What is the Nebraska Invasive Species Council (NISC)?

The NISC was codified in law in 2012 and serves as an advisory council to Nebraska's Governor and Legislature. NISC focuses on invasive species of all taxa of concern to Nebraska's natural resources, NISC members and other stakeholders. Allison Zach is the Council Coordinator and you can contact her here: invasives@unl.edu, (402) 472-3133. 

NISC RESPONSIBILITIES:

  1. Recommend action to minimize the effects of harmful invasive species on Nebraska’s citizens in order to promote the economic and environmental well-being of the state;
  2. Develop and periodically update a statewide adaptive management plan for invasive species as described in section 15 of the legislation;
  3. Serve as a forum for discussion, identification, and understanding of invasive species issues;
  4. Facilitate the communication, cooperation, and coordination of local, state, federal, private, and nongovernmental entities for the prevention, control, and management of invasive species;
  5. Assist with public outreach and awareness of invasive species issues; and
  6. Provide information to the legislature for decision making, planning, and coordination of invasive species management and prevention.

NISC MEMBERS

VOTING MEMBERS (Appointed by the Governor)

COUNCIL COORDINATOR

NON-VOTING MEMBERS

  • Brenda Densmore-USGS Nebraska Water Science Center
  • Carmen Thomson - National Parks Service
  • Chris Helzer - The Nature Conservancy
  • Chris Vrtiska- Omaha Public Power District
  • Cindy Stuefer-Powell - USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • Gary Stone-University of Nebrakska-Lincoln Extension
  • Jeff Runge-US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Jeremy Gehle-Department of Natural Resources
  • Jennifer Weisbrod-Pesticide Safety Education (UNL)
  • Joanne Grady-US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Julie Van Meter-Nebraska Department of Agriculture
  • Kelsey Jolley-US Army Corps of Engineers
  • Lorrie Grueber-City of Lincoln Forester
  • Michelle Koch-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
  • Ritch Nelson - USDA Nebraska Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • Mike Koenig-Omaha Public Power District
  • Tom Heatherly-Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy
  • TJ Walker-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

MEMBER BIOGRAPHIES

In alphabetical order

Portrait of Allison Zach

Allison Zach

Nebraska Invasive Species Program (UNL)

Allison has served as the Nebraska Invasive Species Program Coordinator since 2013. She coordinates the Nebraska Nebraska Invasive Species Council and serves as its liaison with the Governor and State Legislature. She collaborates with agencies and organizations on invasive species early detection, prevention and management efforts and to develop invasive species management and prevention plans. Allison develops and provides invasive species outreach and education to Nebraska resource agencies, individual stakeholders, educators and the general public regarding.  She has developed electronic surveys used annually to survey boaters and document results of watercraft inspections and decontaminatations as well as train and employ seasonal technicians. She serves on regional and international invasive species panels and organizations including the Western Regional Panel on ANS on which she  served on their Executive Committee and Outreach Committee.  She also serves on the North American Invasive Species Management Association Board. She is the NAISMA Play, Clean, Go committee Chair.

Portrait of Brent Meyer

Brent Meyer

Lancaster County Weed Control Superintendent

Brent serves as the Lancaster County Weed Superintendent based in Lincoln, NE. He’s spent 25 years working with invasive plants and has served on numerous State and national organizations including serving on the NAWMA (now NAISMA) Board of Director’s and as the organizations President, as well as the Nebraska Weed Control Association’s President. He currently serves as the Chair for the Governor’s Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force.

As superintendent in Lancaster County he is responsible for carrying out the State’s Noxious Weed Act as well as working with, and educating landowners on invasive plants, their control methods, and potential they have on our environment. The Nebraska Invasive Species Council (NISC) plays a critical role in education and outreach across all taxa.  NISC is very important to the success of all invasive species control programs.  It is, by far, more effective to prevent the spread of invasives, than it is to try and treat them after they become established.

