The DPM outreach program was designed to raise awareness of invasive species, promote early detection of exotic pests and pathogens, and encourage sample submission in middle and high school aged students. Additionally, the program also serves to evaluate current knowledge of Florida’s youth on invasive species and plant biosecurity.

Invasive species have a global impact by causing economic losses, decreased biodiversity, human health hazards, and disruption of native ecosystems. In the U.S., it is estimated invasive species cause losses at $13 billion annually. In Florida, over $4 billion worth of agricultural commodities for export were produced in 2014. Florida is one of the first places for invasive species in the U.S. due to travel, major ports, and importation of cut plant materials. Consequently, the potential impact of invasive species to Florida’s agriculture is significant. Despite the importance of invasive species and agriculture, the general public, and especially the American youth, remain uniformed.