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Education activities review: November 1 – 5

November 6, 2010

Community monitoring

Catie and Angie attended the Alaska Invasive Species Conference in Fairbanks last week. Catie reports this was a rather depressing conference to be part of – in today’s world humans are transporting species all over the place, to areas where those alien species have the potential to change the environment as we know it. Some have economic impacts, and these are usually the ones that get the most attention.

One of the best strategies for dealing with these aliens is to work together, getting to know the players from partner organizations and learning from each other what might work best for detection, response, and removal. Alaska is often in the position to learn from others down south. Many states have Invasive Species Councils that facilitate this coordination. There is currently a bill in the Alaska House of Representatives (HB 12) to establish an Alaska Council on Invasive Species.

One conference presentation that was especially pertinent to us here at KBRR highlighted the recent detection of an invasive tunicate [Didemnum vexillum] in Sitka – a first sighting for this known troublemaker in Alaska. Both Angie and Catie came away from the conference feeling that the Reserve needs to give this invasive and its effects some attention as a measure to protect Kachemak Bay.

Invasive tunicate Didemnum vexillum in Whiting Harbor, Sitka on June 13, 2010.

Didemnum vexillum is a rapidly spreading, colonial tunicate (sea squirt). It has been found in coastal areas of Washington State and several areas on the east coast of the U.S., most notably Georges Bank. It is notorious for fouling boats, fishing nets, docks, and buoys; its ability to rapidly grow and encrust aquaculture nets, shellfish beds, and sensitive marine environments makes it a species of high concern. It prefers to live on hard substrates in protected areas, such as docks, piers, and the hull of boats. However, it has been detected in large colonies on ropes, tarps, nets, shellfish, the seafloor, eelgrass, and seaweeds.

Stay tuned for presentations to local stakeholders on how to identify this invasive species so more people can begin a summer of outdoor work and play with educated eyes.

Public education programs

This month’s education programs are all about headwater streams (“Thar’s salmon in those hills behind Homer,” as some might say). Wednesday’s There Are Salmon in the Hills Discovery Lab drew 45 visitors of all ages, including an interested group of biology students from Homer High School. Water flowed through a model culvert, many participants felt the squirm of a juvenile Chinook salmon in their hands, folks poured over maps trying to find their ‘watershed address,’ and our headwater stream research was discussed at almost every station. The lab stays up for our EE classes this month and will travel to the Homer Boys & Girls Club on November 23rd.

Upcoming public education programs

The Reserve is offering Homer: A Creek Runs Through It: Woodard Creek Watershed Hike tomorrow (Saturday, November 6th) from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm. Homer residents of all ages are invited to hike Woodard Creek from beach to hillside, exploring this watershed with Catie and Pratt Museum Education Director Ryjil Christianson. Dress for the weather and wear good hiking shoes or boots. Meet at the Homer Chamber of Commerce parking lot.

We invite you to join us on Tuesday, November 23rd from 12:00 – 1:00 pm here at Islands & Ocean for Coowe’s brown bag presentation – Salmon in the Hills. She’ll be sharing details on interesting ways that young salmon are using the tiny creeks in our backyards.

On Wednesday, December 1st from 3:00 – 5:00 pm we’ll be hosting with Dr. Ken Goldman a Sharks of Alaska Discovery Lab for the public. We hope to see you there.

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