Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One more thing...

... before we go into the new year and I forget about this craft! As you may know, I have a crab cookie cutter, and while I got my fill of crab-shaped cookies this year I wanted to make one more craft during the holiday season. That's when I saw this craft and modified it for you to make:

Nautical Cinnamon Ornaments

(I looked up "cinnamon crabs" to see if I could tie it into a Crabday, but no luck there, folks.)

What you need:

3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup + 2 tbsp cinnamon
Tools: bowl, cookie cutters, a straw, and ribbon or string

That's it!

Mix the applesauce and cinnamon in a bowl. You can use a spoon or your hands. This stuff is messy! I used a spoon first then finished kneading with my hands at the very end before rolling it out.

Total honesty moment here: I didn't know if my mixture was perfect. I watched this video and the woman says, "If this mixture seems too dry to you..." and I was all, "How do I know if it's too dry or wet?" I based it off of how frustrated I got when cutting the shapes out: if they crumbled (which they did), I added a bit more applesauce. If they stuck to the inside of the cookie cutter (which they did), I added a bit more cinnamon. It wasn't pretty, but at least I smelled good while doing it.

So, back to rolling out the dough: put the mixture between two sheets of plastic wrap then gently roll out to about 1/4-inch thickness.

Cut your shapes and place them on a baking sheet. Once they're on the baking sheet, you can use the straw to poke out little holes for your string or ribbon. You need to do this before they're baked!

shapes set and ready to be transferred to the baking sheet

Bake these bad boys at 200 degrees F for 2.5 hours. You can also simply leave them someplace dry for 1 or 2 days if you don't want to run your oven for that long. I did a slight combination of the two (I ran out of time with this craft and needed the oven to bake our Christmas ham!) so I let them dry for a day after they had baked for an hour and a half.

Once they're nice and dry, you can decorate them with paint or metallic markers, or leave them plain. Hang them on your tree and enjoy the warm scent of cinnamon for holidays to come! (Just don't eat 'em! Seriously. Don't.)

Some of the finished ornaments! (See the other crab ornament back there?)
Adam wanted the crab to have different colors
on the tips of its claws like a white-tipped mud crab:

Rhithropanopeus harrisii, aka cute little mud crab!

We saw these little guys all over the place when we lived on Long Island. I'm also a bit smitten because some of them are Polish (albeit invasive from North America), just like my husband and me! (We're Polish, not invasive.)

Oh geez, this post got away from me. Onward to the New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013!

Merry Christmas!

This holiday season was another one filled with friends, family, and cookies! Sherry Tamone hosted another cookie cooking extravaganza and this was our haul:

cookies, good company, and wine!

She made several crab sugar cookies for us to decorate. I took advantage of some of the broken ones by making this Frankencrab:

"I'm a monster!"

He reminded me of all the crabs and lobsters I've seen with multiple claws where they should only have one. No one can really pinpoint why that happens, but I imagine it's some sort of crossed signaling that occurs during regeneration and molting.

this claw belongs to an edible crab (Cancer pagurus) found off of the UK - 
normally their claws have a crushing strength of 90 lb/square inch, 
so I wonder if this one has 180 lbs/square inch!?!?

Frankencrab or not, everyone deserves a happy holiday!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sitka Spot Shrimp in Prince William Sound

I spent the first week of December on a boat in Prince William Sound looking for whales! I mean, can someone pinch me? That degree is really paying off!

(thanks to Jess from the Prince William Sound Science Center for this photo)

Anyways, I was out on the Auklet for a long term monitoring project and our first night out we had so many Sitka spot shrimp!

What a catch! And they're all headed too... weird...

No, they're not a new invasive species - they were just purchased for dinner.

Amazing! Thank you again to Gerald for feeding me right!

Spot shrimp range into Prince William Sound normally (remember this project where I processed spot shrimp, coonstripe shrimp, and pink shrimp from PWS?), but the ones we ate were caught off of Sitka. The fishery is great because they are mainly caught in pots meaning fishermen aren't dredging up a ton of bycatch in order to land these tasty crustaceans!

After polishing off all the shrimp, we used their shells to lure any fish under the boat toward our camera. And let me tell you, the pollock seemed to enjoy the shrimp just as much as the humans!

the smelly allure of shrimp carapaces!

fishy action caught in Rocky Bay!
(photo courtesy of Dave Janka

It was an amazing trip and I'm so glad I was able to nerd out not only with whales and fish but with my beloved crustaceans too!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Crab Turkey!

