I feel kind of like I’m an ambassador for red crabs. Maybe not a lot of people know about them, but the more we keep pushing the work and doing the work, we can start making some red crab noise.
What are you researching? I am researching the deep-sea red crab. What I’m doing on a daily basis is isolating some of their hormones, mostly to understand their connection to the their reproductive cycle. There are a few hormones that I’m looking at—the crustacean hyperglycemic hormone, which is important for them to regulate glucose, and also the molt-inhibiting hormone. Crabs have to molt in order to grow, and this hormone comes into play there, but it has also been found to regulate reproduction. My project is looking at which hormones control reproduction.
Right now, the red crab is a federally managed species, but there’s little known information about their biology, so we don’t know a lot about their reproduction and molting patterns. Looking at these hormones and studying their effects on reproduction is important so we can have an overlook insight of those patterns. Then we can take what we learn to inform the federal managers, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that set regulations, including catch size.
Why does it makes a difference? If you study here in Maryland, everybody wants to know about the blue crab. I feel studying the red crab is the other end of the spectrum. No one is really looking at red crabs and the things that people aren’t looking at is what interests me. Even though they’re not looking for them in the restaurants here, per se, it’s still interesting to me. Maybe my work can encourage other people's interest in the red crab, so I feel kind of like I’m an ambassador for red crabs. Maybe not a lot of people know about them, but the more we keep pushing the work and doing the work, we can start making some red crab noise.
How did you get interested in environmental science? My major in college at Hampton University (Virginia) was marine and environmental science and we were required to do an internship for graduation. My first summer internship (summer in 2010) was at Horn Point Laboratory where we studied nitrogen cycling in streams. That was my first field experience and just being able to go out and sample the streams, then take that sample back to the labs and get data from it, was exciting for me. I kind of fell in love with that aspect of field work and it made what I was doing feel relevant.
Why choose the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science? I came to IMET in the summer of 2013 when I participated in the Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center, an internship hosted by Dr. Rose Jagus. I was paired up with Dr. Sook Chung and she had a project on the deep-sea red crabs. She explained to me what she did in her lab and that they were now studying red crabs that haven’t been well studied in the past. We got together with another one of her colleagues, Brad Stevens, and they taught me everything I know about red crabs. Until then, I had never studied crabs at all or knew much difference between them.
Share an experience that stands out most about your time with UMCES. Definitely the research cruises. I’ve been on research cruises in the past, but I don’t feel like I did as much work as I have here at UMCES. When I did my first research cruise in 2013, we went on a NOAA ship out of Norfolk, Virginia. It was one of the biggest ships I’ve ever been on to do research and we were working 12-hour shifts.
We were doing basically a survey, but the reason I was there was to get red crabs. I needed red crabs for my research because when I got here, we didn’t have any crabs for me to work with. It was interesting because I was just thinking, OK, I’m going to go on this boat and get red crabs. Then the first night, they trawl to get a bunch of stuff on board this ship and it was sea stars and fish. I got to learn a lot on that trip because I learned more about different species of fish and all of what’s down at the bottom. I think we were trawling at 500 meters, fairly deep, and they moved up the slope, so I got to see what type of fish or other invertebrates were along the slopes and get a visual of what the community looked like there.
What do you like to do in your free time? Mostly I’ll spend my weekends with my son, Jayden. I’m an avid Pinterest person. I like to find crafts on Pinterest for us to do.
What’s the most important thing people can do to help the environment? According to my 5-year-old, recycle. He asks me why people don’t.
What are your future plans? I’m trying to keep everything open and not be as specific as when I came in because I feel like right now there are plenty of ways for me to go.