Feb 19 2013

The World of WISE

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Welcome to the Watershed and Invasive Species Education Program’s blog, which features interviews, informative articles and pictures of science in action. The West Coast Sea Grant WISE program is dedicated to helping teachers learn about emerging watershed issues, which can be used as tools to engage students in science learning and community action. Feel free to explore, and thank you for reading.

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Nov 11 2015

My internship in Thailand and current expectations

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Yet again I was lucky enough to get another internship experience and this time with Save the Elephants Foundation. This is going to be another exciting challenge for me especially the fact that it’s in Thailand. This opportunity came to me in a short notice which was a bit overwhelming, but with a good summer start I am able to take it on with pleasure.
Learning from the website, the organization mainly focuses on elephant rehabilitation programs, sustainable ecotourism as well as community outreach to local people in Thailand . Founder of the organization is Sangduen Lek, who has been a passionate advocate for elephants from a very young age, was able to create a unique sustainable and safe tourist experience where elephants are away from cruelty and human rides, but instead they are able to spend a day or more providing help by doing activities such as preparing food for them, bathing and having long strolls around the park. This experience for volunteers and visitors takes place at the Elephants Nature Park. However, the sanctuary is only one of the big projects that SEF leads. Other projects include Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuary, Surin Project, Journey to Freedom, etc.
From the past interns I have learned that each individual went through a different journey and the tasks that they had to do highly varied from want the intern desired and what the supervisor wanted them to do. For example, the most recent intern for summer wanted to obtain more editing and filming skills so he spent more time with the camera crew out in different projects, whereas last year’s intern was mostly working for park facilitation. As for me, I am hoping to work more with outreach and interactions with visitors and incoming volunteers. I have realized through my internship with Oregon Sea Grant that I enjoy communicating with people and taking more creative approach to address a certain issue. I want to help with creating education materials for ongoing projects and coming up with better communication strategies. Since I will be spending quiet a lot of my time in the park I am hoping to learn more about the ecosystem, water, and invasive species in near Chiang Mai and report it by making blog posts on our website. These are some of my prior goals upon arrival, but it will probably change once I actually start working.
The fact that the internship will take place in Thailand will be another test itself and I mean it in a positive way. I think it is  important to observe and compare how different countries operate their organizations and see where I can contribute myself as a source. I would like to take a challenge for myself on creating information such as handouts or educational programs that I have learned at Oregon Sea Grant and applying it to my work at Save the Elephants Foundation  . The possibilities are endless at this point and my goals will probably change on the way but I looking forward to this opportunity.

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May 12 2015

To Flush or Not to Flush? Part III

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Further In-depth Understanding of the Human Capacity to Act Model

Previously in this three-blog series, we discussed how the Human Capacity to Act (HCA) Framework could be used by researchers to learn about what influences people to dispose of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) the way that they do. PPCPs get into the environment through flushing and other improper disposal methods and studies have shown that the best way to influence people to change their behavior is by affecting them at the social level. This can be done by educating people about the potential negative influence of their actions and starting a discussion about this within communities.


Figure 4

Figure 4. Human Capacity to Act (HCA) Framework


When understanding HCA, the larger the area of the triangle, the more likely a person will change their behavior. With institutional choice having the largest area of the triangle, it shows a greater expected change for behavior change, followed by social proof, and then rational choice at the very top. According to this triangle concept, rational choice has the smallest impact on behavior change, though many agencies and organizations base their outreach and education on rational choice.

Let’s take a look at potential everyday situations:

  • Rational choice: You’re a chain smoker and you see a commercial that says “stop smoking, it’s bad for your health”… does this make you quit smoking cold turkey?
  • Social proof: You move to Corvallis, OR and because most of the people around are OSU Beaver fans, it is easy for you to automatically become one too.
  • Institutional choice: You wear your seatbelt every time you’re in the car because there is a seatbelt law and you may be fined if you don’t wear it.

Now, let’s take a look at a PPCPs example situation:

You look into your medicine cabinet and see a handful of prescription medications that you no longer need or use. What do you do with them? Here’s how the Human Capacity to Act Framework would work in this scenario:

  • Rational choice: You remember seeing a poster at the bus stop that said, “Don’t flush your medication down the drain!” You think that since a poster was made with this message in such strong command words that it must be valid and that you should listen to whomever made that poster. This thought process can be attributed to the assumption that people want to do what is right and that decisions are based off of what people care about. It was mentioned in blog two that typically when someone doesn’t do something, those around them will assume that they simply don’t care about the cause.
  • Social proof: You’re chatting with your neighbor and he tells you about the medication collection boxes where he was able to dispose of a bag of unused medication safely at the law enforcement office in town. Since other people seem to be able to easily do this, it would be achievable for you too. Also, the fact that others are taking the time to protect the environment and waterways by properly dispose of medication, you too can afford to do this.
  • Institutional choice: There is a law against throwing away or flushing your unused medication down the drain and a fee is imposed (hypothetical situation). You avoid flushing simply to avoid paying the fine in this situation.

In the case of institutional choice, you want to avoid being fined for throwing away or flushing your unused medication, so you decided to just keep them in your medicine cabinet longer. In the rational choice situation, you see the poster tell you what not to do, but how much influence does that really have on your decision? Convenience is a huge factor in rational choice – you could think that just flushing a few pills down the drain won’t hurt much. Social proof brings into perspective that when you are unsure of what to do in a situation, you look to the people you trust around you to help make your behavior choice. A person’s experiences and stories can have a great influence on the everyday decisions they make.


