Feature Story                                                                  April 2012 

The Aquatic BioInvasion Research & Policy Institute: A Renewed Partnership

U.S. Representative Blumenauer (Oregon), Smithsonian Institution’s Undersecretary for Science Eva Pell, and Portland State University President Wim Wiewel signing the agreement in Washington DC.

The Smithsonian Institution renews a key partnership between Portland State University (PSU) and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) to advance multidisciplinary research on biological invasions in aquatic ecosystems. This agreement expands the mission of the joint Aquatic Bioinvasion Research and Policy Institute (ABRPI), established initially in 2004 and co-directed by Dr. Mark Sytsma (PSU) and Dr. Gregory Ruiz (SERC). The Institute combines the expertise on biological invasions of both organizations – freshwater invasion research at PSU with marine invasion research at SERC. ABPRI’s research seeks to understand the biological, social, and cultural factors that affect invasion outcomes and to inform management and policy decisions. 

On Monday April 19th representatives of the two institutions met at the Smithsonian Castle and signed a Memorandum of Understanding formalizing the partnership. The agreement was signed by Portland State University President Wim Wiewel, the Smithsonian Institution’s Undersecretary for Science Eva Pell, and the SERC Director Anson Hines. Also in attendance were Drs. Ruiz and Sytsma, U.S. Representative Blumenauer (Oregon), and Dr. Whitman Miller from SERC.

According the Dr. Ruiz “This is an exceptionally productive partnership, for research and for training the next generation of scientists, to answer basic and applied questions in invasion biology. The ABRPI is exceptional in the scope and breadth of its activities.”Looking ahead this newest partnership agreement opens the door for collaborations across numerous areas of study beyond invasion species, including resource sustainability and environmental and ecological science. ABRPI plans to establish partnerships with industry, natural resource managers, researchers and students, policy-makers, and the public that will facilitate training and applied research leading to better management, policy, and technologies.  

The 40 research staff, visiting scholars, and students conducting research under ABRPI are based in Oregon, California, and Maryland but are working on projects with a much broader international reach. Projects are underway in Alaska, California, Florida, Oregon, Maryland, Guam, Micronesia and Panama and incorporate the expertise of over 20 other organizations including universities, industry, and state/federal agencies. An example of one such project looks at the role of commercial shipping and recreational vessels in the dispersal of non-native species. Specifically this project utilizes dive teams and remotely operated vehicles to assess the impact of hull fouling on the transport of species. Extensive surveys have been conducted in California, Oregon, Alaska and Guam and more are planned for Maryland later this year. But there are many other projects dealing with a wide range of topics including policy, trade and economics, the factors affecting aquatic ecosystems' susceptibility to invasion, and the effects of invasions (including parasites and pathogens). There are also several citizen science networks in place to detect species and advance environmental literacy; these include Plate Watch in Alaska and the Undaria removal project in California.


U.S. Representative Blumenauer (Oregon), Dr. Gregory Ruiz (SERC), Portland State University President Wim Wiewel, Smithsonian Institution’s Undersecretary for Science Eva Pell, Dr. Mark Sytsma (PSU), Dr. Whitman Miller (SERC) and Dr. Anson (Tuck) Hines (SERC).