A recent study conducted by researchers at Ball State
University, in partnership with Fishbrain,
the world’s most popular fishing app, offers new insight into “invasion
superhighways,” in which aquatic invasive species are spreading across the U.S.
Using data from the Fishbrain app, which has more than 14
million registered users worldwide, researchers from Ball State’s College of Sciences
and Humanities have revealed a network of human movements that form these
invasion superhighways. Ultimately, the
research underscores not only the potential of expansive data sources such as
Fishbrain, but also the important role that anglers can play in preventing
aquatic invasive species from spreading further.
“This research allows
us to understand how invasive species are spreading in the U.S. in
unprecedented ways, which represents a huge step in conservation efforts,” said
Paul Venturelli, associate professor of Fisheries at Ball State and
director of the PhD
in Environmental Sciences program. “Technology is giving us the tools to
help conserve bodies of water across the U.S., so we must use it effectively if
we are to protect aquatic life.”
researchers involved in the study, linked
here, include Dr. Venturelli; Jessica Weir, a PhD candidate in Ball State’s
Environmental Sciences program; Dr.
Jay Bagga, professor of Computer Science; and Dr.
Adam Berland, associate professor of Geography.
Data and the future
One of the key tools
in the fight to conserve aquatic life across the U.S. is data. Historically, it
has been difficult to gather data on the movement of invasive species,
especially when this spans large areas and different jurisdictions. However,
tech and data are now providing a solution to this issue.
By partnering with
Fishbrain, researchers at Ball State could use data logged by millions of
anglers over the last decade to follow the movements of aquatic invasive
species and how they correlate with the movements of anglers. This provides an unprecedented
understanding of the “superhighways” of angler movement that invasive species
Tech platforms can
serve as educational tools that advocate for responsible fishing practices, helping
lead to action and preventing acceleration of the transmission of aquatic
invasive species. The continued cooperation of tech platforms to protect
aquatic life will be a key tool in tackling invasive species.
tech platforms like Fishbrain can offer the data to help us understand the
spread of invasive species, but this data can also be used to determine the
need for interjurisdictional collaboration,” Dr. Venturelli said. “Our research
shows that invasive species are moving across counties and states, so the effort
to combat the spread of these species must be similarly expansive. The new
knowledge gained in this research will also enable anglers to help protect the
waters they fish in by adopting sustainable angling habits.”
Important role of
Ball State’s research
indicates that anglers can be part of the solution to the spread of invasive
species by taking simple steps to adapt their habits. This can include avoiding
fishing in different waters in the same seven-day period, which can help to
prevent the spread of invasive species across different waters. Cleaning
angling equipment between uses is another useful step.
In the future, researchers
anticipate seeing more data about which waters are the largest hubs for
invasive species, so that anglers know where to be most mindful, and ensure
their angling practices reflect this necessity.
Ball State researchers
found that smartphone apps can effectively collect data that is integral to
research, and that these tools also help to encourage public engagement.
Anglers, as well as other groups visiting waterways for recreation, can play a
significant role both in contributing to data collection and in preventing
possible invasions—by becoming part of the solution.
at Fishbrain are delighted that our data illuminating angler behavior, fishing
patterns, and fishing trends has been able to support this important project,”
said Johan Attby, CEO at Fishbrain. “Anglers can play a vital role in looking
after the environment, so it is great that by sharing data on angler movements,
researchers are better able to understand potential risks. We hope that by
sharing the outcomes of this research, our users will feel encouraged to
educate themselves about aquatic invasive species and how they can help to
prevent their spread.”