Urbanization and Marine Invaders


The "Urbanization and the Environment" workshop series at MCLA continues on Friday, May 7, with discussions on how our oceans and other waterways are affected by the encroachment of civilization.

Biology Professor Anne Goodwin, Ph.D., will present Urbanization and Marine Invaders this Friday. She will be followed on Friday, May 14, by Lauren Moffatt, Ph.D., coordinator of the Berkshire Environmental Resource Center at MCLA, who will discuss Detection of Emerging Contaminants in our Waterways.

Both lectures will begin at 2 p.m. in Murdock Hall, room 213. The events are free and open to the public.

According to Goodwin, she will examine how urbanization contributes to the introduction and spread of invasive marine organisms, including sea squirts and Asian shore crabs. In addition to being a frequent story on the news, the topic is related to Goodwin's areas of research and teaching.

Invasive species already dominate several New England shoreline habitats.

"The invasive sea squirt Didemnnum (pictured left) grows in mats over living and nonliving surfaces. There are no known local predators of healthy colonies - perhaps because they can have a pH similar to that of stomach acid," explained Goodwin.

Goodwin also will discuss the problem with zebra mussels, local invaders to Berkshire County's waterways. Although they live in freshwater and not the ocean, many of the same principles apply, she said.


According to Moffatt, emerging contaminants are being detected in many waterways, including those in the Berkshires.

"As scarcity of clean water resources increases globally, evaluating water quality sensitively and reliably is becoming critical," said Moffatt.  "Emerging contaminants, especially those categorized as endocrine disruptors, are of concern because of limited knowledge regarding their non-target effects."

In addition, endocrine-disrupting compounds have been detected in waterways across the country. 

"Specifically, concern exists regarding the impacts of compounds that exhibit estrogenic activity because of their potential feminizing effects on male organisms," Moffatt explained. "Municipal wastewater treatment effluent, agricultural runoff, and industrial wastes all contribute to the load of estrogenic chemicals found in rivers and streams which often includes human and animal hormones and pharmaceuticals."

Reliable, accurate biomarkers of estrogenic exposure are important tools in detecting the presence of these contaminants in water and rapid, sensitive, Moffatt said. In addition, inexpensive bioassays are needed to enhance the efficiency of detection.

"Quantifying changes in the expression of vitellogenin mRNA - a gene normally expressed only in females but known to be induced in male fish exposed to estrogens - is a sensitive biomarker of estrogenic contamination in water."

The series is being presented by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a program of Berkshire Community College (BCC) in partnership with MCLA, Williams College and Bard College at Simon's Rock. For more information, go to