“The challenge lies in a willingness to do things differently than we have in the past” (Hungerford & Volk, 1990).


Routine and convenience have become influencing factors in the decisions we make today, but those are usually driven by individual intentions. With community and trusted networks around, they can become the new source of united intentions. Because responsible behavior is important in the face of PPCPs in the environment, the Human Capacity to Act Model is a new model that displays that education on the community level can lead to PPCP stewardship actions.


This blog is the third part of a three-blog series introducing a model and detailing its use through the example of PPCP disposal. As we conclude the series, readers can reflect with a few questions to discuss on your own, with friends, or even in the comments section of this blog: How can you apply the Human Capacity to Action Model in your life? How have you come to the decision to dispose of your unused medications?



Credit to: Jennifer Lam, Samuel Chan, Tania Siemens, and Kayla-Maria Martin


Resources:UpClose Interviews: A behind the scenes look at the researchers working on the topic of PPCPsOSU extension survey 2014: This survey looks into where Oregonians go to for information and want to invest additional funding on different environmental/natural resources, hazards, economic, academic/professional development, youth and human health issues.Ruben Anderson’s blog “a Small and Delicious Life”: The idea of compassionate systems to address the frustration and failure of behavior change

Oregon Drug Collection Box locations (PDF)



Literature Cited (all three blogs):

Anderson, R. (2013). Compassionate systems. Invasive Species Forum. Lecture conducted from Invasive Species Council of BC, Richmond, British Columbia.

Daughton, C. G. (2004). PPCPs in the environment: future research—beginning with the end always in Hungerford, H. R., & Volk, T. L. (1990). Changing learner behavior through environmental education. The journal of environmental education, 21(3), 8-21.

Frey, T. (2013). Our alarming culture of pill people and future trends in healthcare. Retrieved June 23, 2014, from http://www.futuristspeaker.com/2013/02/our-alarming-culture-of-pill-people-and-future-trends-in-healthcare/

Hungerford, H. R. , & Volk, T. L. (1990). Changing learner behavior through environmental education. Journal of Environmental Education , 21(3), 8-21.

King County (2013). Brightwater Treatment Plant- a clean water treatment facility. Wastewater Treatment; King County, Washington.

Lam, Jennifer, et al. (2014). Dose of reality: What can we learn from pet owners in veterinary and education professions to guide more effective environmental stewardship of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs)? AMERICAN WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION (AWRA) National Conference “Social Science of Emerging Contaminants”. Nov. 3, 2014. Tyson’s Corner, VA.

McLeod, K. L., & Leslie, H. M. (2009). Why ecosystem‐based management. In K. L. McLeod & H.M. Leslie (Eds.), Ecosystem‐Based Management for the Oceans. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Morace, J. L. (2012). Reconnaissance of contaminants in selected wastewater-treatment-plant effluent and stormwater runoff entering the Columbia River, Columbia River Basin, Washington and Oregon, 2008-10. US Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey.

OSU extension (2014). OSU extension statewide survey. Retrieved April 30, 2014, from http://extension.oregonstate.edu/announcements/osu-extension-statewide-survey

Piore, A. (2013) Blissed-out on Prozac. Nautilus. Issue 7 Chapter 1: Available at: http://nautil.us/issue/101/in-our-nature/blissed_out-fish-on-prozac-rp

Zhang Y, Geißen SU, Gal C. Carbamazepine and diclofenac: removal in wastewater treatment plants and occurrence in water bodies. Chemosphere 2008;73:1151–61.

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Apr 29 2015

To Flush or Not to Flush? Part II

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Introduction to the Human Capacity to Act Framework

In order to promote responsible environmental stewardship, education must focus first and foremost on effective environmental education. Changing human and consumer behavior can be difficult, but the topic of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) can capture attention of people and lead to a better understanding of how environmental science and protection can work together (Daughton, 2004). The challenge here is to see education turn into action. “The traditional thinking in the field of environmental education has been that we can change behavior by making human beings more knowledgeable about the environment and its associated issues” (Hungerford & Volk, 1990). The assumption here is that knowledge will lead to awareness and thus motivation for action. In this case, the action is what folks do with unused PPCPs-whether that is to flush them, throw them away, or bring them to a voluntary disposal site.


Figure 3

Figure 3. There is currently a gap in understanding human practices that needs to be addressed by learning more from people about specific questions such as how they perceive PPCPs, how they are making their decisions, and where they get their information. Social science research is needed to fill this gap and eventually lead to improved prevention efforts (Lam, et al. 2014).


The ecological effects of emerging pollutants on the environment and web of life are a focus in current research, but not much of the human dimensions side of the issue has been studied. Many of the social programs to reduce PPCPs from reaching aquatic ecosystems are based on education leading to consumers making informed decisions or different forms of take-back programs. Using the Human Capacity to Act (HCA) Framework as a basis in research, we look at how rational choice, social proof, and institutional choice may drive consumers in making decisions on the use and disposal of PPCPs. Learning how people understand, perceive, learn and make decisions about facing and avoiding risk is an important research element when looking at PPCPs disposal.


Figure 4

Figure 4. Human Capacity to Act (HCA) Framework


Human Capacity to Act Frameworks – compassionate systems

Ruben Anderson talks about the idea of compassionate systems as a result to deal with the “frustration and failure of behavior change” (Anderson, 2013). The most ignored fact about behavior, according to Ruben, is that the brain has a limited attention. We can watch 20 commercials or read 15 advertisements in magazines, but what will we take away from all of that? Are these commercials and ads actually communicating successfully enough that it will influence you to change your behavior? The failure of creating change occurs at the approach.