Not to be confused with a jive turkey, a crab turkey is something wonderful that I just made up. Because I can. It's a turkey made out of, you guessed it: crabs!

kind of, crab-dressed-as-a-turkey, kind of

I love Thanksgiving but wanted more Thanksgiving decor around my house (this guy is rockin' the "give thanks" message, but he needed friends). What a perfect excuse for a paper craft, amirite? Here's the final product:

so colorful!

And here's how you can make your own:

1. Download this PDF and print it - card stock is best but plain paper works just fine

2. Color in the turkey body and 3 crabs (Don't mistake the turkey for a penguin like Adam did. Although you could make an all black-and-white crab turkey that would probably look pretty sweet!)

the husband hard at work

my (almost) finished coloring job
note: the circles making up the crab body will be covered up,
so you don't need to color them in

3. Cut out the pieces - I know the legs are skinny, so there are a few options:
a. Thicken the legs with your coloring implement
b. Don't cut out the individual legs but leave them as one big ol' crab leg unit
c. Cut around the individual legs leaving a white border - I did that for Adam's turkey and it really makes the bright colors POP!

option a on the top and b on the bottom

4. Glue them all together - the order, from front to back, goes penguin turkey body, small crab, medium crab, large crab. The crabs will all line up with their big circular bodies (carapaces). To line up the turkey body with its crab-turned-feathers, I bent the legs of both the turkey and the crabs before gluing so that I could make sure it would stand properly.

crab turkeys playing amongst the pumpkins

5. Enjoy your new crab-inspired Thanksgiving decoration! I think they could make great place cards for the kiddie table or you could write dish descriptions on their little bellies.

Oh, I don't know if you noticed, but I added little tubercles to my crabs' claws. We've seen those tiny calcium carbonate bumps on other crabs like the purple land crab pictured below and the warty crab.

tubercles and turkeys - they go claw in claw!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Give Thanks (for crabs!)

It's been that kind of day where the winter weather is catching up with my nose and throat. But that's not stopping me from enjoying this view:

winter wonderland (aka my backyard)

Or from crafting a crab-themed Thanksgiving decoration! I started with a pumpkin that I had decorated for a competition at work this past Halloween.

ghost crab (get it? because it says 'Boo'?)

Oh man, I am so clever! You may remember learning about ghost crabs from earlier posts (like here and here). They are super speedy crabs that can disappear as quickly as you spot them, hence their name! But when you do catch a glimpse, they're quite lovely little crustaceans.

a ghost crab captured by Pat Barry in India

I thought a ghost crab would be the perfect Halloween-themed crab to bring to the crafting table. I made the legs out of popsicle sticks and painted the whole guy white. Then I simply wrote on him with a sharpie to really bring it home. After Halloween he underwent some modifications to fit in at our Life Aquatic party my husband and I hosted:

Adam made a man-of-war (not to be mistaken with an electric jellyfish)
and decorated the pumpkin as a sugar crab

I love this movie!

Today began the final transformation (probably) for our little pumpkin-crab friend. I added more stripes to his legs but made them fall/harvest colored (red, orange, yellow, and brown) then simply added a little banner saying, "give thanks". Thanksgiving is often overlooked, but I think it's an important message to remember! So, do what the crab says:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Birthday Prawn

This past October marked my 30th birthday (30!!!), and my wonderful advisor-turned-friend gave me lots of crustacean-themed gifts! The most beautiful of them was this apron featuring a brilliant prawn:

I'm sure there's a better picture of the apron,
but I also wanted to give a shout-out to the Tamones!

Here are some fun facts about this shrimp, Macrobrachium hancocki:

It is a native of the Galapagos Islands.

It lives in freshwater, unlike these prawns we looked at before.

It looks very similar to its cousin, M. crenulatum, but is less spiky.

M. hancocki has a little square patch of non-spiky furryness on its second pereopod
where M. crenulatum would have had spikes all up in that orange square

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gulf Life

I finished last month doing something that I love: being at sea playing with fish! I was on the Oscar Dyson for work with the Gulf of Alaska Project (my little part of that big project is looking at the bioenergetics of baby fish like walleye pollock and Pacific cod).

I love research!!!

Don't worry, while I was there I also looked for my little crustacean friends! First, along for the trip with me was a fellow crab lover:

Dr. Jodi Pirtle researched red king crab for her PhD!

Jodi was doing really awesome work with mapping the seafloor. Another researcher shared this special little find with me:


I'm not sure what kind of crab it is. We were trawling off of Kodiak, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was a little king crab, but I honestly don't know. Any guesses?

