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William Floyd High School Students Conduct Marine Research on Mud Crabs

Mastic Beach, NY - October 9, 2015 - Students in Ms. Victoria D'Ambrosia's Science Research class at William Floyd High School recently welcomed Rebecca Kulp, a marine ecologist from the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) to discuss marine benthic predators, which are organisms that live in sediments, such as crabs, mussels, sea snails, scallops, starfish and sea urchin. This research is part SoMAS' Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program designed to restore the health of the ecosystem by reducing the occurrence of harmful algal blooms and increasing shellfish populations, which ultimately restore the nutrient balance and enrich the diversity of plants and animals living in the bay.

Ms. Kulp's research involves crab predation – specifically the types of creatures that prey on crabs. Her experiments involve mud crabs exposed or burrowed in different types of marine ecosystems such as sea grass or shell beds. The results shed light on the crabs' survival rates in various locations and the types of organisms that are preying on them.

"The students' interaction with our community and research scientists is crucial in their development of experimental design, understanding how to conduct research, how to analyze the data collected and how to begin making changes that could help save our ecosystems," said Victoria D'Ambrosia, William Floyd High School Science Research teacher.

After students learned about this research, they constructed crab tethers in class (contraptions that allow you to keep the crab in one location and control if they can burrow in the sand or not), and deployed the tethers after school into Moriches Bay. The following week, students returned to the bay and collected their crab tethers for project analysis.

"This experiment primarily concerns the survival of crucial benthic predators that shape our community's waterways in different ecosystems (sand and sea grass)," said Ms. D'Ambrosia. "We are analyzing the difference in the survival of these benthic predators in ecosystems that vary in the level of complexity. The more complex an ecosystem is, the more places there are for juvenile organisms to hide. For example, sea grass increases habitat complexity. Unfortunately, the sea grasses of our marine ecosystems are in a rapid decline." 

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