Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Invasive species in and beyond the Atlantic Ocean (Heather Swanson)

My subproject in BLUE focuses on the biological effects of increasing ocean industrialization. In a time when air transport is coming under increasing critique (due to CO2 emissions), ocean shipping and marine travel are increasingly presented as eco-friendly options. Yet the ecological impacts of marine transport are far from benign. I will study how global shipping causes new species introductions by tracing the organisms that hitch-hike on the hulls and in the ballast water of ships that pass through the Atlantic Ocean. Ship-borne species transfers are not new: scientists first observed a bloom of Asian phytoplankton in the North Sea in 1903. But with the exponentially elevated shipping levels driven by the transnational economic configurations since the late 20th century, such challenges have been greatly amplified. Using multi-sited, more-than-human research methods in combination with research on trade and political economy, I will track growing concern in the Atlantic region about ballast transferred species (zebra mussels, comb jelly, and green crabs), as well as the less visible but often more ecologically challenging issue of the organisms that travel on ships’ hulls – a problem called “biofouling” that is responsible for a large number of marine species invasions. The feasibility of SP1 is underwritten by my previous experience in the study of multispecies assemblages in Japanese fisheries, and it dovetails with ongoing research on the insects carried around the world by the wooden shipping crates on cargo ships.


Swanson, Heather Anne.2019. "The Entrapment of Trap Design: Materiality, Political Economy and the Shifting Worlds of Fixed Gear Fishing Equipment" in Journal of Material Culture 24(4):401-420.

Swanson, Heather Anne.2018. "Landscapes, by Comparison: Practices of Enacting Salmon in Hokkaido, Japan" in World Multiple: The Quotidian Politics of Knowing and Generating Entangled Worlds. Keiichi Omura; Grant Otsuki; Shiho Satsuka; Atsuro Morita (eds). Pp.105-122. Oxon: Routledge

Swanson, Heather Anne, Marianne Lien, and Gro Ween (eds). 2018. Domestication Gone Wild: Politics and Practices of Multispecies Relations. Durham: Duke University Press.