One out of four U.S. and Canadian science educators who used live animals as part of their science curriculum released the organisms into the wild after they were done using them in the classroom, the study found.
However, only 10 percent of those teachers participated in planned release programs, meaning the use of live organisms as a teaching tool may be contributing to invasive species problems, researchers at Oregon State University reported Wednesday.
"Live organisms are a critical element for learning and we don't want to imply that they should not be used in the classroom," Sam Chan, an OSU invasive species expert said.
"But some of our schools -- and the biological supply houses that provide their organisms -- are creating a potential new pathway for non-native species to become invasive."
The study surveyed nearly 2,000 teachers in Florida, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, California, Connecticut, British Columbia and Ontario.
Many of the 1,000 different organisms utilized by the teachers are known or potential aquatic invasive species including crayfishes, amphibians, mosquito fish, red-eared slider turtles and other aquatic plants and snails, the researchers said.
"We need to work through the whole chain and educate both the teachers and suppliers about the potential damages -- both environmental and economic -- that invasive species may trigger," Chan said.