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As part of the Sitka Marine Invasives Bioblitz scientists and volunteers and will be surveying exposed tidal pools, rocks, and man-made structures for invasive species left high and dry by Sunday’s receding water line.
Linda McCann is a biologist with the Smithsonian, and she has one invasive on the top of her list: Tunicates.
“A tunicate is an animal that lives in the inner tidal all the way down to hundreds of feet, and t hey are 90 percent or more water, they’re often called sea squirts, and they feed on little animals in the water column.”
These little sea squirts might sound harmless enough, but invasive tunicates in Alaskan waters can spread out for miles, like huge colorful blankets smothering the sea floor. And, when they’re not competing for habitat, they’re competing for food.
“Alaska is pretty fortunate in that so far they don’t have a lot of these invaders in their waters , and we’re hoping to keep it that way, because these tunicates have the potential to wreak great havoc.”
McCann says most invasives come to Alaska on commercial or recreational boat hulls, and might even be transported via the seafood or aquarium trade.
During the Bioblitz, which starts this Saturday, volunteers will be trained to recognize and record invasive species, including several types of tunicates, green crab and a Japanese kelp in order to survey their numbers in Sunday’s low tide.
Volunteers won’t be collecting any invasives, but McCann hopes the survey will give scientists a better handle on Sitka’s invasive population and locals a better understanding of their threat.
Volunteers can meet at the Sitka Sound Science Center on Saturday June 12th from 3-5 pm for a pre-training on invasives, and from 8-10 am on Sunday the 13th to participate in the survey.