Pacific party

Did you know that there are more non-native invertebrates living in the San Francisco Bay than native invertebrates? How did they get here? What is their affect on the Bay?

Our Plankton Pioneers are taking a looks at some invertebrates and fish from the ocean today. Aaron writes about his own Plankton Pioneer:

Nyla with a leopard shark

Nyla with a leopard shark

“Going to camp is a test of bravery for most every Plankton Pioneer. Being away from parents for some kids is a big challenge. Sometimes playing a new game where the rules are unfamiliar is enough to cause concern. But for every case of the jitters I’ve witnessed, our well-trained instructors, counselors and volunteers demonstrated great patience and empathy to help our little ones settle in and have fun. Being able to see my kiddo adjust & flourish amidst all the new faces – human and marine – has been a great joy of my own.”

Our “Ray” group is closer to the ocean at Aquatic Park where they will see some historic ships and invertebrates on the docks. Many of these invertebrates are non-native or invasive species.  The “Shark” group will have a chance to look at bay invertebrates, fish and plankton on board the Robert G. Brownlee today. Which of these animals are non-native? How did they get here?

Many invading species come into the San Francisco Bay from across the ocean. They travel here aboard ships like the ones that our Ocean Explorers will see this week. Some animals attach themselves to these ships, but many of them come over inside the ship’s ballast water (used to weigh down and balance the ship). The water holds the larval (baby) forms of many invertebrates. In this stage they are considered to be plankton. They are drifters in the water and get sucked up into the boat and carried around the globe. You can make your own plankton net to see what animals live in the fresh, brackish or salt water near you.

Dropping the plankton net into the bay.

Dropping the plankton net into the bay.

Materials: string, stocking, plastic cup, scissors, small plastic bottle

Assemble: Cut off one leg of the stocking and cut open the foot to create a tube (about 2 feet long). Attach the open foot to the mouth of the plastic bottle with string (so that the stocking funnels into the bottle). Create the mouth of the net by cutting the lip of the plastic cup to create an inch-wide hoop. Attach the stocking to the cup ring to hold the mouth of the net open. Add string handles to pull the net through the water.

Collect: Pull you net through a natural body of water several times, allowing the water to wash the sides of the stocking down into the water bottle. Put a few drops of your water sample into a clear cup. Use a magnifying glass to see if there are plankton in the water. (It may help to shine extra light on your sample). Some plankton will be plankton their whole lives (holoplankton) and some are larva (meroplankton)–they’ll grow into something else like a crab, snail, fly or mosquito!

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