Participatory Science ProjectPlate Watch
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    Photo by Joni Johnson

About the Project

Communities that live under docks and ship hulls are known as fouling communities. Fouling communities are composed of many living organisms including invertebrates, algae, and microbes. These organisms live in shallow coastal ecosystems and are vulnerable to changes in salinity and temperature in the water. People also heavily impact fouling communities. Boats, ballast water, and other aquaculture transports and introduces invertebrates to new places. When new species are introduced to an area some of those species may die, but some compete with native fouling organisms for resources. Not all foreign species are invasive, and some get along very well with new neighbors. However, invasive species harm the ecology and the economy of their new environments. People living on the coast spend millions of dollars a year to detect and remove invasive fouling species. By better understanding where and what kinds of fouling organisms live, we can better identify when species are introduced to a new area, and help coastal communities effectively respond.

Click here to visit the Invasive Tunicate Network (itunicate)


These species were introduced to the West Coast of the United States throughout the last century. The presence and spread of those tunicates could impact native marine ecosystems. They increase fouling or the buildup of organisms on surfaces. This happens a lot on boats and underwater cables—organisms grow and can damage the structures. Since 1994, the Marine Invasions Lab at SERC has conducted surveys of fouling communities from bays throughout the United States, as well as surveys in bays in Australia, Canda, Belize, Ecuador, and Panama. The survyes are usually done by staff scientists, but volunteers have helped with this in the past (and we hope to do a lot more in the future!).