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Science teachers may be partially responsible for invasive species in US, Canada


A pile of crawfish heads sit on a table during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds Race Course on May 1, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana.


Chris Graythen

Science teachers may be guilty of more than just the occasional shockingly boring lecture: new research finds that instructors may be responsible for the introduction of a number of damaging invasive species in the U.S and Canada. 

An Oregon State University study found that one in four science educators who used live animals as part of their educational programs later released the hapless critters back into the wild. 

A mere 10 percent of the above participated in a planned release program, where scientific expertise and thought are devoted to re-introducing a classroom critter into the environment. 

The study reached over 2,000 teachers in 10 states, and found that as many as 1000 commonly used classroom species have the potential to be invasive pests, including red-eyed slider turtles, mosquito fish, amphibians, and crayfish. 

Many issues may stem from instructors understandable squeamishness about offing classroom specimens, said Oregon State invasive species expert Chris Chan.

"Teachers are evenly split over the idea of euthanasia," Chan said in the press release.

"In some cases, it may be the only option. We don't recommend what teachers would do, but suggest they consult a local veterinarian. Our goal as researchers is to make the teachers and biological supply houses aware that releasing organisms into the wild may cause problems and to think about using native species in lessons whenever possible."

As it turns out, the beloved Louisiana crawfish is among the species that may be crawling into new climes thanks to science teachers.

The most popular species of crawfish used in classroom settings, Louisiana crawfish are hardy creatures that find life in both the classroom and in uncharted territory relatively easy to weather. 

They're also pugilists: the Louisiana variety - otherwise known as Procambarus clarkii -can push out native species if released into the wild, notes the New Orleans Times Picayune.

National Geographic recently reported that these Cajun crustaceans are currently wrecking havoc in Africa, where they devour native species with impunity. 

On the bright side? Few invasive species are as delicious as the humble-but-persistent Louisiana mudbug.