Hillyer faculty members like to "get their feet wet"--in this case, literally. Stephan Bullard likes to get outside the classroom, dive into his research, and bring back new methods to reinvigorate the classroom experience for his students.
Bullard, associate professor of biology, has been immersing himself in Long Island Sound, getting more than just his feet wet, to study a harmful marine animal called the sea squirt.
Sea squirts look harmless enough. You've probably seen them on the sides of docks or on boat hulls, where they form an encrusted, bumpy layer. But they are potentially harmful, smothering mussels, oysters, and scallops, and even impairing the maneuverability and speed of boats.
Bullard describes the growth of the sea squirt as particularly serious on the Georges Bank, off the coast of Massachusetts, and in Long Island Sound, where mats formed by the fast-growing organism lie over miles of seabed. “It creates problems for fish because it covers the worms and crabs they eat and takes away the places they hide,” Bullard explains.
In collaboration with faculty from the University of Connecticut, Bullard has started a small shellfish farm off the coast of Groton, Conn., to measure the effects of sea squirts on shellfish. “In less than a month, one-quarter of the oysters were already heavily infested,” he says.
The environmental importance of Bullard’s work has been recognized by the State of Connecticut which provided him with a grant to study the sea squirt. “We need to understand everything we can about the squirt,” says Bullard. “It has the potential to overpower our marine ecosystems.” So he can learn even more about the squirt, it’s a safe bet that Bullard will jump back into the Atlantic whenever he can.