By: Dr. Andrei Alyokhin, UMaine Assoc. Professor of Applied Entomology
Biological Invasions is an upper-level undergraduate / lower level graduate course listed in the School of Biology and Ecology curriculum at the University of Maine, Orono. The class facilitates an understanding of the interactions of organisms and their environments and the consequences of these interactions for population, community, and ecosystem dynamics. Specific objectives for students were to describe biotic and abiotic factors that influence the dynamics of populations and to use ecological principles to explain the consequences of human activity (current economic and social issues). Students completing Biological Invasions are also expected to improve the array of the tools for life-long learning and should be able to demonstrate the ability to use resources at hand to gather information, clearly articulate questions and answers to others, and assess the accuracy of science reports presented in the media.
During the Spring 2013 semester, 11 undergraduates and 2 graduate students participated with majors in biology, zoology, wildlife ecology, and ecology and environmental sciences. In the beginning of the semester, students were asked to download instructor-prepared table and fill it with the information on twelve species that, in their opinion, are of concern because of their potential to become invasive in Maine. The idea came from The Dirty Dozen lists compiled under direction of Drs. Eleanor Groden and Lois Stack during the previous meetings of the Maine Invasive Species Network.The students were instructed to avoid the already widespread invasive species. Species at early stages of invasion with a potential for further spread were acceptable. The species had to be arranged in the order from the most significant (#1) to the least significant (#12).
Justification was limited to no more than three sentences per species. Assignments were collected and combined into a single list sorted by species. The list was discussed species-by-species during one of the laboratory sessions and the final unordered list was decided by consensus, with every species vetted by the entire class.
The final list produced by the class was as follows:
Didymosphenia geminata (Cymbellales: Gomphonemataceae) – Rock snot
Agrilus planipennis (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) – Emerald ash borer
Anoplophora glabripennis (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) – Asian longhorned beetle
Dreissena polymorpha (Veneroida: Dreissenidae) – Zebra mussel
Pueraria lobata (Fabales: Fabaceae) – Kudzu
Hydrilla verticillata (Hydrocharitales: Hydrocharitaceae)- Hydrilla
Sirex noctilio (Hymenoptera: Siricidae) – European wood wasp
Trapa natans (Myrtales: Lythraceae) – Water chestnut
Operophtera brumata (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) – Winter moth
Persicaria perfoliata (Caryophyllales: Polygonaceae) – Mile-a-minute weed
Tentropium fuscum (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) – Brown spruce longhorn beetle
Adelges tsugae (Hemiptera: Adelgidae) – Hemlock woolly adelgid
Image Description: zebra mussels