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Mary Ann L. McLean
Associate Professor
Natural and Mathematical Sciences
St. Mary’s University
Kill the Aliens: Controlling Leafy Spurge 

The majority of people in the world interact with nature in an urban setting. Management issues in urban parks tend to be more challenging than in “natural” parks for a variety of reasons, including heavy use, proximity to housing, local advocacy, protection of native species, and the common inclusion of water bodies such as streams, ponds or lakes. In this case study, students explore such complexities by focusing on the invasion of leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L.) in Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary, Canada. Students research the most appropriate weed control methods for this urban context and share their findings by using the jigsaw method. An important aspect of this case is the use of grey literature (academic literature informally published) and students will need to evaluate various web sources during their research. The case is appropriate for courses in introductory biology, ecology or high school AP biology. Students should have some prior understanding of ecological concepts including competition, predation, herbivory, plant life cycles, and invasive species.