NANFA-- FW: New Alien Invaders Exhibit

Jay DeLong (
Mon, 13 May 2002 17:06:05 -0700

Interesting news release and a good response--
(If the NANFA mail program chops it all up, I apologize in advance.)

Jay DeLong
Olympia, WA

-----Original Message----- From: Eric Warner Sent: Monday, May 13, 2002 12:05 PM To:

Kevin, While it is interesting to see aliens in advance (mitten and green crabs, zebra mussels), I am surprised and disheartened to see no reference to previous exotic introduction debacles. We can quantify horrific levels of bass predation on juvenile chinook in Lake Washington. A few pictures of milfoil around docks would do wonders for people's perspectives. How about landscaping the grounds with Himalayan blackberries, Japanese knotweed, purple loosestrife, English ivy and scotch broom? It's good to introduce the concept of alien invaders, but it should be clear that exotics are not a new phenomenon. How many people in the area would really know that bass, crappie, catfish, yellow perch, sunfish, walleye, carp, tench, and bullfrogs are all exotics? It's time to put things in perspective.

Thanks, Eric Warner wrote:

> **************************************************************************** * > > DAVID L. SECORD, Ph.D. > Assistant Professor of Biology & Environmental Science Coordinator (UWT) > and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Zoology, UW-Seattle > > Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences TEL: (253) 692-5659 > > University of Washington, Tacoma TDD: (253) 692-4413 > > 1900 Commerce Street, Mailstop #358436 FAX: (253) 692-5718 > Tacoma, WA 98402-3100 USA EMAIL: > > **************************************************************************** * > > FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE > > May 6, 2002 > > Contacts: Mike Wark, (253) 692-5771, David Secord, (253) 692-5659 > > Nation's first Alien Invaders exhibit to open at Point Defiance Zoo and > Aquarium in Tacoma > > Connell High School students will be world's first to see a prototype > exhibit of the European green crab, tiny zebra mussels and the cute > Chinese mitten crab and learn how such "alien invaders" top pollution as > the world's second-leading cause of endangered species. > > Teach the children well and they may prevent future waves of > alien invaders. > That goes for their parents, too. > But if you can create an aquarium exhibit that fascinates and > entertains kids and their parents with green crabs, tiny zebra mussels and > the cute Chinese mitten crab, along with vibrant graphics and stories that > warn of Alien Invaders, then education sneaks into a fun adventure. > That's exactly what 17 students will experience as they become the > national-premiere audience for the new Alien Invaders exhibit May 8 at the > Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. The exhibit will be part of the > aquarium's regular displays within the new Marine Discovery Center, but > Alien Invaders creators plan to develop a similar, larger traveling > exhibit that will educate and inform across the nation. > The new Alien Invaders exhibit was developed primarily by David Secord, > University of Washington, Tacoma environmental science professor, John > Rupp, the Point Defiance curator of marine animals, Kristin Hemmelgarn, an > undergraduate UW Tacoma student turned part-time Alien Invader employee. > More than a dozen other UW Tacoma undergraduate students have also > contributed to the exhibit over the last four years. Their efforts were > supported by a host of local and federal agencies and environmental > organizations. > "Aquariums and zoos are an untapped resource for public education on > biodiversity. Because they are all about combining entertainment, > education and conservation, they are perfect for this kind of outreach," > says Secord. "More people visit zoos and aquariums annually in the U.S. > than attend all professional sporting events combined, so this is a great > way to educate the public about aquatic invasive species, a problem that > cost more than $137 billion annually in the U.S. alone according to one > university study." > In fact, invasive species - a.k.a. Alien Invaders - are the second > leading contributor to endangered species. Habitat degradation is enemy > number one. Third is over-harvesting. Fourth is pollution. > "Decline in biodiversity is connected to quality of life in all > kinds of ways that are well documented," says Secord. "People are involved > in the spread of invasive species and we can reach people, which means we > can prevent and control new invasions -- we can stem the tide. We want to > place an emphasis on prevention, and education is at the heart of making > that happen." > All that bad press may make you think the Chinese mitten crab or > the prolific zebra mussel are evil incarnate, but that's not the case. > "The aliens aren't really bad themselves. They are bad when they are out > of place, because they can take over for native species and even drive > them to extinction," says Hemmelgarn. > For example, the striped-shelled zebra mussel, on average, is the length > of a human fingernail, but in the U.S., they multiply rapidly and, in > addition to threatening native species, they establish such large > populations they clog pipes in drainage systems. They have done > tremendous damage in