On Campus: Space Invaders

A revealing look at UB's personal and public spaces

Helen Domske, 228 Jarvis Hall, North Campus

An expert in the Great Lakes ecosystem, water pollution and invasive marine species—think hungry Asian carp and clingy zebra mussels—Helen Domske (MS ’85) co-teaches a Great Lakes ecology course for UB undergrads and serves as a senior educator for the New York Sea Grant, part of a national partnership between the federal government and local universities. Her office bears witness to her years spent teaching the public how to protect this important natural resource.

The office of Helen Domske, associate director of the UB Great Lakes Program. Photo: Douglas Levere

A - Ship’s flag

Last year I took 20 middle and high school teachers from around the state on an EPA research vessel for a week on Lake Ontario. Afterward, they made me this flag with wonderful comments, like how life-changing the experience was.

B - “Easy” button

This is from a Sea Grant colleague who once told me, “You always make things look so easy.” Trust me, it can be hard work!

C - Bighead and silver (flying) carp

Both of these invasive Asian species feed on plankton, which is vital to the Lakes’ food web. They haven’t entered the Lakes yet, which is a good thing.

D - Specimen jars

The big jar contains a lamprey, while the others house gobies, mussels and other invasive species that are now in the Lakes, unfortunately. I use them as teaching tools; even college students enjoy seeing the real thing.

E - Mako shark jaw

I got this from a Jamaican biologist. I also have a conch shell, sea urchins and a blowfish that I use to teach students about the ocean.

F - Sea Grant plaque

I won this for a project I did with the Pennsylvania and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. We managed to prevent 3 million [pharmaceutical] pills from entering the Lakes. Many people don’t realize that water treatment plants aren’t designed to filter out human medications. So don’t rush to flush! Also, take advantage of local “take back” days and return expired medications.

G - “Thank you Ms. Domske …”

Oh, this was so well done! It’s a zebra mussel thank-you note from some students, designed to look biologically correct.

H - Framed fish print

It’s from an Environment Canada colleague, of some of the bigger predator species in the Lakes, including muskie, walleye, rainbow trout and bass.