Nationally Renowned Researcher Joins Portland State's Battle Against Aquatic Invasions
Author: Jeanie-Marie Price (503-725-3773) Office of Marketing and Communications
Posted: August 17, 2005
Catherine deRivera, a marine ecologist and expert in the biology and behavior of crabs and the ecology of non-native marine invertebrates, has joined Portland State University’s Aquatic Bioinvasion Research & Policy Institute, a joint program between Portland State’s Center for Lakes and Reservoirs and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC).

DeRivera is the first research faculty member to be hired by the Institute. Her expertise in marine systems, marine invertebrates and introduced crab species compliments ongoing projects at the Institute that address invasive species in freshwater and ballast water transport of non-native species into Oregon waters.

Earlier this month, a study conducted by deRivera (while at the University of California, San Diego) appeared in the August issue of the journal Animal Behaviour. The research found that female fiddler crabs Uca crenulata, are the most selective animals known: they check out up to 106 males and their burrows before finally deciding on a mate.  Females that mated and incubated their eggs in male burrows of just the right size released their eggs at the optimal time, suggesting this extreme choosiness for a mate and his burrow improved offspring survivorship.

“I am excited to join a University where I can conduct meaningful research, disseminate my findings to habitat managers and policy makers, and spend time teaching in a friendly and supportive place to work. This combination is surprisingly hard to find,” said deRivera. “I look forward to mentoring students and teaching classes that include components on environmental ethics and management challenges.”

At Portland State, deRivera’s primary research focus will be on the ecology and behavior of non-native marine and estuarine species in the Pacific Northwest and continuing her study on impacts and range limits of the invasive green crab, Carcinus maenas. DeRivera will also teach courses in Marine Ecology, Biological Invasions and Biological Diversity.

Prior to joining Portland State, deRivera was the coordinator for a multi-institutional West Coast-wide study, “Research on Patterns of East Pacific Marine Invasions,” and a postdoctoral fellow in the Marine Invasions

Research Lab and the Crab Lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. In addition, she was an assistant professor of Biology at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. DeRivera has also lectured and taught at the University of California, San Diego. Her research has identified major spatial patterns in non-native species and has identified native crabs that limit the spread of an invasive species.

Established in October of 2004, the Aquatic Bioinvasion Research and Policy Institute provides an important catalyst for multidisciplinary understanding and management of biological invasions in coastal marine and freshwater ecosystems. The Institute combines the respective strengths of PSU and SERC in freshwater and marine systems, and seeks to develop novel approaches to research, management and policy on biological invasions. Through collaborative efforts with additional institutions and agencies, the Institute includes a diverse range of disciplines that are relevant to invasion processes, including biology, environmental science, economics and trade, engineering and social sciences.

About Aquatic Bioinvasions
Biological invasions have wide-ranging and potent effects on species diversity, ecosystem services, food resources, water supplies and human health. In the U.S. alone, annual economic losses due to these invasions are estimated to exceed $137 billion, impacting many dimensions of society. The rate of new invasions has increased tremendously, at times exponentially, throughout the world—an expected but unintentional outcome of globalization of trade and travel. Organisms are transferred between global regions at ever faster rates with people and commodities. Examples of resulting invasions abound, including the Eurasian zebra mussels that spread rapidly throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley (and now threaten the western U.S.), the European green crab that now occurs along both the U.S. Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and New Zealand mudsnails and aquatic weeds that have invaded many freshwater systems in Oregon.

Various activities such as transoceanic shipping and overland transport of boats breach natural barriers to species dispersal, such as ocean basins or mountains, and allow non-native species to establish populations beyond their historical geographic ranges, and result in biological invasions. Developing ways to conduct trade in a manner that is ecologically as well as economically sustainable is crucial to a vibrant economy and a priority for Oregon and the United States. Currently, there are no broad-based programs advancing an effective, multidisciplinary approach to managing these biological invasions.

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Mark Sytsma (503-725-3833)
Director, PSU Center for Lakes and Reservoirs

For Immediate Release (#05-116)