Scientist-Educator Collaborative Workshop
What Leads to the Successful Establishment of Invasive
Species and What Are the Impacts?
Held at the University of Connecticut Avery Point Campus, Groton, CT
Thursday, October 8, 2009 through Saturday, October 10, 2009
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Original concept map created by Kari Heinonen
Digital concept map created in the COSEE Concept Map Builder
Consensus concept map created using the COSEE-OS Concept Map Builder
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Presentation Videos & Maps

About this Workshop:
For this workshop, 15 educators from the New England area, Texas, and Illinois were matched with ocean and climate scientists from the University of Connecticut to improve their collective understanding of Earth's major ocean - climate systems. [more]

About this Scientist:
Kari Heinonen is a Ph.D. student at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point campus. Her research focuses on the invasive crab Hemigrapsus sanguineus and its impact on the crustacean-eating guild of fishes in Long Island Sound. For the past fifteen years, consideration of the potential ecological impacts of the invasive crab H. sanguineus was limited to intertidal habitats. Recent observations demonstrate the expansion of the species into shallow subtidal habitats in Long Island Sound where it has the potential to impact the crustacean-eating guild of fishes through direct and indirect interactions.

My main research objectives are to determine if H. sanguineus is adversely affecting the food resource for economically important fishes in Long Island Sound, and to determine the impacts of the crab on the food web dynamics of crustacean-feeding fishes. Understanding how the communities respond to changes in food web structure (i.e. predator or prey population increases or declines) is vital to the management of our region's coastal fisheries. [more]
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Who Worked on this Concept Map
Bethann Balazsi
Colin Lawson
Margaret Tower
Kari Heinonen
Scientist Kari Heinonen explains the concept map and its development:

I research invasive species that are transported from their ecosystem of origin to another "recipient" ecosystem by either biologically or human-mediated means (e.g., marine animals, human introduction, ship ballast water) and/or by physical forces (e.g., currents, winds).  My original two maps were designed to answer these questions about invasive species: What factors contribute to a successful invasion? What are the impacts of such invasions?

On my "To Educators" map, the box at left shows a number of factors that determine whether or not the invasive species will become established in its new ecosystem and start a reproducing population. These factors can be divided into two categories: biotic factors (e.g., competition from other organisms, available food/prey) and abiotic factors (e.g., temperature, salinity). Potential post-colonization impacts of invasive species to humans, ecosystem community composition, and habitat is outlined in the right half of my map. These impacts are also separated into biotic (purple) and abiotic (teal) categories.

If we examine human-related impacts, invasive species can have both direct and indirect effects. For example, public health can be affected directly if invasive species are vectors for new disease or new parasites (e.g., Chinese mitten crab can be the host for the Oriental lung fluke that is able to parasitize humans). Our economy can be impacted indirectly if an invasive species out-competes or preys upon a commercially viable species in a fishery. Other biotic impacts include influences on the new ecosystem's community composition through food web interactions and competition pressures. These pressures, in turn, can cause other species' populations to either decline (sometimes to extinction) or increase.  Invasive species can also lead to habitat degradation: for example directly through manipulation of habitat substrate (e.g., bioturbation of the sediments). Impacts can also be caused indirectly via growth of the organisms themselves (e.g., invasive algae may be able to grow faster than native species and monopolize space, light, and nutrients).

Working with educators helped me create a more easily understandable map by adding the words "factors", "impacts", "abiotic", and "biotic" to classify the different sections. We also added a color-coded legend to help readers sort the concepts into major categories: ecosystem, abiotic factors, biotic factors, mitigation, and invasive population. We felt that these seemingly small changes drastically improved the "flow" of the map - especially for users new to the topics. Also, two new concepts were added under the category of "Mitigation" ("Risk Assessment" and "Best Management Practices") to enable teachers and students to bring this story full-circle and discuss the types of actions communities are implementing to deal with invasive species. Educators also liked that this collaborative map was general and flexible enough to be utilized with nearly any invasive species exploration. For example, students could be assigned an invasive species to explore.  Using the "Group Final Map" as a guide, they could research the factors that led to successful colonization, potential or real impacts of the species on their new ecosystem, and potential mitigation strategies (already in place, or proposed).
View All Concept Maps Created at this Workshop
Concept map