Featured: Leah Maurer of IMET
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Advisor: Dr. Sook Chung, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology
Research Area: I’m studying the early development of the blue crab. Dietary conditions influence how crustaceans grow. In aquaculture, we want animals to reach maturity—or a good size for sale—as soon as possible to make a profit. I am studying if changing dietary conditions may help crabs reach maturity faster or bigger.
Why it makes a difference: Many crustaceans species, especially shrimp, are reared in hatcheries for commercial sale. The blue crab industry currently just focuses on soft shell crabs, so ideally my research would help optimize blue crab production in tanks. The blue crab is an important species economically, socially, and environmentally for the Chesapeake Bay and has been under decline since the 1990s. My research also has potential to be applied to other crustaceans, such as shrimp, lobster, and other types of crabs.
Why did you get interested in environmental science? In fifth grade, the Oyster Restoration Partnership came to my school, and they showed us how the urban environment can hurt the Bay. Ever since then, I’ve been interested in the environment. It just so happens that I landed a position working with blue crab, which is a very important species in the Bay.
Share an experience that stands out most about your time with UMCES: I started here at IMET through a high school program that required students to do a research project. I learned the protocols of rearing blue crab, fish larvae, and live feed for blue crab. After my research project concluded, IMET hired me on as part-time employee, and I haven't left! It was great being a master’s student with eight years already under my belt in a field I wanted to study.
Why did you choose UMCES? I had known my advisor, Sook Chung, for many years prior entering graduate school. She’s fantastic. She really looks after you.
What are your future plans? I plan to graduate next spring and move to an industry or government job working around fisheries, either with aquaculture or wild fisheries.