We live in a world that is built for rational people, so when we don’t do something, we get blamed for not caring. Compassionate systems recognize our limits and accept that humans can only do so much based on the influences around us. Instead of asking people to pay attention to what PPCPs they are buying, we need to look into the influences of social proof that have roots to rational choices influencing institutional change, not the people. Some research has shown that 95% of behavior is social, while the other 5% is rationally chosen (Anderson, 2013). By focusing on the social proof influence of PPCPs stewardship behavior change, there could be an increase in effectiveness with community engagement.

In a recent OSU extension survey studying where Oregonians get information, 95% and 67% of people look for emails from organizations/business in an online and phone survey respectfully (OSU Extension, 2014). There is a sense of trust in social networks and in what others are doing around us, so there can be an influence from social networks in positive environmental behavior change.

This blog is the second part of a three-blog series introducing a model and detailing its use through the example of PPCP disposal. Next time on the WISE Blog: we go more in-depth of the Human Capacity to Act Model with a specific case study that details the process.

Illustration 3


Credit to: Jennifer Lam, Samuel Chan, Tania Siemens, and Kayla-Maria Martin

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Apr 14 2015

To Flush or Not to Flush? Part I

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This blog is the first in a three-part series introducing a framework for considering social circles, institutions and rational information to guide and enhance environmental education programs. We introduce the use of the “Human Capacity to Act” (HCA) framework – through the issue of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) disposal.

Illustration 1

Illustration by Yuko Shimizu


Have you ever thought about what you should do with your unused medication? Although the drain might be an easy way to dispose of those medications, it is not the safest for water and other natural processes outside your home. A growing concern for people and the environment is the frequency of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) emerging as pollutants in our lakes, rivers and estuaries.



Figure 1

Figure 1. Studies have shown that the worldwide annual per capita consumption rate of pharmaceuticals is 15 grams, but it is actually three to ten times higher in developed countries (50-100 grams) (Zhang, Geißen & Gal, 2008). The average American today takes slightly more than 10 pills a day (Frey, 2013). With this increased use, comes the increased presence of these pharmaceuticals in the waterways (Morace, 2012).


People’s Actions Can Make a Difference

A large portion of PPCPs enter our natural waterways through wastewater due to improper disposal. As described in Adam Piore’s “Blissed out by Prozac”, most wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to treat and remove pharmaceuticals, and many of these substances pass through the treatment process into nearby rivers, lakes and streams consequently affecting drinking water and other environmental resources for humans and other organisms. Planning and building new wastewater treatment plants can take decades, and it is near impossible to anticipate emerging contaminants. For example the Brightwater Treatment Plant in Washington went into plan in 1999 and building was completed in 2012 (See Figure 2). New classes of PPCPs that were not planned for treatment emerged during the plants construction. The Brightwater project uses an advanced Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) technology during the secondary treatment to remove remaining debris and inorganic material. Still trace amounts of pharmaceuticals and pet care products can be left in water after the process (King County, 2013). It would not be economically feasible to include the technologies needed to remove all PPCPs.


Figure 2. Bridgewater Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, Seattle WA. Completed 2012.


With advances in medicine, wastewater treatment technology will often lag behind new drug chemistry- an unforeseen consequence. The increased levels of PPCPs in the environment are putting the ecosystem at risk, with problems ranging from degradation of water quality to negative impacts on aquatic organisms. Fish and other animals accumulate high concentrations of chemicals when exposed to them through water and these can have detrimental effects on the ecosystem function if it continues to excel. Providing education and means that enable people to reduce and properly dispose of unwanted or expired PPCPs can reduce the amount of and risks from them in our waterways.

“The ultimate aim of education is shaping human behavior” (Hungerford & Volk, 1990). Consumers and stewards of PPCPs are exposed to ever increasing forms and volumes of outreach and education to influence their actions. Learning how to better reach and inform consumers on proper PPCPs disposal is a new focus for scientifically based education activities. Our blog proposes a framework for considering the influence of social circles, institutions and rational information to guide more effective education programs that can help reduce the amount of unused PPCPs improperly disposed into the environment.

Next time on the WISE Blog: learn about the Human Capacity to Act framework that researchers use to direct their education measures at their audience.

Illustration 2

 Jack Ohman, The Oregonian

Credit to: Jennifer Lam, Samuel Chan, Tania Siemens, and Kayla-Maria Martin

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Nov 21 2014

Interview with Trevor Sheffels: The Nutria Expert

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Have you ever thought about the exciting careers related to invasive species? In this blog we introduce Trevor Sheffels, who has recently completed his Ph.D degree in Environmental Sciences and Resources at Portland State University. His research focused on addressing nutria management issues in the Pacific Northwest. Trevor had also completed his Master of Environmental Management degree at Portland State.


Trevor Sheffels filling a needle with an anesthetic drug to sedate a nutria before attaching a radio transmitter to track activity/movement


Q. Why did you choose to focus your research on nutria?

A. The Oregon Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan lists the nutria (Myocastor coypus) as a species that is already causing impacts and requires further research and evaluation. Although regional feral nutria populations have been present for approximately eighty years and caused substantial damage, there was very little scientific research on nutria in the Pacific Northwest. As nutria populations continue to expand, the number of nutria damage complaints has increased recently as well. My graduate research focused on the regional status of nutria populations and potential solutions for reducing nutria damage. Both my Master’s report and Ph.D. dissertation are available online (links below).


