As mentioned below, our CI group had the opportunity to travel to the ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve over spring break. This area of the South Carolina coast consists of over 130,000 acres of estuary, named for the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers. One of the most interesting aspects of this trip was collecting and processing the blue crabs. Every day, one CI student would accompany graduate students Kirk and T.J. on one of the boats to set crab pots out in different areas of the rivers. Back at Mosquito Creek, Dr. Childress and two other students would set crab pots out right in front of our station.
At the end of the day, all crabs collected would be processed in the lab. In order to process the crabs as fast as possible, we formulated an assembly line. This method allowed for official “crab wranglers” to pull the crabs in the basket off of one another, tag them with color-coded bracelets, as well as determine sex, weight, and carapace width. One person (usually me) would write down all the data and pass the crabs down the line. Crabs would then have a small blood sample taken from in between the last walking leg and swimmerette (easier said than done). Lastly, crabs posed for a quick picture and then were released back into Mosquito Creek. Recaptured crabs were identified by their bracelets and gave us valuable information regarding crab movement in the estuary. Collecting and processing blue crabs was an interesting way to become familiar with blue crab behavior (and resilience). Although there were a couple of painful pinches, our team was able to process 399 crabs while at the ACE Basin…and managed to have fun while doing it!