I didn't mind touching that little angel, but this next thing took some mental pep talks to actually handle:

yes, I touched that
(the board is in centimeters, so this gal was 43 mm long!)
(see this post for why I don't like isopods)

ugh, I hate to admit it, but she's actually kind of cute

Off the boat, I enjoyed Kodiak's crabbing culture. This was a beautiful view to start my day and a beautiful view to end this post. Enjoy!

crab pot sunrise

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What's goin' on

It's almost snow, Tanner, and red king crab season! The opening is October 15th! The limit for Bristol Bay red king crab is 8.6 million pounds and the reopened Tanner crab fishery is 3.1 million pounds. The snow crab quota almost 54 million pounds (down a but from last year's 66.3 million pounds) - they're kind of a big deal!

Are you ready? More importantly, are the fishermen?

(Turn off the closed captioning by hitting the "CC" icon for easier viewing.)

Mark Begich commented on the importance of the fishing permits: “These permits take hours to process. The paperwork trail is important so we know it’s not illegal crab caught by fish pirates on the other side of the Bering Sea. The paperwork trail helps Americans know the crab we’re eating is safe."

it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it!

Special Note: This is currently happening in Alaska. This post takes no political sides. This post is only to share information regarding the Alaskan crab fisheries. Please, no negative comments!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ask A Grad Student: Lauren Divine

Summer is ending and with it ends the summer survey season. (Luckily for me I'm heading out on a fall survey, so I still have sea days to look forward to!) Fisheries graduate student Lauren Divine went to sea last year and wanted to share her experience with everyone, especially those of you who haven't had the pleasure of taking a "cruise" in the Chukchi Sea!

Age: 27

Degree: BS Wildlife and Fisheries Management, MS Biology, PhD Marine Biology (in progress)

Current City: Fairbanks! Golden Heart City!

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

My project looks at snow crab in the Alaskan Arctic (Chukchi and Beaufort Seas). I am interested in how they fit into the benthic food webs in this region because they link lower trophic levels to more charismatic species such as walruses, seals, and whales. I'm also interested in how many snow crabs are actually in the Arctic, where they can be found, and how big they are. Finally, I hope to look at the likelihood of a fishery for snow crabs opening in the Arctic under future climate changes and fisheries management scenarios. BOOM.

an arctic snow crab! AHHHHHH!

2. You recently got to work in the Chukchi Sea (I am trying to contain my jealousy). What was the biggest challenge you had working on deck, and how did you overcome it? What was the best/craziest/most amazing thing you saw out there?

The biggest challenge for me wasn't the time on deck, it was the massive amount of time that we spent inside the boat. I was expecting to be on deck a lot more than we actually were because the catches were small, so adjusting to the large amount of time on a small vessel was the most difficult. Getting out on deck was the highlight of the day! I also battled sea sickness for about a week and a half, so getting out in the fresh air helped me a lot.

icy fresh air!

The most amazing thing I saw was a polar bear on a huge floating ice berg. We had been floating close to the ice edge for a few days and seen lots of bergs, but this one had an exceptional guest!

oh hi!
(This image was taken as an observation of a marine mammal sighting aboard a NOAA chartered vessel for scientific research. This animal was well past the required distance from the vessel at all times and did not appear to show any reaction to the presence of the vessel. The vessel proceeded at a safe speed until the animal was out of sight.)

"I'm just chillin' out" - polar bear

3. Why Alaska? What's your favorite thing about Fairbanks?

I was coming out of a master's program in Statesboro, GA and was really looking for a challenge and an adventure. This fit what I was looking for! My favorite thing about Fairbanks is the extreme light during the summer! I am outside all the time, the gardening is fantastic, and everything about the summers is worth suffering through the winters for!

live life Alaskan!

4. You're a mom - how do you juggle classes, research, and parenting? Was it a difficult choice to get your Master's degree as a mother, or was it a pretty straight forward, go get 'em plan?

I had Brynn as an undergraduate. I was fortunate enough to get to take a year off after graduation and spend time with her (while guiding rock climbing trips!). I decided to get a master's because I had not been having much luck with the job market after graduating with my BS, so the choice was kind of made for me. The master's program was certainly a learning trial. I am very thankful that I have a good support system in place. If an emergency comes up, I can always count on a friend or family member to take Brynn for a while. If Brynn has an emergency, I have the flexibility in my schedule to take care of it and catch up on my work later. I have been known to tote Brynn to a meeting or sit through the occasional lecture with my little side-kick watching iPad cartoons with headphones on! I think everyone goes through their own challenges during graduate school, mine are certainly not unique. One thing I will say, however, is that I have learned how to be very productive with the time that I have; it is what you make of it after all, right?

