Manager; & Chair Invasive Biota Committee
Swearingen, Jil M. (Active)
Invasive species
Jil was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1956, and is the youngest of five children. From 2nd grade through high school, she lived in California, Louisiana, Texas, and Nevada. She moved to Alexandria, Virginia with her parents in 1974 and became rooted in the DMV. She lives in Cheverly, Maryland with her husband and fellow club member, Warren Steiner. Jil's introduction to plant taxonomy began with a 'Regional Flora' class taught by Emma Ehrdahl at the Alexandria Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. She completed her B.S. in Biology in 1979 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, with an emphasis in botany. In 1980 and 1982, Jil took graduate courses in entomology, evolutionary ecology, and pteridology at the University of Virginia’s Mountain Lake Biological Station in Pembroke, Virginia, and worked as a summer research assistant. She completed a M.S. degree in Biology (Systematics, Evolution and Population Ecology) at George Mason University in 1988. Her thesis research was on foraging ecology of several native ant species that disperse seeds of spring ephemerals.
Jil has worked for the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (Paleobotany and Entomology departments), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Endangered Species Office and Wildlife Permit Office), the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Planning (Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program), the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (Montgomery County Parks), and the National Park Service. Her awareness of invasive plants began in 1989 when she observed fig buttercup Ficaria verna (aka lesser celandine) overrunning the native spring ephemerals in Rock Creek Park near her M-NCPPC office in Chevy Chase, Maryland. This inspired her to organize an Exotic Plant Working Group to educate staff biologists and horticulturists, and 'Weed Busters' to enlist citizen volunteers to help remove offending species. From 1995 through 2017, as Integrated Pest Management Program Manager for the National Park Service, Jil continued her work on invasive species. She created the Weeds Gone Wild website, developed the WeedUS Database of Invasive Plants of Natural Areas in the U.S., co-developed the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States in collaboration with the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, and founded the Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council.
Jil is lead author of Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas: Field Guide. She is a past president of the Botanical Society of Washington and the Entomological Society of Washington, and a current board member of the Maryland Native Plant Society. Jil was elected to membership in the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2007 and serves as Chair for the Invasive Biota Committee. In addition to botanizing, birding, and 'bugging', she enjoys freeing natural areas of invasive plants, restoring native plant communities, and playing Celtic and old-time music on hammered dulcimer.