Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dissecting an ecological disaster: Transoceanic ballast water and the Laurentian Great Lakes, 1953–2008
by Van Wormer, Jerry R., A.L.M., Harvard University, 2009, 190; 1469384
Abstract (Summary)

International maritime trade is responsible for the establishment of approximately 50 nonindigenous aquatic species in the Laurentian Great Lakes since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959. In some cases these new arrivals have catastrophically altered freshwater ecosystems throughout much of North America. This study investigates the role of science in recognizing and mitigating the ecological risks posed by alien aquatic species present in transoceanic ballast water. It explores the reasons why scientists failed for so long to identify this threat and it explores constraints facing the scientific community once this threat was finally recognized. Exploring these topics involves analysis of the historical record between 1953 and 2008, which reveals that a small group of concerned scientists missed the ecological threats associated with foreign ballast water in 1955. This analysis also shows that taxonomic difficulties, rapid scientific growth, gross water pollution problems, changing political winds, as well as eroding scientific methods and dramatically reduced research budgets all worked to constrain efforts at stemming the flow of alien species in more modern times. With respect to aquatic invasive species, this thesis reveals that an effective link between science and the responsible legislative bodies associated with two federal governments was essentially nonexistent until 2006. As a consequence, we have forever altered the biological and evolutionary trajectories of the largest freshwater ecosystems on earth in full view of the scientific and regulatory communities charged with protecting them.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Woollacott, Robert W.
Commitee: Ostrowski, Donald
School: Harvard University
Department: History of Science
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: MAI 48/01M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Ecology, Science history
Keywords: Aquatic invasive species, International maritime trade, Laurentian Great Lakes, Nonindigenous aquatic species, St. Lawrence Seaway, Transoceanic ballast water
Publication Number: 1469384
ISBN: 978-1-109-37700-2
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