Invasive Species in the Classroom
BY STEVEN GAMICKI, ALPENA FWCO
Over the last four years, staff from the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) in Alpena, Michigan (MI) has been involved in teaching students about environmental science and conservation topics that augment their science curriculum. This school year, Alpena FWCO staff adopted two classes of third grade students at Wilson Elementary School (Alpena Public School System) located in Wilson Township, MI. Interaction with Alpena FWCO’s staff provides students with unique hands on science experience, and insights from professionals in the conservation field. Students enjoy the presentations and change of pace from their daily routine. One student, who could have missed a day of school due to a painful dental procedure, made his mom drive him to school so he wouldn’t miss the presentation.
This spring, Alpena FWCO biologists Steven Gambicki and Heather Rawlings instructed the third graders about invasive species found in the Great Lakes region. Invasive species have been causing severe
environmental and economic losses in the Great Lakes for many years. Over 180 non-native aquatic species from around the world are currently found in the Great Lakes ecosystem. Informing the public about invasive species is important to help stem the spread and introduction of new invasives. Students learned that a species is designated as invasive when it is not native to an ecosystem and its introduction has caused harm to the economy, human health, or environment of that ecosystem. Once established, it is extremely difficult to control the spread of invasive species.
The third graders examined preserved samples of select invasive species including purple loosestrife, round goby, rusty crayfish, zebra mussels and sea lamprey. The biologists informed the students about the harm these species can do to native plants and animals, taught them how invasive species are spread, and made them aware of some actions that they can employ to help stop that spread.
The highlight of the afternoon involved showing students live sea lampreys at each stage of their life cycle - ammocoete (larval stage), transformer and adult. Students were able to touch and have an up-close view of the live sea lampreys. Andrea Miehls, Hammond Bay Biological Station, provided the live lampreys for the presentation. Students were given a quiz to reinforce what they had learned during the presentation, they were then asked to name the adult sea lamprey. Some of the more creative names submitted by the students were Big Bad Bill and Big Mama.