Ed Martin_Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Ed Martin/ Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Q. Nutria has been a focus on both your Masterʻs and Ph.D research. How did your Masterʻs research differ from your Ph.D work?

A. As part of my Master’s work, I developed a regional nutria distribution and relative density map. A vital step in nutria management involves understanding the location and relative size of regional nutria populations. Past regional nutria distribution maps were outdated, incomplete, and lacked density information. The map I developed will be used to inform future nutria management efforts.



Q. How is this map useful?

A. The map can be used to develop spatial management strategies, identify potential locations for new invasions, and provide a basis for regional habitat suitability models. Since nutria inventories are not currently conducted, the map was created by systematically questioning fish and wildlife biologists who have a working knowledge of their respective areas.

Q. Have you discovered anything from this work?

A. We have discovered that nutria populations in the Pacific Northwest are larger and in more locations than were previously realized.

Q. Developing a map on nutria distribution is impressive. Was your map used as a part of your Ph.D research?

A. For my Ph.D. research, the map was used to test a temperature model I developed with others to spatially describe current and potential future suitable habitat for nutria in the region.

Q. What did you learn about nutria from the temperature model?

A. While the model showed that nutria are currently occupying most available habitat, it also suggested that nutria populations could potentially move east of the Cascade Mountains as the climate warms. I also attached radio telemetry devices to nutria to track behavior patterns in urban wetlands and discovered that nutria were more active during the daylight hours than has been reported in other regions.

Q. Is it possible to prevent the damage caused by nutria?

A. I documented that nutria can heavily damage young woody plants used for restoration efforts and demonstrated that plastic tree protection tubes can be effective in preventing feeding damage while the trees and shrubs become established. My hope is that all of these findings will be useful for current and future nutria management!

Q. I am sure we all hope that these findings can be useful in nutria management. Are there other ways we can inform people on the issues with nutria?

A. In addition to research, another important step in addressing the regional nutria issue is public outreach and education. Many people do not even realize that the nutria is a non-native species, so I gave many public presentations to increase awareness and share why nutria can be so harmful to the environment.

Q. Can you suggest a way we can make people feel they can do something active to address the nutria issue?

A. Land managers who recognize nutria as a threat need to know how to address the problem. I organized two regional nutria workshops to facilitate regional communication and cooperation, provide general information about nutria, highlight current nutria control and eradication research, and discuss future regional nutria management strategies. Participants came away from the workshops with the desire and tools to address the nutria problem, and that is exciting to me!

Master’s report: http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1023&context=centerforlakes_pub

Ph.D. dissertation: http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1664&context=open_access_etds

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Jun 05 2014

A legacy of Stewardship on the Oregon Dunes

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Authored by:  Field Ranger Brian Hoeh
Florence— Siuslaw 7th graders from Andy Marohl’s class came to the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area in April to join the fight against Scotch Broom, one of Oregon’s worst invasive plants.
Armed with gloves, ratchet loppers, and large weed pullers, students freed an open space on the hillside for native plants to re-establish. Students picked up where Siuslaw 4th graders left off in March, and where previous classes have come for the last 5 years.
Project organizer Jim Grano stated, “these kids can see the difference they’ve made, and that’s something they can have pride in every time they come back here.”
The Oregon Dunes are shaped by an intricate balance between life and elemental forces. This process allows diverse ecosystems such as rainforest, lakes, wetlands and open sand to all thrive in one place. Scotch Broom and European Beach Grass were first planted to stabilize shifting sand in the early 20thcentury, and have since become invasive, threatening the long-term survival of the dunes.
The Day Use Area restoration project was organized and led by Siuslaw Stream Team Leader Jim Grano, teacher Andy Marohl, and Siuslaw National Forest fisheries biologist Mike Northrop. It was also supported by SOLV, a non-profit which seeks to build a stronger future for the places Oregonians love.
Grano founded the Siuslaw Stream Team in 1995, and has led in countless projects which link local school groups to ecosystem restoration throughout the Siuslaw Forest and watershed. His programs have an impact both in the environment and in young people’s lives. For Grano, the connection between schools and restoration work is obvious; “education is restoration,” he says.
These programs now link Siuslaw students to an ongoing effort of community partners working to preserve the Oregon Dunes, using innovated solutions to fight the threat of invasive species.
Students took breaks from their grueling work to explore the surrounding dunes on guided hikes led by Siuslaw National Forest field rangers. The goal was to connect students to this unique place, and show how they are now part of the dune’s story.
“It’s neat to think about what the dunes might look like in a thousand years,” said one 7th grader, walking over a buried forest where tree tops protrude through sand. Today, it was up to the students, who may be part of reason this landscape survives.
Contact: For more information about the Siuslaw National Forest visit our web site at www.fs.usda.gov/siuslaw or call 541-750-7000. Stay in touch through twitter.com/siuslawNF and www.facebook.com/DiscoverSiuslawNF.

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May 29 2014

Keep the Mussels Out

Authored by: Amy Schneider, Danielle Goodrich, Sam Chan, Tania Siemens, Jennifer Lam

At a check station along the Oregon border, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) technicians intently watched a bucket full of water. It wasn’t the water they were interested in, but rather the creatures found clinging to a boat, that removed and placed inside a bucket of water to watch them open their shells, proving they were alive. They were invasive zebra mussels, and they weren’t supposed to be there.

