This page provides information and materials to help you introduce the concept of AIS in your classroom. 

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Background information on aquatic invasive species (AIS)

Today, an estimated 50,000 species have been introduced into the United States. Most of these species are not considered invasive, but by one calculation, those that are invasive may cause $137,000,000 in economic and ecological damages each year. Purely aquatic species make up a few billion of this, but impacts in uplands often directly or indirectly affect aquatic environments.

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are organisms that:

  • live in direct association with fresh, estuarine or marine waters
  • have been transported by people outside their native range, and
  • impact economic, ecological or human health.

Aquatic invasive species represent the most insidious form of water pollution. Once a “spill” has taken place, be it ballast water discharge or a well-intentioned student releasing a classroom aquarium pet, there is usually no going back. The initial event may appear innocuous, but unlike chemical pollution, AIS can multiply, move and directly consume or displace native organisms and damage water resources.

Once established, an aquatic invader population is usually permanent. Either the astronomical price tag or difficult logistics make “clean up” or eradication of AIS impossible. For this reason, the most effective and cost-efficient way to deal with an invasive species is to prevent its introduction, while supporting and maintaining healthy ecosystems that are more likely to resist new introductions.

Exploring critical questions in aquatic invasive species (AIS)

The Aquatic Invasions Menace to the West Curriculum and website are designed to lead you through understanding the following critical questions in invasive species with fun and comprehensive activities that are aligned to benchmarks in science and language arts. 

  1. What is an AIS?
  2. How were AIS introduced?
  3. Why are AIS so successful? 
  4. How are AIS spread? 
  5. What are the impacts of AIS? 
  6. What can we do to prevent AIS?