Maria Thaker - Invasions Ecology Lab

William Smith College, Geneva, NY

Having recently graduated from William Smith College, my internship in the Invasions Ecology Lab was an interesting way to explore my interests. The first two months of my time at SERC was spent traveling to coastal field sites in Florida, Virginia, and New Hampshire, while working on a national fouling survey. This project aims to measure the patterns and variation of nonindigenous species invasion across several sites, thus I spent many hours identifying marine invertebrates and learning about population structures of fouling communities.

After working on the survey, I chose to conduct my own project exploring the aggressive interaction between blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) and European green crabs (Carcinus maenas). European green crabs successfully invaded the east coast of the U.S about 200 years ago and have recently been observed on the west coast in the last decade. As effective invaders, green crabs pose a threat to native crustaceans, shorebirds and other organisms that have overlapping niches with this species. While the general interest is to determine the direct and indirect effects of green crabs on the ecosystem, I specifically focused on the behavioral interaction of the invasive species (Carcinus maenas) and the native species of crab (Callinectes sapidus). Through laboratory experiments, I studied the effects of hunger and relative size on the foraging and predatory success of these species when exposed to each other.

My experience at SERC not only taught me about invasions ecology and unfamiliar fouling ecosystems, but also allowed me to extend my interest in behavioral ecology towards an independent research.

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