They had hitched a ride on a boat from Lake Erie, and although the boaters had stopped at a check station in Wyoming where their boat was pressure washed and cleansed of mussels, the technicians there had missed a spot. A week had passed since the boat left Lake Erie, but the eight zebra mussels that remained were still alive when they reached the Oregon border. Because of the check station, the mussels did not make it into the state, and they are currently an invasive species that hasn’t established in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest… yet.

Zebra Quagga Mussels

Figure 1. Zebra and quagga mussels are the only freshwater mussels in North America that can attach to objects using byssal threads, the adult. The most notable different between the two species is that the zebra mussel has a distinct flat edge, while the quagga mussel doesn’t. (Amy Benson, U.S. Geolocial Survey)

Quagga and zebra mussels are freshwater mollusks that were first unintentionally introduced to the Great Lakes  in the United States from the Caspian Sea (right next door to Sochi, Russia, the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics) in the early 1990s through the ballast water of ships from Europe. Such an invasion would not had been possible in the Great Lakes from ocean- going ships  had it not been for a series of canals and locks constructed in the late 1800’s that allowed access to the Atlantic ocean. Most notably, they have invaded the Great Lakes and Lake Mead in Nevada, causing a whole host of problems, from over-filtering the water to clogging up drainage pipes with their prolific growth.

Figure 2. Viewers can appreciate the rapid rate at which these mussels invaded, seen on a time lapse map of zebra and quagga mussel confirmed sightings created by the U.S. Geological Survey.   Since their introduction to the Great Lakes, zebra and quagga mussels have spread across the United States. Note that the Pacific Northwest states are the only region in the USA that are still free of mussels. Keep in mind while watching, that the dots represent sightings of either mussel and do not necessarily represent their current established range. (US Geological Survey)

Teachers helping to prevent the mussel invasion

Teachers are doing their part to prevent the spread of these damaging mussels to Oregon, Washington and California by educating students about these highly invasive species. A classroom lesson plan is available for students to learn about the impacts of the mussels and specifically about the drying time required to prevent their spread. Through the activity, students will discover that the amount of time that a boat must dry before entering a new waterway varies based on climate. Through the WISE Mussel Quarantine Model teacher lesson plan, students will get a chance to learn about the harmful impacts of the zebra and quagga mussels and ways to prevent their spread to new regions, including the Pacific Northwest. The activity utilizes the 100th Meridian Initiative Drying Time Estimator for Zebra/Quagga Mussel Contaminated Boats to display the drastic differences that precipitation, humidity and temperature have on the desiccation or drying time required to prevent the spread to a new waterway. Students can gain familiarity with the biological tolerance of these invasive species, climate science and math to make predictions on how long it takes to desiccate these invasive mussels through the use of simple and intuitive models.  These models can help students see math and science as tools they can use to help them.


sample model

Figure 3. Models can initially seem daunting, but this figure demonstrates that virtually all models operate on the same principle. With a certain input (in the case of the mussel model above, that would be location and date) and pre-existing data (predicted climate conditions for each location and date), a certain prediction will be given (drying time to desiccate mussels). (Danielle Goodrich)

Zebra Quagga Mussels Characteristics

The goal in Oregon is to keep the invaders out, and five check stations along the Oregon border are helping to make that happen. According to Rick Boatner, Invasive Species Coordinator for ODFW, the check stations caught and decontaminated 18 invasive species-ridden cases over the past year. A recent Salem News article, Paddlers -Remember to Carry Your Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Permit, reiterates that all manually powered boats 10 feet or longer are required to purchase and carry a permit as well as stop for an AIS inspection when trailering a boat or paddle craft past an open station. Boatner explains that “the program is designed to educate boaters about the threat of aquatic invasive species and what boaters can do to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species that are already in Oregon, like the New Zealand mud snail”. Access the 2013 Program Report to learn more about Oregon’s Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program. Just this last week a truck and trailer had bypassed the Ontario, OR check station and were stopped by a Malheur County Sheriff. Inspections found that the boat was carrying a large number of juvenile quagga mussels on the hull and outboard motor from Texas. ODFW boat inspectors decontaminated the pontoon boat carrying invasive quagga mussels and protected Oregon waters from this threat.



Figure 4. There are a variety of potential pathways for invasive species that are associated with human activities. Adapted from Invasive Species Pathways Team Final Report (USDA, 2003)

Boatner says that if a quagga or zebra mussel invasion were to happen, it would be costly to the state of Oregon. “Currently, there’s not a good method for eradicating a mussel invasion,” he confesses. Once they’re here, they’re typically here to stay, and it’s not always cheap to deal with them. According to ODFW, the power industry in the Great Lakes area has cost an estimated $3.1 billion over a six year span.

