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The Invasive Plant Atlas of the MidSouth (IPAMS) is a project of the Geosystems Research Institute (GRI), Mississippi State University.

IPAMS' Purpose

Invasive weedy plants are a widespread problem throughout the United States. Their growth is often widely dispersed, with little scientific ability to predict why they occur in a given location. In addition, historical human activities such as urbanization, agriculture, and forestry have a marked effect on the distribution and spread of invasives. This integrated project will quantify relationships of weed distribution and spread with land use, then use that information directly in educating agriculture stakeholders, natural resources managers, and other interested parties on potential human-induced opportunities for invasive species spread.

The Invasive Plant Atlas of the MidSouth (IPAMS) will provide information on the biology, distribution, and best management practices for forty weedy plant species. Outreach and extension activities include developing training programs for volunteers to identify and report invasive species using IPAMS, developing an efficient Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) system for invasive plants, developing best management practices workshops, and developing an online mapping system. Research activities include conducting systematic regional vegetation surveys to assess the distribution of key invasive plants, developing models for predicting the occurrence of target species based on land use and cover, and evaluate the relative effectiveness of professional versus volunteer surveys.

The Geosystems Research Institute

Mississippi State University created the institutional-level Geosystems Research Institute to combine and integrate academic and operational units active in conducting and coordinating research and educational activities in geospatial technologies and resource management - particularly agriculture, forestry, water resources, computational modeling, and visualization. More information regarding GRI is available at

The Geosystems Research Institute brings together faculty from 22 departments within 6 colleges/units within Mississippi State University. The GRI also collaborates with many community colleges, and focuses on agriculture, water resources, state and local government, and economic development.

The GRI's Invasive Plant Programs

The Geosystems Research Institute is uniquely poised to study invasive plants that take over agricultural and natural areas, with expertise for studies ranging from regional impacts through use of remote sensing and GIS to cellular and molecular studies of plant uptake or genetic composition. GRI has the capacity to bring together multidisciplinary research teams comprised of university and government researchers to address diverse questions on the management of invasive species.

Areas of current research include:
  • Remote sensing of invasive terrestrial and aquatic plants
  • Modeling of invasive plant spread
  • Virtual plant modeling
  • Integrated management systems for invasive terrestrial and aquatic plants utilizing chemical and nonchemical methods
  • Assessing the impacts of invasive plants on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
Our approach is multidisciplinary, and involves biologists, ecologists, computer scientists, economists, engineers, and others acting collectively as a research team. All research projects include education, extension and outreach components, such as the IPAMS database, to rapidly transmit new technologies or approaches to those in private and public sectors managing invasive species.

Early Detection and Rapid Response

IPAMS is a unique tool for early detection and rapid response. Trained volunteers regularly check areas for invasive species. When they encounter an invasive species, they record the location by GPS, the plant and other information about the plant population. On the IPAMS Web site, they input this information and alert researchers and government officials of the new infestation. This gives those decision-makers more time in taking appropriate steps and treating an infestation early, before it spreads further.

Support for IPAMS

U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), National Research Initiative, Biology of Weedy and Invasive Species Program, directed by Dr. Michael Bowers under award #2007-55320-17847. Additional support has been provided byu the U.S. Geological Survey Invasive Species Program and the National Biological Information Infrastructure under award #04HQAG0135.


Randy Westbrooks, Ph.D., USGS NWRC
Les Mehrhoff, Ph.D., University of Connecticut (Invasive Plant Atlas of New England)
Thomas Stohlgren, USGS, Fort Collins Science Center
Pam Fuller, USGS, Florida Integrated Science Center
Charles Bryson (USDA Southern Weed Science Research Unit, Stoneville, MS)


U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
MS Department of Agriculture and Commerce
MS Master Gardeners
SouthEastern Exotic Pest Plant Council (SE-EPPC)

Volunteers and Training

Potential volunteers include those from garden clubs, Master Gardeners, and other adult extension activities, youth extension activities such as 4-H programs, and workshops for production agriculture. We will develop training programs for volunteers to identify invasive species and report them using the IPAMS database. Through this web feature, we will also provide information on the biology, ecology, and best management practices for up to forty target invasive plant species. The data the volunteers collect will be combined with that from the previous research on IPAMS, which is searchable and has ArcIMS capabilities in order to produce distribution maps of species of interest.

Project Personnel

John D. Madsen, Ph.D., Geosystems Research Institute
Gary Ervin, Ph.D., Department of Biological Sciences
Victor Maddox, Ph.D., Department of Plant and Soil Science
John Byrd, Jr., Ph.D., Department of Plant and Soil Science
Clifton Abbott, Geosystems Research Institute

Geosystems Research Institute
Contact: John D. Madsen, Ph.D.  •  WebMaster