Yep, that's right: crab gonads. It's part of a study on male snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) reproduction looking at hormones, structures (the gonads), and behavior. I am comparing these reproductive indices between the visually-appealing males that have recently molted ("new-shell") versus the males that haven't molted in at least a year ("old-shell").
Snow crabs are a commercially valuable fishery in Alaska. You may know them as the all-you-can-eat crab legs at Red Lobster or the "opies" caught on Deadliest Catch. Just like those fishermen, I went to the Bering Sea to bring some opies home to Juneau, AK for my project. Every summer the National Marine Fisheries Service does a trawl survey, counting, measuring, and sexing groundfish and crabs in an effort to estimate population abundance. Last summer I got to tag along and help sort and count the crabs.
a sampling of brittle stars and baby crabs
My guys were held in the live tank, brought back to Dutch Harbor, then flown to Juneau! It was quite a trip, and because of some unforeseen plane issues in Dutch (and one of my coolers of crabs being LEFT THERE!), a lot of my guys didn't make it. But their deaths were not in vain, for I was still able to measure their gonads! Hooray!!