Prevention is the best way to keep quagga and zebra mussels from harming Oregon’s watersheds, and the recent addition of check stations to Oregon’s borders has played a part in screening out infested watercraft. As always, it’s important for boaters to clean, drain and dry their watercraft before moving it from one body of water to another. Under the right conditions, quagga and zebra mussels can live up to 22 days out of the water depending on the local temperature and precipitation, so never underestimate the resilience of an invasive species.

dont move a mussel2

Figure 5. Rick Boatner stands next to an educational invasive mussel sign on a trailer at a boat inspection station in Arizona. (Oregon Sea Grant Invasive Mussels in the West)



Learning about Invasive Species Impacts and Their Adaptability

The invasion of zebra and quagga mussels has a large impact on the local ecology, infrastructure, and waterways. Therefore, removal to prevent spread is a common necessity in invaded waters. Lake Piru has been found to be the first host of quagga and zebra mussels in Southern California that doesn’t receive water from the Colorado River. This leads to conclusions that the mussels were spread through other means, possibly hitchhiking on the boats or equipment of recreational boaters. On March 28, 2014, divers set out in Lake Piru to scrape mature quagga mussels off of underwater surfaces and were surprised to find an abundance of tiny mussels, indicating a recent spawn occurred sooner than expected. In response to this, there are plans to add predatory fish and tarps to the infested zone in order to aid in control efforts. Scientists, like Dr. Carrie Culver at California Sea Grant stress the importance of monitoring and understanding the environmental parameters of areas, such as Lake Piru, which are vulnerable to the spread of invasive species. Read the article Invasive mussels spawned sooner than expected, divers find for the full story.

MarinaLakePiruJan2014 659 Small

Figure 6. Recreational activities in Lake Piru make it especially important to monitor invasive species and environmental parameters that allow for their spread (Dr. Carrie Culver, California Sea Grant)

Models like the 100th Meridian Initiative WISE Mussel Quarantine Model lesson plan are great representatives of predicted outcomes based upon what we currently know. Yet, the wonderful and daunting fact about science and nature is that we don’t know everything and this especially applies to the environmental tolerances or limitations of invasive species which are continually being defied. One of the reasons that zebra and quagga mussels are successful invaders because they are able to withstand conditions that we didn’t think possible, for example they went undetected in Lake Mead for some time because scientists didn’t search deep enough for them.  That is why it is important to educate boaters and paddlers to clean, drain, and dry their water crafts and to always keep an eye out for the mussels and other invasive species in all sorts of habitats.


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Mar 13 2014

The Lionfish’s Roaring Impacts on Ocean Fish Populations; Research and Educational Tool for Classrooms

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Just like lions are the top predators of the savanna, lionfish (Pterois volitans)  have quickly become the top of the food chain in the Atlantic Ocean. Native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, these venomous fish were first found in the Atlantic in the 1980’s and were believed to be originally released by exotic fish aquarium owners off the coast of Florida and then carried northeast to North Carolina and Bermuda by the warm gulf stream current as eggs or larvae. Here, the lionfish are able to eat just about anything smaller than them including fish, shrimp, crabs and octopus. Until recently they had no natural predator, but people have begun to hunt lionfish for food- after removing the venomous spines they make a tasty dish.

lionfish2_Michael Harte

Figure 1. The lionfish blends in wonderfully with its surroundings, making it an even larger threat to unsuspecting prey. (Photo taken by: Michael Harte)

  As seen in an episode of the “Octonauts and the Lionfish” cartoon, this fish is also highly aggressive. The Octonauts is a British children’s show on BBC that features a crew of eight underwater adventurers, who live in the Octopod, an undersea base. These adventurous critters include a polar bear, tabby cat, penguin, octopus, sea otter, rabbit, dog, and vegimals (half-vegetable and half-animal) that talk, walk, and explore just like humans. In this episode, they find a lionfish duo, Lilly and Louie, while monitoring a coral reef in the Atlantic Ocean. The preferred habitat of lionfish are coral reefs and shipwrecks, and just like Lilly and Louie, they work together to hunt in packs and herd their fish prey. When discovered, the pair of lionfish was indulging in a wide assortment of unsuspecting undersea critters that are not accustomed to looking out for the lionfish as a predator. Another advantage that the lionfish has is that it uses a suction mechanism to eat its prey in “just one fast gulp,” as the lionfish in Octonauts kept repeating. This television show is a great way to educate small children about invasive species, food webs and conservation while they watch!

Another recent appearance of the lionfish on television was on “Ocean Mysteries” with host Jeff Corwin in the episode, The Hunt for Lionfish (watch the episode trailer below, or follow this link for the full episode).  “With no natural predators to stop them, an endless supply of fish to feed on and armed with those venomous spines, they are literally eating their way across the Atlantic,” explained Jeff Corwin about lionfish as he prepared to dive with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) divers to investigate the invasive lionfish off the coast of Georgia. NOAA researchers emphasized that one reason the lionfish is such a successful invasive species is because a mature female can produce up to 30,00 eggs almost every four days! Not only were multiple lionfish found within depths that divers can reach, but they were also found at over 400 ft deep off the coast of Curaçao with the use of a high-tech submarine known as a man submersible. Finding lionfish at these depths indicates that they are extremely adaptive and are able to survive at ocean depths much deeper than previously expected, giving them the ability to invade a variety of marine environments. As the submarine crew spears the lionfish at this depth, Corwin reminds viewers that even though this is a beautiful living creature, it is making a largely harmful impact on its environment and must be removed to preserve the health of the ecosystem.


