ALBANY, Ga. -- The former head of the Flint RiverQuarium will return Thursday to Albany to give a presentation on how invasive species of various plants and animals are affecting the ecosystem of the Everglades.
Douglas Noble served as chief executive officer of the RiverQuarium from 2003 to 2006 and now serves as the assistant director of exhibits and public programs for the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.
Noble, the museum and the University of Florida have become increasingly involved in monitoring and cataloguing the various non-native species of plant, animal and insect life that have taken hold in the Everglades and are spreading throughout Florida.
The Burmese python is perhaps the most well known, Noble said, having garnered headlines across the nation as its populations throughout southern Florida have grown. The aggressive expansion of the python has been so rapid, in fact, that it has prompted U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to get behind a measure to regulate the sale of non-indigenous animal and plant species.
Noble estimated that currently between 1,500 and 1,600 pythons are now slithering through the Everglades, with the biggest on record measuring in at 15 feet, 6 inches long.
And while animal species like the pythons and the Cuban tree frog generate much of the discussion on invasive species, it's actually the plant species like the Brazilian pepper tree that are quickly consuming the Everglades.
Noble and FMNH developed the exhibit currently on display at the Riverquarium called "Alien Attack," which features the affect of non-native species on local ecosystems.
Noble said he's glad to have to opportunity to return to Albany to talk about an issue that affects Southwest Georgia.
"People are under the misconception that this is just a southern Florida issue, but invasive species are really a worldwide problem," Noble said. "I'm excited about returning to Albany for this brief visit; I still have fond friends that are in the area."
Georgia knows all too well the effect of invasive, non-native species.
Kudzu, the fast-growing Japanese vine, has become emblematic of the South and is found on river banks, trees and old buildings from Bainbridge to Dahlonega. It is even slowly reclaiming the closed Broad Avenue Bridge.