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  Field Notes From
Alien Invaders



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Alien Invaders On AssignmentArrows

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From Author

Susan McGrath



Alien Invaders On Assignment

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From Photographer

Melissa Farlow



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Joel Horn (top) and Mark Thiessen


 

Alien Invaders On Assignment Author Alien Invaders On Assignment Author
Alien Invaders

Field Notes From Author
Susan McGrath

Best Worst Quirkiest
   The botanist in charge of controlling invasive species in Everglades National Park is a young, gung ho Kentuckian and a self-described hillbilly who's passionate about preserving this unique ecosystem. To give me an idea of what he deals with, he took me on a fascinating helicopter tour and brought us down in the middle of a beautiful sawgrass prairie. We were thousands of acres from anywhere, the sky was a beautiful blue, and occasionally we'd see a wood stork fly overhead. We sat in silence for awhile, just enjoying the scenery, and then our pilot said, "OK, you've brought me to tears. Can we go now?"

   Because of this assignment, I began seeing invasive species wherever I went. I could no longer relax and just enjoy the landscape. I was going for a run down a dirt road at my family's old camp in New Hampshire when I saw this really strange weed I'd never seen before. So I stopped and began pulling them out because scientists say if you recognize an invasion, you can help stamp it out. Well, for the rest of my vacation I couldn't go running without pulling these weeds. I even put some of the ones that had gone to seed in my pocket. I just couldn't control myself, but thank God I've calmed down since then.

   In Hawaii I had the privilege of staying with a traditional taro-farming family, the hardest working bunch I've ever met. One day Gladys, the mother, sat on an upturned bucket next to a paddy, trimming taro root to take to market. It was pouring rain. Her hands were nicked and cut from farm work and black with taro juice and mud, as was her face from wiping rain out of her eyes with the back of her hand. For some reason the spot we were sitting in was also swimming with earwigs, so she had to keep pausing to brush those off too. At one point she turned to me and said, in all sincerity, "This is what I love about farming. It's the peacefulness of it."

   


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