eeeeh - baby crab!
(it's almost as cute as Brynn)

5. What is your favorite piece of crab paraphernalia?

Good question. I am certainly lacking in this department... I don't own crab jewelry or clothing. I do have a head scarf that is pink and has tiny blue crabs and corals on it. That is probably my favorite, along with my "Snow Crab Love" mug! Thanks Molly! :)

You're welcome, Lauren! Thanks for sharing your photos!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crab Weddings

( from an Oregon travel ad)

I love weddings. Love them! And it's not just because my wedding was the happiest day of my life, or that my oldest friend's wedding was the most fun I've ever had. (That link will bring you to the FLASH MOB my husband, my sister, my parents, the whole bridal party, and most of the guests participated in!!!)

It's because of the celebration of love FOOD! Bacon-wrapped sausage, sockeye salmon, Dungeness crab, oysters, cupcakes, s'mores - it's all so good! So, because I've been inspired by all the celebrations of two people becoming a family, here I present some crustacean-themed wedding inspiration:

If you're lucky enough to live near water, fresh seafood is always welcome at any event (unless your family has any allergies... maybe you should check that before serving an all-crab buffet...).

steamed blue crabs can take a crab boil up a classy notch or two

You know how I feel about Dungies - if you can serve them freshly
(and properly) prepared like at this Pacific Northwest wedding, then go for it!

I love that not only did they serve lobster, but this couple really embraced
the glamour that comes with a lobster bib

And if eating crab just isn't your thing, maybe you can work in a costume or two like this amazing couple:

the groom and his friends surprised the bride with a "Little Mermaid" rendition 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Talk about brain freeze!

This poor little Chionoecetes crab was wondering around the sea floor, minding his own business, when something tempting bubbled up in front of him, just begging to be eaten. Little did he know that it was actually a methane seep. Little did I know that methane bubbles, at that depth and pressure, could become frozen solids! The skin of the methane bubbles, methane hydrate, froze to the crabs chela and mandibles as the crab was trying out this strange new treat frozen gas bubble.

The video, captured by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, is a little dry (which is surprising for an underwater video! Hey-oh!) but if you wait about 1 minute into the video, you'll see the little gas-mustachioed crab:

You can almost hear him going, "What the!?!?" Luckily it looks like he can still move his mouth parts and has full use of his claws, so hopefully this has just taught him to be a little less adventurous when trying new foods.

PS - I'm not entirely sure, but I'm willing to bet that this guy is a Chionoecetes tanneri, or grooved Tanner crab. (Thanks for making me guess, MBARI! You know how I am with scientific names!) The clues? Thanks to my Biological Field Techniques for Chionoecetes Crabs (Jadamec et al., 1999), I first looked at the way the crab's sides jutted out.

"oh, hi!"

We can tell that he's not Chionoecetes opilio or C. bairdi because his branchial region sticks out farther than the area below, called the lateral margin. Next, his carapace has a deep notch in the branchial ridge as opposed to a shallow one with a little spine in the middle on C. angulatus or a super shallow interspace on C. japanicus.

You can even make a T (for tanneri) by putting an imaginary line across the top of his branchial ridge:

see it?

What do you think? Either way, he's a cute crab with one heck of a story to tell his friends!

(Thanks to Ashwin Sreenivasan for the link!)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Krill Kill

One of the awesome things about my job is getting to interact with scientists who are working all over Alaska. Barrow is hosting some scientists right now, and they've been kind enough to share some photos taken in July.

nothing says summer like sea ice on the beach!

The researchers witnessed a neat feeding frenzy near Plover Point involving that most ubitquitous of crustaceans: krill!

 check out those chromatophores!

You may remember seeing krill in this post from Antarctica and in this post from the Gulf of Alaska. They are EVERYWHERE! And just about every marine animal seems to benefit from them in one way or another.

krill-filled water

What made this frenzy special was these krill were washing up dead on shore, so the birds were scooping 'em up right by the beach.

"nom nom nom" - Sabine's gull

Why were they washing up dead? Were they poisoned? Was the water hypoxic? No! Let's not sensationalize this, OK people? Since the ice had retreated from this area and the wind was just right, fresh water may have been pushed out from Elson Lagoon around Plover Point and shocked the little marine critters. The birds just happened to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of it!

Plover Point is right on the edge where Elson Lagoon and the Beaufort Sea meet

"I'll take my krill on the rocks, please."

The scientists just happened to be there too for some beach seine surveys. Hooray for great timing!

a beach seine topped by krill as they are washed ashore