the Great Lakes, where the invasion started from > ships' ballast water, and have spread throughout the Mississippi River > basin where they are threatening dozens of native species. They are now in > the Missouri River, which could take them into Montana. An international > initiative is focused on preventing zebra mussels from crossing West over > the 140th Meridian. > "If they reach Montana, all you have to do is move a boat from there to > a Washington lake or river and zap, you've got a problem here. That's one > of the reasons for this exhibit," says Secord. > Plants can be aliens, too. Spartina grass, commonly known as > smooth cordgrass, has been taking over mudflats in Willapa Bay for years, > altering habitat for shorebirds, shellfish and fish. Other aliens may > carry parasites, such as the Chinese mitten crab, a suspected host of the > Oriental lung fluke that causes disease in humans. The crab itself is > wreaking havoc in San Francisco Bay, where juvenile crabs burrow into > banks causing erosion and disrupting efforts to enhance native endangered > fish populations. Atlantic farmed salmon accidentally released into > Pacific coastal fisheries are also aliens because they may compete with > native endangered salmon. > Although many alien invaders arrive in local waters through ships' > ballast water, individual human behavior can contribute, such as dumping a > home aquarium or through certain fishing and boating practices. Not all > alien species survive and not all that survive will thrive to the point of > endangering native species, but every species has the potential to cause > unexpected economic, ecological or public health problems when moved to a > new environment beyond where it evolved. > Because of the human factor, public education is critical. > Secord says growing awareness created by this exhibit and others > like it will also generate support for public policy changes. He has been > active in supporting legislation to help protect the state's shorelines > from invasive species. The Washington state Legislature has already passed > legislation addressing aquatic invasive species over the last few years. > Other states and the federal government have been active as > well. Secord and Rupp are pleased the development of the exhibit involved > research and other contributions by more than a dozen undergraduate > students over the last four years. > "Whatever it is our students work on will have vast downstream impacts. > Not just on awareness, but on future invasive species policy," says > Secord. > More than a dozen UW Tacoma undergraduates have been directly > involved in all aspects of combining cool critters with public education > in creating the exhibit, including developing the text and artwork, > scientific background research, and learning about animal husbandry to see > how to keep things alive on exhibit. Some continued the work after > graduation. > Hemmelgarn has become an alien expert, beginning her work on the project > while earning a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies, and continuing > as a part-time employee on the project after she graduated in June, 2001. > In working with One Plus Two Inc., a design firm that specializes in > scientific exhibits, she helped translate science into something the > general public would understand and appreciate. > "It had to be simple, eye-opening and accurate," she says. > Her work has involved publishing an article as lead author with > supporting roles by Rupp and Secord in a national publication about > invasive aquatic species. > "None of this would have happened without Kristen. Because of her > work, the exhibit allows us to bring a wealth of knowledge and information > about aquatic invasive species together and hit a vast cross-section of > the interested public," says Secord. "John Rupp and I first conceived of > the exhibit in 1998, but we are both overwhelmed with our regular > workload. Kristen's efforts, creativity and intelligence filled in the > gaps and kept this thing moving." > The exhibit viewed today is a 500-square-foot installation. Its creators > plan to develop a 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot version that will travel to > zoos, aquaria and scientific museums across the country. > "The science and the environmental messages are similar everywhere. The > species highlighted should change depending on the geographic location," > says Hemmelgarn. > Secord and Rupp are confident Alien Invaders will attract further > financial support to allow for expansion and touring from sources like the > National Science Foundation. > The exhibit was made possible with support from the National Sea Grant > Program, which is part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric > Administration (NOAA), as well as the Washington and Oregon Sea Grant > Programs, Pacific Northwest Marine Invasive Species Team, Puget Sound > Action Team, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, United > States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington State Noxious Weed > Control Board. > The small prototype exhibit is located in the Point Defiance North > Pacific Aquarium, in the new Marine Discovery Center, and is available for > viewing during regular Zoo and Aquarium hours.

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