In collaboration with Dr. Gregory Ruiz at SERC, we are studying the patterns, sources and consequences of exotic species introduced into marine and estuarine ecosystems. Our program is continental in scale, and our main study sites focus on Chesapeake Bay (Maryland and Virginia), Prince William Sound (Alaska), San Francisco Bay (California) and Tampa Bay (Florida), and many other coastal sites along all three coasts of North America and around the world (see SERC's Invasions Biology section of this website, as well as the Ballast Water Information Clearinghouse on the SERC website).
Historically, a wide variety of species have been introduced by fouling organisms on ships and in association with oyster culture, as well as other intentional and unintended modes. In recent decades, the most important mechanism of introductions is from planktonic larvae transported world-wide among shipping ports by huge volumes of ballast water taken up and released by commercial cargo ships. Chesapeake Bay receives the greatest quantities of ballast water released into ports of the eastern U.S. and second largest volume of any U.S. port. With funding from the U.S. Coast Guard and Maryland Sea Grant, we have characterized the composition and viability of the planktonic community in ballast water released into Baltimore and Norfolk harbors; and we have developed an extensive historical database for the invasive species of Chesapeake Bay.
Prince William Sound, Alaska, receives the third largest volume of ballast water delivered to U.S. ports. With funding from US Fish & Wildlife Service, Regional Citizens' Advisory Council of Prince William Sound, National Sea Grant, and the oil shipping industry, we have measured the biological characteristics of plankton in ballast water of oil tankers arriving to Port Valdez at the terminus of the trans-Alaska pipeline. We also surveyed native and invasive species at sites in the Aleutian Islands, Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, and Southeast Alaska. The work in Alaska provides the first assessment of invasive species in this high latitude ecosystem.
We are also evaluating the ecological roles of exotic species in coastal ecosystems of the world, and we are assessing broad patterns of invasion along North American shores with varying latitude to Central America.
For more information and details see the SERC Invasions Biology web page.