This Week’s Creature Feature … Aquatic Invaders Alert
Invading aquatic species will have to speed up their evolutionary development of evasive strategies to outsmart the newest addition to the University of Maryland Environmental Science research fleet. The 155-foot barge, known as the Mobile Test Platform, has the job of testing the array of new ballast-water treatment technologies developed in hopes of keeping invaders out of Chesapeake Bay.
“This new testing platform will serve to evaluate emerging treatment technologies, before they are installed on ships, so that we can reduce this threat to our waterways,” explained Congressman Elijah Cummings at the late-September dedication of the barge.
Big commercial ships stabilize themselves on oceanic voyages by taking on ballast water wherever on their journey they need it. The ballast water is dumped wherever it’s not needed. With it comes alien species, like zebra mussels. Other invaders are transported worldwide on the hulls of ships.
Already more than 150 invasive species that originated in other ports now live in the Chesapeake.
“The uniqueness of this test facility,” says its director, Dr. Mario Tamburri of Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, “is that it can be moved from port to port within the Chesapeake to evaluate the technologies in varying environmental conditions, such as salinity, temperature and biological community.”