News Stories

Teachers are Changing Their Local Ecologies

They're not doing it by talking to their students about climate change in their classrooms, they're doing it at the END of the school year, by releasing the exotic pets they're kept in their science labs all year. Since most of these creatures are not native to the area where they're "poured out," they can become "invasive."

A survey of teachers from the United States and Canada found that one out of four educators who used live animals as part of their science curriculum released the organisms into the wild after they were done using them in the classroom. Only 10% of them participated in a planned release program, increasing the likelihood that the well-intentioned practice of using live organisms as a teaching tool may be contributing to invasive species problems.

Invasive species expert Sam Chan says, "Live organisms are a critical element for learning and we don’t want to imply that they should not be used in the classroom, but some of our schools--and the biological supply houses that provide their organisms--are creating a potential new pathway for non-native species to become invasive." The study surveyed nearly 2,000 teachers in Florida, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, California, Connecticut, British Columbia and Ontario.

For instance, “Oregon teachers who have ordered crayfish that originate in the Pacific Northwest have found that their mortality is extremely high, so many have taken to ordering crayfish from distributors who get their supply from Louisiana. The problem is that we have no idea whether those crayfish may carry diseases or parasites that may be problematic if those animals are released into the wild here.”

It's amazing what just a few out-of-place critters can do in a setting in which they have no natural predators--such as rabbits in Australia, which have reproduced at a high rate to the point that they are now major plant-eating pests. The proliferation of deer in suburbia, which has led to an epidemic of Lyme Disease, came about because of the decimation of the natural predators of deer, along with the reduction in hunting.

Believe it or not, we've got predators too, and sometimes we're worried that they may DO US IN. Don't let that happen: Give us the support we need to thrive: Subscribe today!



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