At shallower depths, the lionfish has been found to have wiped out up to 95 percent of native fish in some parts of the Atlantic Ocean, but a recent Oregon State University and Simon Fraser University study found that there is still hope.  Dr. Stephanie Green and her team used ecological modeling to determine exactly what percentage of lionfish to hunt in a habitat to revive the native fish populations. Contrary to many invasive species situations, this research shows that eradication of the lionfish is not necessary to allow native fish to thrive in “safe havens, small pockets of reef where lionfish numbers are kept low”  and then spread to other reefs. On the reefs where lionfish numbers were kept below a density (or biomass) threshold in the model, native prey fish increased by 50-70 percent.

 lionfish population dynamics_2

Figure 2. A representation of the predator and prey population relationships between invasive lionfish and the native Atlantic Ocean fish that  lionfish prey on. This displays the potential effects of lionfish population control by people intending to limit the impacts by reducing the lionfish populations through harvesting and preventing further introduction. (Created by Danielle Goodrich)

This predator-prey population dynamic graph (Figure 2) displaying a model relationship between the fish that lionfish prey on and the lionfish (predator). It shows that the two populations’ numbers are dependent on each other and that the lionfish introduction caused a drastic decrease in the prey population. This model is based off of the research conducted by Dr. Green and her partners and predicts that after human intervention (removal of lionfish to a certain biomass threshold), the lionfish population would be expected to decrease and cause the prey population to increase soon after, allowing the two populations to fluctuate with each other and eventually reach a sort of equilibrium.

If population numbers are maintained at a healthy ecological level, the lionfish could be overall beneficial in regards to scientific study. The venomous spines on all sides of the lionfish’s body are what protect it from many potential predators, but this harmful armor has the potential to be useful for humans as well as the lionfish. The Animal Planet presents a clip from Wild Recon: Lionfish Venom in which Donald Schultz captures a lionfish off the coast of Belize to take a venom sample from its deadly spines. Schultz reports that through further research lionfish venom could be found to be a building block for heart medication. After its spine extraction, this lionfish will go into captivity and kept for educational purposes. This alternative to hunting keeps the critter alive, enables for the public to learn about this issue, and prevents it from further harming the marine ecosystem off Belize.

To learn more about the lionfish invasion, teachers can find curriculum to educate their students, even from the West Coast. The Florida Sea Grant was part of the team that developed lesson activities for their region, including one called Lionfish… Could They Invade Our Waters?!?!, which is part of the teacher’s guide, Intruders in Paradise: Invasive Species in Florida. Through education and selective hunting, the war on lionfish is one that still could be won!

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Jan 21 2014

Ask a WISE Teacher!

Filed under Resources,Teacher tools

Dear WISE Teacher:
I am planning to take my middle school students on several invasive species-related field trips this school year, and in the past I’ve run into the problem of how to encourage their curiosity but discourage their need to “own” the organisms. Students like catching critters, and somehow they manage to appear in my classroom after the trip (either alive or dead). Please advise me on how to keep the organisms in their own environment while still making the learning personal.

Sincerely, Middle School Science Teacher

Dear Middle School Science Teacher:5356293-THUMB
You didn’t say whether or not the captured critters were native or invaders. No matter; it’s good you show concern for their welfare, regardless of their status. Showing this to your students will legitimize the idea of being observers in someone else’s home. You can follow the example of the Resource teachers in the Outdoor School programs, who set up small tanks (5 gallons or smaller) to display caught organisms temporarily, while students satisfy their curiosity without permanent removal from their habitat or “home”.

Always insist that students keep native organisms in their “own homes”. This keeps you from having to transport without traumatizing, and provide the needed equipment and monitoring in the classroom. Aquatic organisms in particular require regular filtering/cleaning of their environment. If students capture an invader (example: bullfrog in Oregon), you might consider removing it and providing a temporary classroom home until you can donate it to a museum, wildlife teaching facility or research program. Due to the trauma involved with killing any animals (possibly for you and/or them), it’s not a good idea to approve of killing invasive organisms within sight of any of your students.  Additionally, you may find parts of animals or non-living organisms;  you could consider preserving them for classroom observation, presentations and displays; don’t forget plastic bags and containers for your trip, with specific usage instructions for the students. Lastly, a camera is a great learning tool (most students have good ones on their cell phones), and you can take closeups and have students take pictures of themselves with the temporary captive.

A word of advice….If you do wind up taking an invader out of that environment, don’t let the students give it anything but a scientific name; they get much too personally attached.


Editor’s foot note: National guidelines to help prevent the risk of invasive species from classrooms were approved in Nov. 2013 and are listed on the Federal register for public comment before final adoption.  These guidelines will be posted as soon as they are available.

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Jan 21 2014

Science Teacher Resources Abound at NSTA/OSTA Area Conference

Filed under Events,Feature Stories

By Thea Hayes:

The newest ideas in science education were on display and in the airwaves at the National Science Teachers Assn. meeting (NSTA) “Bridges To The Future” Area Conference in Portland on October 24-26th at the Oregon Convention Center and Doubletree Hilton Hotel.  This included a lot of focus on the Next Generation Standards in science that are being adopted by many states nationwide.  My business there was to find out how learning through Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) was finding its way into the teaching of educators in the region, as well as the resources and curriculum of vendors that supply our region.  Mission?  To see what content was (or was not) being promoted and how this might influence choices of classroom teachers to incorporate watershed and AIS content.



Wisconsin Fast Plants, Brassica rapa, are from a family of plants well known for being weedy. Lets take care to properly dispose of seeds and other plant material.

This year’s Conference was divided into three strands related to the STEM and the Common Core.  So much to see and hear, so little time; there were quite a few sessions I wanted to attend that were running simultaneously, so I had to choose WISELY!  Having looked at the choices ahead of time, I decided to attend a popular workshop on Wisconsin Fast Plants, which is an elementary classroom exercise in taking data with Brassica rapa plants (originally found in Nepal) while learning about Mendelian genetics,  plant anatomy and morphology, and environmental variables.  (The content is also useful in life sciences, biology, environmental sciences and teaching education college programs.)  Another topic in the workshop was the interdependence of organisms, and teachers were encouraged to try using a cosmopolitan species of butterfly known as “cabbage whites” from Carolina Biological to observe feeding habits and metamorphosis.  This company spec-sheet on “Brassica Butterfly” makes a point of the USDA warning regarding release of the insect:  http://www.carolina.com/teacher-resources/Document/cabbage-white-brassica-butterflies-care-handling-instructions/tr10483.tr.


