Friday, September 3, 2010

Ask A Grad Student: Miranda Westphal

Miranda is my crab lab mate -- she's co-advised by Dr. Sherry Tamone (my advisor) and Dr. Ginny Eckert (my committee member) -- and my office mate in the Lena building, as well as my ELISA accomplice!

Age: 34

Degree: Candidate for Master’s of Science, Fisheries

Current City: Juneau, Alaska

1. Describe your project, in 4 sentences or less.

I study the growth physiology of red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus), specifically comparing wild caught red king crab (from Southeast Alaska) and hatchery-raised red king crab (from the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward, Alaska). There are two aspects to my project: 1. is to determine how often the crabs molt (molt interval) and how much they grow with each molt (growth increment) 2. look at the fluctuations in circulating growth ecdysteroids (20-hydroxyecdysone) in the hemolymph throughout the molt cycle. Additionally, I conduct monthly beach surveys (during the low low monthly tides in Auke Bay) to measure the wild juvenile red king crab that live in the intertidal in order to help determine if there are any differences in growth that may result from rearing crabs in a laboratory over time. By understanding the early life history of king crabs, specifically how they grow and behave during their most vulnerable time (first few years of life), managers will be empowered to manage the fishery in a more informed and predictive manner; moreover, this research may be used to better classify (or “age”) young crabs that are encountered during surveys or other field research opportunities, giving managers and researchers a deeper understanding of how movement and behavior of differing age classes of juvenile king crabs in the field will ultimately affect the fishery into the future. (I know that last sentence is kind of long and a run-on but I only had four sentences!)

a red king crab's growth over subsequent molts (all photos scaled the same)

2. You were living in Florida before. What drew you to Alaska?

I loved working in the warm waters off of Florida but couldn't pass up the opportunity to work on an amazing crab fishery in the last frontier. It really was the project and my advisors that drew me to Alaska. The bonus is that Southeast Alaska is an amazing place to live and work!

at work on ADF&G's R/V Medeia with a blue king crab

3. What has been the most challenging aspect of your project? The most fun?

The most challenging part has been learning time management. It's a real challenge to fit in all of your research as well as classes, meetings, lab work and all of the other little things that tend to come up! The most fun is, without a doubt, working with live animals. Even though it can be challenging and time consuming, it brings me a lot of joy watching their behavior and watching them grow. I often feel more like I have thousands of little pets rather than research animals!

first stage juvenile red king crab

4. Will you continue to work with crabs after you graduate?

I sure hope so! I love working with juvenile shellfish and I really do prefer working with decapod crustaceans (e.g. crabs, shrimp, lobster, etc.). I am considering continuing on with my education and pursuing a PhD but I haven't made any decisions yet.

5. What is your favorite piece of crab paraphernalia?

When working with a specific organism or class of organisms, you really do tend to accumulate a lot of paraphernalia! Without a doubt, my favorite is my crab beach ball that I got for my birthday from my sister-in-law. I also really love the crab business card holder that I got for Christmas.

the greatest beach ball EVER!

a card holder with crabby bling

Thanks Miranda!

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