(Rhomboplites aurorubens) and round scad (Decapterus punctatus) made
up the majority of prey items identified by students. The remaining
prey species are common on offshore reefs and sand flats, including
economically important red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus). Findings
from the students’ research shed valuable light on the lionfish’s generalist diet and highlight the potentially significant threat that lionfish
pose to native fish communities through competition and direct predation, and to local economies through impacts to commercial and
The “Invasive Aliens” project served to motivate students in a
real-world citizen science project. Students participating in the
project self-identified as scientists and commented on the importance of their contributions to ongoing research. The project highly
engaged students in the practices of science and served to enhance
their applied science skills. With respect to science knowledge, the
modest gains in some conceptual understandings are likely to be
the result of teaching the lessons as a stand-alone exercise. More
thorough integration of the project into the preexisting units with
appropriate introductory and follow-up lessons would likely yield
higher gains in science knowledge.
We thank the reviewers for their detailed and constructive comments. We also thank S. Andrews and Bio-Rad Laboratories for
support for DNA barcoding teacher workshops; Niuhi Dive Charters for Lionfish donations; and the administrators and staff of
Booker T. Washington High School, Escambia High School, Gulf
Breeze High School, Navarre High School, Pensacola High School,
West Florida High School, and Woodlawn Beach Middle School
for facilitating student participation. Special thanks to V. Armand,
E. Bauer, A. Cozart, K. Edwards, M. McGregor, M. Meredith,
C. Stephens, K. Turner, and S. Walker for their time and dedication
to their students. This project was supported by a University of
West Florida Pace Academic Development Grant to J.E.
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JEFF EBLE ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Visiting Professor in the Department of
Ocean Engineering and Marine Sciences at the Florida Institute of
Technology, Melbourne, FL 32901; and JOHN PECORE ( email@example.com) is
an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and
Educational Leadership at the University of West Florida, Pensacola,