What is a Bucket Biologist?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 April 2020
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The term “bucket biologist” is used to describe someone who introduces a new species to a body of water, implying that he or she carried the species in a bucket before dumping the contents. This term is generally used in a disparaging way; the practice of introducing non-native species to aquatic environments is sometimes called bucket biology. When someone is referred to as a bucket biologist, the implication is that he or she is not very well educated, as well as being careless.

People have been transferring aquatic species from place to place for centuries, most typically for the purpose of stocking bodies of water with fish. In the 20th century, however, this practice began to come under closer scrutiny, as people began to realize that stocks of native species sometimes declined after such introductions. Today, such transfers are typically only made after carefully evaluating an ecosystem, and input from multiple scientists is usually considered.

When a new aquatic species is added to an ecosystem, the existing ecosystem is often ill-equipped to handle it. The animal may have no natural predators, and it may be quite happy to predate on native species who are not familiar with it. As a result, a bucket biologist can inadvertently destroy an ecosystem very quickly, by upsetting the natural balance which normally keeps the ecosystem in stasis. Within a few months or years, native animals may vanish, run off by the invaders, who turn the environment into a desert void of biodiversity, let alone life.

Most commonly, a bucket biologist introduces a new species to an area out of self interest. Casual fishermen, for example, may choose to introduce a fish species they like to pursue in the hopes of going fishing later. In other instances, the species may be brought in an attempt to manage existing animals and plants; working biologists sometimes do this when an ecosystem becomes disrupted for some reason. A bucket biologist may also do the deed by accident; bait fish can slip from hooks, for example, or eggs may be carried along on the equipment of unwary fishermen.

Organizations which manage natural resources attempt to discourage bucket biologists by posting warnings around areas with potentially fragile ecosystems, and discouraging notices may also be published in trade magazines and informational brochures about various regions which are aimed at fishermen. Both hunters and fishermen have a vested interest in keeping ecosystems healthy and diverse so that they can continue to enjoy them, and harsh words are often spoken about bucket biologists as a result, since they can ruin the fun for everyone.


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