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Lecture at Southern addresses crab issue in Long Island Sound

04/28/2010
By:

Kaitlyn Naples

General Assignment Reporter

The seventh annual Long Island Sound Seminar Series is designed to bring local researchers to Southern to discuss the ecology and health of Long Island Sound, said Professor of science education and environmental studies Dr. Vincent Breslin.

“We’re focusing on Long Island Sound because it encompasses all of the disciplines,” Breslin said.

Last Wednesday, Dr. George Kraemer, an environmental studies and biology professor at Purchase College in New York, presented his studies on “The Ecology of the Non-Native Asian Shore Crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus): A View from Western Long Island Sound.”

According to Kraemer and Breslin, this non-native crab is an invasive species that Kraemer has been studying in Rye, N.Y. He said this crab was introduced in New Jersey in 1988.

Kraemer said the crabs hide under rocks; during low tide in June, they are found almost under every rock.

“They are competing for space,” he said.

Dr. Breslin said researchers believe this non-native crab was brought to the shores of the U.S. in the ballast water of ships.

“The ships take on water from other ports, and then empty it out,” Breslin said. “So some of those crabs must have survived that trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific journey and were very successful in this new habitat.”

Kraemer said the crabs grow, mature, reproduce and spread quickly. This crab also has a wide home range, from southern Japan to the northern Russian coast, indicating broad temperature tolerances. He also said the crab has been found along the East Coast from Cuba to Maine.

“Now it is probably one of the most abundant crab species in the intertidal areas, certainly along the Connecticut shorelines,” Breslin said. “It’s a big problem in Long Island Sound, and there are a number of other invasive species – plants as well and certain seaweeds – that are problems.”

Breslin said scientists have said Long Island Sound waters are getting warmer due to the climate change, which can create an environment that is more amenable to other non-native species.

The researchers and presenters who have come to speak to Southern students and faculty have been former colleagues, Breslin said.

“We often identify themes in Long Island Sound and then identify faculty or researchers from universities, or government agencies or non-profit agencies who are doing some studies or research on those topics,” Breslin said.

By inviting speakers to Southern, Breslin said it is a good way for faculty and students to hear about the latest research. He said when it gets expensive to travel to other presentations or seminars, it is easier to invite speakers to Southern.

“It is a good opportunity to form collaborations,” he said. “We have had a number of speakers who have become involved in research we are doing here at Southern.”

These seminars are also a good opportunity for students to meet researchers and learn more about topics
they may be discussing in class. Breslin said he spends time in his classes after seminars discussing what the speaker presented. He said he also introduces his students to the speakers and has always received good feedback from both students and speakers.

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