Student scientists tackling green crab conundrum

YARMOUTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Seventh graders at Frank H. Harrison Middle School received national recognition this winter for their efforts to uncover ways to reduce the impact of the invasive European Green Crab on the clam industry and raise awareness about the situation.

The students were honored by Samsung as one of fifteen finalists in the company's Solve for Tomorrow Science and Technology Competition, and for their efforts the school received roughly $35,000 worth of electronics equipment, but the problem with the crabs persists and the students have their eyes on a much larger prize - finding a solution.

The students in Morgan Cuthbert's class have been working with experts to solve this riddle, including Dr. Brian Beal, a professor at the University of Maine Machias.

Recently, Dr. Beal visited the school and helped the students conduct an experiment to see if they could find inexpensive ways to protect clams from the crabs.

"This is important because it is giving these kids a chance to see what is going on in real time and out in the real world," explained Beal. "They're learning something that nobody else knows the answer to, including myself."

The students trudged through the mud and the muck of Pogie Cove on Cousins Island at low tide to put their experiment in to action.

Using ordinary flower pots, the kids filled them full of mud and then placed juvenile clams into the containers. They then dug holes in the clam flat and placed the pots in to the mud with the tops even with the surface. Some of the flower pots had mesh netting around the top, while others were completely covered with mesh.

"By collecting all this information and data, we are able to have a better understanding of the green crabs and their impact," said Olivia Feeley. "This will help us raise awareness and put studies out there for all these other scientists and people who are studying the same issues."

"It would take a while, but I think it can be stopped," added Sophie Walsh.

"I assume that the clams will be eaten in the open traps and not eaten in the covered up traps," stated Clementine Blascke.

They'll know the answer when they return in the fall and uncover which containers had the best rates of survival.


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