UGA Odum School of Ecology assistant professor finds our more about invasice species

UGA Odum School of Ecology assistant professor unlocks more of the mystery surrounding invasive species

Athens, Ga. – Assessing the projected impacts of invasive species is a leading issue for scientists today. A major question for ecologists is determining which characteristics will predispose a species to be a good or bad colonizer when introduced into an ecosystem. New research from assistant professor at the UGA Odum School of Ecology John Drake adds another piece to the invasive species puzzle.

In a recent publication in Functional Ecology, Drake demonstrated that in fish, invasive species were more successful in relation to higher parental investment – meaning fish that bear live offspring or guard their eggs are more likely to be successful colonizers than those that lay eggs and do not guard them.

“This study will help scientists better predict establishment success in future introductions,” said Drake. “Wildlife managers will benefit from this information because they can better identify traits predisposing species to successfully establish, making invasive species management plans more effective.”

Drake was influenced to begin his study after research showed that successful establishment of birds linked with larger relative brain size. It was suggested that this could apply to all vertebrates, but Drake’s research found no correlation between the two. Besides brain size, Drake’s research also debunks another theory relating successful colonizers with higher numbers of total offspring.

“Classical theory predicts that colonizing ability should increase with the lifetime number of offspring,” explained Drake. “However, for these fish introductions, this was not the case. In fact, the chance of successful establishment actually declined with fecundity.”

Data for the study was obtained from FishBase 2000, an online database with extensive information on fish establishment success by region. “This study was only possible because of the worldwide number of contributors to this very popular meta-database,” said Drake.

With roots that date back to the 1950s, the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as a certification program. Founder Eugene P. Odum is recognized internationally as a pioneer of ecosystem ecology. The school is ranked eighth by U.S. News and World Report for its graduate program. The Odum School is the first stand-alone school of ecology in the world. For more information, see http://www.ecology.uga.edu.