuals were collected. High frequency electrofishing was then conducted and 134 individuals, mostly between ages 4-7, were collected at a single location. One young-of-year and one one-yr-old were also collected. Follow-up sampling at this location yielded no blue catfish.


Bob indicated that the habitat in the Dragon Run is not very suitable for blue catfish, particularly above US 17. Habitat is better below Meggs Bay, into the Piankatank River, but still not as suitable as that in the bigger rivers, such as the Rappahannock or James. Yet, it is difficult to assess blue catfish with electrofishing gear in open water and deep channels. Low frequency electrofishing is not always effective, so it is difficult to manage. A multi-gear effort may work best, including commercial gear and equipment such as trap nets that are already being used in the Piankatank River.


Eradication is not feasible or possible. The best hope is to perform monitoring and public outreach/education. All other coastal rivers have been taken over by blue catfish so that their native catfish assemblages are irreparably harmed. DGIF monitoring will occur annually. There were questions about the political sensitivity of monitoring/controlling blue catfish in the Dragon Run/Piankatank River. DGIF is comfortable with the Dragon Run initiative at this point. There is no expectation that this will be repeated in the next river system over.


“Heritage” Recreational Angling Area Concept


This idea was brought up at the June 2003 meeting. The concept is to designate the Dragon Run/Piankatank as a coastal river system that is representative of what fishing was like generations ago – a “heritage” fishing area. It was suggested that blue catfish control be used to maintain a unique angling experience (e.g. intact white catfish community). Greg Garman suggested putting a positive spin on the native species composition, rather than focus on the negative effects of blue catfish. In order to achieve a designation, institutional support will be needed. One proposal was to sit down with representatives from DGIF, other agencies, and the Virginia Invasive Species Council to formalize recognition of a unique angling experience from US 17 to Rt. 3 bridges. Bob suggested a less formal approach, more working “under the radar” to ensure the continuing fieldwork. In the meantime, Bob indicated that he would begin to work on an article for Virginia Wildlife magazine that identified the Dragon Run/Piankatank as a unique “heritage” angling experience, without seeking formal recognition.




In the interest of time and since Willy Reay was not present, David Fuss and Greg Garman indicated that they would update Willy about the meeting and discuss the development of education materials – the “deck of cards” approach discussed at the June 2003 meeting.


Other Business


A summary of actions:

·        Will and Andy will work on a proposal to post-process the hyper-spectral imagery

·        Bob will speak to his supervisors about the idea of the unique angling experience

·        Greg will plan to present the Dragon Run aquatic living resources inventory to the Dragon Run Steering Committee at its May meeting in order to introduce the idea of a heritage fishing area

·        David will serve as the coordinator for the Dragon Run Invasive Species Initiative