Invasive Species

Discipline: Semester at Sea Seminars
Instructor: Doughty
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1425
End: 1540
Field Work: Day 2 - Thursday, 16 October | Ghana
Prerequisites: A biology, or ecology, or environmental science course with an ecology component. Download Syllabus

Beginning about 10,000 years ago, the Agricultural Revolution accelerated the spread of plants and animals when people collected and domesticated useful organisms, and transported and planted them in places far away from their natural habitats. The modern era of exploration and empire building accelerated this spread of non-native species across the face of the earth, and also of pest-type animals, such as rats and mice. These rodents scurried off vessels in distant ports afterliving in holds and cargoes.

Today, there is growing evidence that upwards of 100 non-native organisms that experts characterized as invasive have measurable economic, public health and ecological impacts in the places where they flourish. Governments across the world are collaborating to identify the presence of these species, estimate their numbers, and move to control and eradicate them. However, given the ease and frequency of transportation, officials face significant hurdles in dealing with this issue.

This collaborative strategy differs from earlier policies that regarded non-native species as always beneficial and a means of “improving” the ecological fabric of colonial holdings, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. A century or so ago, settlers actively encouraged the entry and spread of them.

This course explores the historical attitudes toward releasing new organisms (mostly European) into distant places. It identifies the characteristics that make some species invasive, and discusses the pathways that facilitate entry and promote population build up. This semester’s voyage is an excellent opportunity to review EU policies and strategies for dealing with these invasive non-native species. We shall explore what various nations are doing to control the entry and spread of them, and see how some plants and animals have gained footholds in some areas or environments, but not in others. There is no doubt that this problem is one that is vexing experts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, including South America.

Field Work

Country: Ghana
Day: 2 - Thursday, 16 October

The aim of the excursion is to introduce students to the flora and fauna of Italy and specifically to any non-native plants and animals that exist in the Maremma (eucalyptus for example). We should like to explore the reasons for how and why this park and how it is managed and what special animals species exist in the area.  We understand that this area has been reclaimed from the marshes and is now a valuable location for studying rare and threatened plants and animals. Academic Objectives:

  1. To introduce students to the biota of Italy
  2. to alert them to the flora and fauna of the coastal region in and around La Maremma
  3. To discuss with park personnel the presence of non-native species in the park and preserve
  4. To understand the management plans and strategies those officials have drawn up to combat invasive species in the region and upon the site.