The Spinal Column

1 min interview with Erica Clites Director of CISMA,

Erica Clites

Erica Clites

Erica Clites, Oakland County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (Oakland County CISMA) Director took some time out to discuss her nine months of work with CISMA and how it helps individuals and municipalities deal with invasive species. CISMA plays key role in managing invasive species in Oakland County communities.

Clites, who lives in Madison Heights, enjoys reading, biking, playing board games and walking her dog.

SCN: How did your education and background lead you to your current position with CISMA?

“I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Geology and previously worked in natural resource management for the National Park Service. My most recent position before joining the CISMA was managing a collaboration of nine museums digitizing clam and snail fossils. I enjoy working on partnership projects where I can connect people and organizations with the tools and information they need to succeed.”

SCN: When and why was CISMA formed?

“The CISMA was formed in December 2014 with 19 partners. It was formed in response to a state goal to work collaboratively to control invasive species. Our CISMA has only one county because we contain over 10% of Michigan’s population as well as 62 municipal governments.”

SCN: What are CISMA’s primary funding sources? What are the major uses for those funds?

“The CISMA is primarily funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program as well as by CISMA members and the Road Commission for Oakland County. The funds primarily support a full-time Director (Erica) and part-time Technician, Emily Messick, who responds to invasive species inquiries, conducts field surveys, applies for and administers grants, hosts monthly partner meetings, workshops and other events.”

SCN: What might you do in the course of an average day?

“A typical day would include a meeting with partners, a field visit to evaluate invasive species, as well as communicating with partners and the public via e-mail, phone, website or Facebook. In addition, I research grant opportunities and prepare grant progress and financial reporting for our current grants.”

SCN: Describe the most important goals of CISMA and how you and other employees go about achieving them?

“The CISMA aims to manage invasive species collaboratively in order to provide effective long-term management, educate people about invasive species, prevent new introductions and conduct surveys to identify areas of concern. We provide educational materials, host workshops, present at the invitation of local groups, conduct surveys and manage collaborative contracts for invasive species control.”

SCN: Managing invasive species sounds like a formidable task. What are things that individuals can undertake to help with their management?

“Anyone can help by first preventing the spread of invasive species by cleaning their shoes, pets, boats, mowers and vehicles. You can learn to identify invasive species using modules provided by the Midwest Information System Network (MISIN, https:// www.misin. speciestraining/ ). You can control invasive species on your property and consider replacing them with native species. Finally you can volunteer with the CISMA, local land conservancies or watershed councils to help survey for or remove invasive species. The CISMA can aid homeowners with invasive species identification and control—please, please contact us with questions.”

SCN: What roles do municipalities play? How do businesses in thisfield help both? How do you aid all of them?

“Cities, villages and townships are very important partners to the CISMA. Municipalities inform the CISMA of resident concerns and emerging invasive species problems in their areas. Businesses help by providing invasive species removal or control services as well as managing invasive species or allowing survey access to their properties. The CISMA’s role is to build capacity by empowering both groups and making sure their efforts are in line with best management practices.”

SCN: Are phragmites the biggest single invasive species problem that your organization helps others to manage? Why or why not? What work are you doing to help control this problem? How are you working with municipalities to combat phragmites?

“The largest volume of work we manage currently is for phragmites. The CISMA manages phragmites control projects for the Road Commission of Oakland County. This year we will be treating phragmites along all of the county road right-of-ways. We also aid municipalities in developing private land treatment approaches for phragmites. Newer invaders such as the aquatic plant European frog-bit may have a large impact on the county as well. We are currently conducting surveys to determine its extent and collaborating with partners to understand our containment and control options.”

SCN: What are some parts of invasive species management that should only be handled by an organization like yours? Why or why not?

“If you have a large infestation of invasive species, or one in water, it is best to work with an expert rather than trying to treat it yourself. Experts can confirm that identifications are correct and that best management practices are used.”

SCN: What is the best source of information about invasive species management?

“The CISMA has brochures covering some of our priority species and their management on our website:

“The state of Michigan website,, is also a good source of information.”

SCN: Please describe the types of programs/information you offer municipalities and the general public.

“We offer brochures, presentations to local groups, workshops and other training opportunities. Municipalities and other county and non-profit partners in the CISMA also get in-depth information on the latest in invasive species management including many presentations by guest speakers during our monthly meetings. We give advice to anyone by email, phone or Facebook message.”

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