Mission: Massabesic Middle School
Is purple loosestrife spreading on the Massabesic Middle School campus? Are Galerucella beetles or Japanese beetles keeping it in check?
Student scientists at Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro have launched a multi-year study of the one purple loosestrife plant they documented on their campus in September 2010.
Upon closer inspection of the evidence photos, students noticed holes in the leaves and what looked like beetles on the plant. Could it be Galerucella, the non-native beetle released in southern Maine to control the spread of purple loosestrife? By the time the beetle evidence was discovered, it was too late in the season to collect beetles or try to get better photo evidence. Students made a tough, collective decision to leave the invasive plant intact (2.6 million seeds and all!) and study it (and its potential beetle predator) further in 2011.
The plant was closely monitored through late fall, winter, and spring. The pond area was surveyed in late spring to see if more purple loosestrife plants were present. No new plants were found!
The beetle-thought-to-be-Galerucella was expertly documented by 7HW20 in June 2011. Students are awaiting confirmation and comment by the elusive VS species expert for Galerucella.
The spring 2011 school year ended with a hopeful conclusion that loosestrife did not spread, and perhaps Galerucella played a role.
The research questions student scientists are investigating during the fall 2011 field season are:
- Has purple loosestrife spread to new areas on campus?
- Is there still evidence of the beetle-thought-to-be-Galerucella on the original loosestrife plant or on new plants on campus?
- Japanese beetles were just found by a student on or near the purple loosestrife plant. What role might they be playing?
Join their discussion!
Join Massabesic Middle School students' ongoing scientific discussion about what is happening with purple loosestrife, Galerucella, and Japanese beetles in their pond area ecosystem.
1. Find the Massabesic Middle School data online
Go to Explore data
Search for keyword "Waterboro" & species:
- Purple loosestrife
- Galerucella beetle
- Japanese beetle
2. Leave comments with your own ideas and questions about what you think might be happening
Why this Mission matters
Invasive species are the second biggest threat to biodiversity worldwide. Scientists in Maine are tracking specific invasive species like purple loosestrife to see if they are having an impact on biodiversity in our native wetlands, fields, forest edges, and drainage ditches.
Definition of biodiversity: The many different species of living things found within a defined geographic region
A healthy ecosystem doesn’t just have a lot of organisms, it has a lot of different organisms. Biodiversity is one of the best signs that an ecosystem is healthy, productive, resilient, and able to sustain itself naturally over time. Diverse ecosystems are important to Maine and to the health of the planet. Biodiversity provides natural services, resources, and cultural benefits.
The two biggest threats to biodiversity worldwide are habitat loss and invasive species. In Maine plants and animals lose their habitat and the resources they need to survive primarily through urban development. Invasive species are a growing threat to biodiversity in Maine. Without predators to keep their populations in balance, invasive species are able to out-compete native species for food, shelter, and space. The introduction of an invasive species like purple loosestrife may increase biodiversity in an area in the short term, but biodiversity often rapidly declines once this new species establishes and expands its population.
Want to know and do more?
Beetles used to fight invasive plant in Wells Maine
Watch this NECN newscast by Amy Sinclair on July 14, 2008 to learn about purple loosestrife and the Galerucella beetle introduced to control it
York County SWCD
Resources from York County Soil & Water Conservation District. York county has been hardest hit by purple loosestrife.
Vital Signs Mystery graph activity
Use a mystery graph to kick off your study of purple loosestrife and Galerucella beetles