 

Portrait of Carmen Thomson

Carmen Thomson

Midwest Region Inventory and Monitoring Program Manager

Carmen is duty-stationed out of the Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraska. There she supervises three inventory and monitoring networks (Northern Great Plains, Heartland, and Great Lakes). These Networks are responsible for conducting long-term natural resource inventories (e.g., fish, mammals, plants, geology, etc.), and coordinating the development of numerous long-term monitoring protocols for approximately 40 national park units within a 13 state area in the Midwest. Carmen also supervises two Invasive Plant Management Teams that are charged with inventorying, monitoring, and eradicating exotic invasive species in the Midwest Region. The Invasive Plant Management Teams are also partners in several cooperative weed management areas in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin and she helps to facilitate collaboration with local weed management groups and universities on large restoration activities as well.

Portrait of Justin King

Justin King

ENVIRONMENTAL SPECIALIST, NEBRASKA PUBLIC POWER DISTRICT

Justin grew up on a farm in Nebraska, received his B.S. in biology from Midland Lutheran College, and received his M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Then he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Grand Island with threatened and endangered species. Since 1993, he has worked in the Environmental Department for Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) in Columbus. Besides invasive species, he works with power plants, river and lake monitoring, fisheries, and bird – powerline interactions. Justin has worked with electric utilities on zebra mussel mitigation since he started at NPPD and was part of the group that worked with the Nebraska Legislature to create the Nebraska Invasive Species Council (NISC).

Justin and his wife, Chris live in Columbus, enjoy gardening, traveling throughout North America and visiting National Parks. In addition to being on the NISC board, he is on the board of directors for Keep Columbus Beautiful and is a certified Hunter Education instructor.

Kevin Pope

Kevin Pope

Unit Leader, Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit, Univ. of Nebraska & US Geological Survey

Kevin Pope is the Leader of the Nebraska Coooperarive Fish & Wildlife Research Unit.  He received his Ph.D. from South Dakota State University in 1996, his M.S. from Auburn University in 1993, and his B.S. in Fisheries Science from Texas A&M University in 1991. Kevin grew up in Denver, Colorado, but was born in Abilene, Texas.

Before joining the Nebraska Coop Unit in 2005, Kevin was an Associate Professor of Fishery Science at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

Portrait of Mitch Coffin

Mitch Coffin

Program Manager, Noxious Weed and Seed Programs
Nebraska Department of Agriculture

Mitch started with Nebraska Department of Agriculture in September of 1991 where he served as an Ag. Inspection Specialist in the Noxious Weed Program. In 1993 he was promoted to Staff Supervisor and in 1998 promoted to Program Manager where Mitch oversees the day to day operation of Nebraska’s Noxious Weed Program and supervises three field staff who work directly with each county weed control authority.

Beginning in 2007, Mitch has assisted with the implementation of the Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force and Grant Program to improve invasive plant management on Nebraska’s river systems.

In December 2016, Mitch was appointed as Program Manager of the Nebraska Seed Program.

Mitch is also a co-author of Weeds of the Great Plains which was originally released in the spring of 2003, and an updated version released in 2020.

Portrait of Kristopher Stahr

Kristopher Stahr

Program Manager, Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Kris is the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Program Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and is the AIS lead for the State of Nebraska. He received his B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at South Dakota State University and his M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Ecology at Oklahoma State University. Kris has worked with AIS since 2009. Before his position in Nebraska, Kris worked in Arizona on endangered Colorado and Gila River fishes using novel approaches to reduce the impacts from invasive species, and with the Iowa DNR’s AIS Program. Kris has also worked extensively with aquatic plants and began the State’s first AIS monitoring for aquatic vegetation in 2021. He serves as Nebraska’s representative for National AIS panels and organizations including the Western Regional Panel on ANS, and both the Missouri and Mississippi River Basin AIS Panels. Feel free to contact him for identification of aquatic plants or for AIS inquires at ngpc.ais@nebraska.gov.