May 04, 2005
Karen Eason 443-482-2324   easonk@si.edu
Tina Tennessen 443-482-2325   tennessent@si.edu

Fifteen Million School Children Join Smithsonian Scientists on a Hunt for Biological Invaders in San Francisco Bay on May 10


There’s a battle brewing between natives and non-natives in San Francisco; and on May 10, through an electronic field trip broadcast live around the country, students and teachers from 49 states will travel to the scene of the action to learn how the trouble started and discover what scientists are doing to help. “Biological Invasions: The Introduction of Non-Native Species Worldwide” will explore the Port of Oakland from high above the harbor, where enormous cargo cranes load and unload tractor-trailer-sized containers on commercial ships, to deep below its cold dark waters, where viewers will interact live with hardhat divers as they survey nearby wharfs for signs of the culprits.

Hitchhikers, millions of tiny plants and animals attach to ship hulls, travel across oceans in ballast water, or catch a ride to new ports through the live seafood and bait trades. Some are even brought in as exotic aquarium pets and then released to the wild. But no matter how they come, once the intruders establish themselves, they can compete with native species and sometimes introduce new diseases to coastal ecosystems. The ensuing battle between native and non-native species is waged daily in waterways around the world.

“During this field trip, we’ll investigate the cause and consequences of the arrival of organisms not native to America’s coastal waters,” said Greg Ruiz, head of SERC’s Marine Invasion Ecology Lab and lead scientist for the field trip. “With our student hosts, we’ll sample and study such organisms in the San Francisco. We’ll show how they arrived, how they’ve adapted and how they affect the overall ecosystem.” Ruiz and his team of researchers conduct the largest research program in the United States investigating invasions in coastal ecosystems. They study the rates, patterns and effects of U.S. coastal invasions and maintain several national databases on marine invaders and shipping.

The two 90-minute live satellite broadcasts will air at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. EST. Throughout the broadcast, a live discussion forum will enable students to call in or submit questions via e-mail. With this type of EFT technology, students from diverse backgrounds and in remote locations gain direct access to expert scientists and educators otherwise inaccessible to them. Viewers can receive the Internet broadcast at http://ali.apple.com/ali_sites/ali/exhibits/1000754/   (scroll down to the invasions field trip at the bottom) or can check local cable and PBS listings.

The program is funded by the Best Buy Children’s Foundation and collaboratively produced by SERC and Ball State University Teacher’s College. It represents the third such collaboration. The first, “Where the River Meets the Sea, “ presented estuarine ecology at SERC’s research site on the shore of Chesapeake Bay.  The second, “Where the Land and Sea Intertwine,” focused on mangrove forest ecosystems and sea turtles and was broadcast from an atoll on the Meso-American Barrier Reef, 20 miles off the coast of Belize.

“Invasions” promises to be the largest yet with 15 million participants already registered from 335 schools around the country.

For more information about the electronic field trip, go to http://www.bsu.edu/eft/dev/invasions/

  For more information about the lab or SERC visit the SERC Web site at http://www.serc.si.edu.

 

(Note to editors: Images are available at ftp://160.111.16.40/opa)


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