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Highschoolers Write about Eurasian Species

The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network congratulates winners of Minnesota's aquatic invasive species essay contest. Minnesota Sea Grant worked with the St. Paul Pioneer Press' Newspapers in Education Program to encourage high school students to write about invasive species of the Great Lakes. The 38 essays submitted were sometimes humorous, often intriguing, and thick with youthful expression.

Similar essay contests are being conducted throughout the Great Lakes thanks to a grant from the National Sea Grant Program supporting the Network's ESCAPE (Exotic Species Compendium of Activities to Protect the Ecosystem) projects.

Excerpts from the winning essays, which all focused on invasive species from Eurasia, are reprinted below.

First Place: Eurasian Watermilfoil

By Adrienne Hennen
Jordan High School

Eurasian watermilfoil is a plant that is native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. …It was originally intentionally introduced to the Chesapeake Bay area in the 1800s. It was then used for packing materials for worms that fishermen used as bait. It began creeping westward and spread rapidly. People began to notice the damage that the milfoil caused, but once it is in an area, it spreads rapidly and is hard to get under control. It can fill a lake from shore to shore, taking up needed room for the native species and making it difficult for boats to get through. Despite all of the damage that this invasive species causes, it is still not on the United States noxious plant list.

Eurasian watermilfoil is difficult to control because of its re-growth. It not only grows rapidly, but it also has the ability to regenerate. If a part of milfoil becomes entangled in a boat, or is in a minnow bucket that moves from lake to lake, it can eventually re-grow and spread to other lakes. Once it inhabits an area it is difficult to get under control again…

I think that to manage the spread of watermilfoil, there should be stricter guidelines concerning the transportation of it. It needs to be placed on the United States' noxious weed list. There should be penalties for having the plant on your boat when you reach a loading dock for a lake. I think that the best control would be a combination of bio-controls and roto-tilling with underwater vacuuming. That way a large mass of the milfoil could be destroyed, and the remaining could be slowly eaten away. The main way to control the milfoil is to stop the spread of it. Putting more money into hiring people to supervise the boats that go into lakes would be a good start.

Second Place: "Ruffe" Waters

By Rachel Tjaden
Jordan High School

Invasive species are in the Great Lakes, and it seems that they are everywhere. One species in particular that has caused harm to the Great Lakes is the Eurasian ruffe. The ruffe is a small fish with sharp, spiny fins on its back and belly. The ruffe came to Minnesota around 1985. It came through the ballast water on ships…

The ruffe causes many problems for the Great Lakes. The ruffe has the capability of fast reproduction, and it can adapt to many different environments. Since the ruffe population grows quickly, they dominate the space and the food supply. This is bad news for the other native species, such as walleye and perch, because there is not enough food to go around…

The public can be part of the solution. If people are made aware of this growing problem, they may be more apt to help control the ruffe populations. Classes and awareness meetings should be open to the public in order for them to learn about how to identify the ruffe and what to do with it if they spot a ruffe. Also, brochures could be sent out to those who could not attend meetings.

Third Place: Zebra Mussels: The Problem and the Solution

By Robyn Correll
Jordan High School

Slimy, suffocating, dangerous creatures are inhabiting the Great Lakes region. They sneak by undetected and force out others who may get in their way. Who are these monsters that are altering the freshwater areas of the United States and elsewhere? Zebra mussels….

Through controlling and using the mussels to our own advantage, the Great Lakes may be able to tame a beast and add an ally….

(Zebra mussels) have the ability to filter out many different kinds of toxins, and they also have the capabilities to get rid of some unwanted parasites… By controlling these mussels and using them to society's advantage, it may become a win-win situation….

The steps to accomplish this are not easy, but they are feasible. First, areas of ecosystems with zebra mussels may be sectioned off according to what control method would better suit the area. For example, if one area had a wide variety of aquatic life that would be greatly damaged by chlorine, that area would use other forms of control: electromagnetic waves, bacterium, etc.

By Sharon Moen
July 2003

Return to July 2003 Seiche

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