The session was run by a “Carolina Teaching Partner,” and heavily attended with teachers eager for instruction and the free materials provided.  I was curious about both the use of these plants (germinates in 3 days, 35-40 day seed-to-seed cycle) and the disposal of the materials, particularly the seeds. Teachers did not ask about the issues related to the viability and disposal of seed from this plant, which would most likely be thrown into the classroom garbage. I wondered if teachers would mistakenly place these soil materials in garden compost or wash them down the sink?  Proper disposal of the organisms  was not brought up in the workshop by the presenter, nor was there any questions or comments about the freeze-dried honeybees on toothpicks, used by students to pollinate the plants.  (Does anyone else have a problem with this?)  Brassica rapa is listed as an invasive week in Weeds of the West and Weeds of the United States and Canada (SWSS, 1998; Burrill et al., 2006).  There is also an issue of escaped transgenes between Brassica rapa and Brassica napus, observed in Quebec in the early 2000’s (published in Molecular Ecology in 2007).


Karen DeBaker (left) and Ely Teragli (right) at Tualatin Clean Water Services partners with the WISE program to encourage learning about invasive species in the classroom.

It would have been excellent to have heard some kind of discussion about sterilization of seed material and soil, or vacuuming the classroom after use of these seeds, as they are very small and can easily stick in the clothing and shoes of students and teachers alike, and be carried outside inadvertently.  It is easily possible to view these organisms as invasives, or possibly how their growth habits, durability, variation and success rates (as well as success in competition) compare to known invasive species.


Given the importance of the engineering and science associated with the logistics of shipping freight in our society, and its role spreading invasive species around our globe,  I attended a session called “Shipping from STEM to Stern”. This was an elementary and middle school level presentation by teachers from Parcells Middle School in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan.  The emphasis here was on “loading math and engineering into the science classroom via the shipping industry”.  It turns out that Laura Mikesell (Sci. Dept. Chair) is spearheading invasive species education at her school.  This middle school, being on the Great Lakes, is the perfect site for learning about vectors in the shipping industry that introduce invaders into local ecosystems (including barge-as-habitat issues).  We had an exciting discussion about collaborating to bring their school’s information to the WISE website!



Carolina Biological displaying live painted lady butterflies. Butterflies are raised in the classroom, then released by the students. This activity is one exception to the “Don’t Let it Loose” rule for classrooms.

In between workshops was the “Great Teacher Lure” known as the  Exhibit Hall, where resources abound.  This is where teachers make most of their contacts (vendors, other teachers) and pick up “freebies”  that can be utilized directly in the classroom.  There were many biological supply houses here, non-profits and agencies with links to utilizable teacher resources, as well as curriculum and book publishers.  Although I saw very few exhibits with learning materials on invasive species, companies like Arbor Scientific, Carolina Biological Supply, Flinn Scientific, Inc., Frey Scientific and Mountain Home Biological are now labeling their packages to warn teachers about proper disposal of live or formerly living classroom materials. Some (eg. Carolina) provide flyers inside the packages to give information about the species, of which the Oregon Sea Grant study on Live Plants and Animals in the Classroom contributed to increasing awareness.

Carolina Biological brought quite a few live species to the Exhibition Hall to promote their available species and cage collection, and seemed very interested in the ethical treatment and disposal of these creatures.   When I queried other company’s reps about whether they would be willing to include an extra impetus inside the package about AIS (see:  Habitattitude flyer), some promised to get back to me on this (and did not).  It would be entirely appropriate for customers of these vendors to ask the same question:  “Would you be willing to enclose information in your shipping materials that promotes awareness of ecosystem disruption by invasive species?”

Applause to publishing companies like LabAids, Inc. have chapters in their Life Science (Middle School) and Biology (High School) textbooks directly devoted to the issue of dealing with species like zebra and quagga mussels, and challenge students to look at the science and the math related to out-of-control populations.  Talking to other publishers did not yield a lot of elementary or middle school content that even mentioned this serious problem, and this included the NSTA bookstore on site.  I talked to a variety of elementary student reading book publishers that included many titles promoting ecological awareness and stewardship, but none that directly confronted the issue like what we’ve recently seen in the Stone Soup comics by Jan Eliot published nationwide.  Maybe I should team up with an artist to do this myself!

Would I do this again?  Absolutely!  The potential for contacts and influence of the individual is mighty in a venue like the NSTA Conference.  There were many other opportunities to learn about the inclusion of invasive species education in the work of teachers and companies around the country, and we encourage all WISE teachers to find out what is currently happening with their adopted curriculum, administrative support level and self-chosen vendors.

(A Note about the author:  Thea Hayes, Educational Consultant is a WISE Teacher alum (1st group!) and a Board Member of the Oregon Invasive Species Council.  She recently retired from PPS after 21 years of teaching public school science, and continues teaching as a substitute, tutor, and religious school teacher at Congregation Beth Israel in Portland.   Her many volunteer efforts include curriculum development with Tualatin River Keepers and the Lent School Garden Committee, and blogging for OSU Sea Grant Extension WISE Teacher Program.)








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