Budding Female Scientists
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Left to Right: Kathryn Bowers & Joycelyn Moulton analyzing green crab in CFER's lab.

Notorious for its aggressive and territorial nature, the green crab has been invading the waters of Placentia Bay for the last six years.

The infiltration of this species has grabbed the attention of marine biologists and fish harvesters across Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as two high school students.

Kathryn Bowers and Joycelyn Moulton are Level II students at Holy Spirit High School in Conception Bay South. Practically joined at the hip, Bowers and Moulton do just about everything together, including a new science project they began conducting this year on green crab for the Eastern District Science Fair. After hearing from family in the area about the problem of green crab in Placentia Bay, the girls quickly jumped at the opportunity.

“We really wanted to do something kind of cool and something that would be different and challenge us,” said Bowers. “So once we found out about the threat of this species in the area we decided to take it on as a science project.”

Through family friend Kelly Moret, who also happens to be the assistant director of MI’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources (CSAR), the girls were put in contact with MI employee, Kiley Best.

As the aquatic invasive species contact for MI’s Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER), Best has been working part time on her Masters of Science in Aquaculture since 2008. Her research is related to aquaculture concerns from the green crab.

In February, the girls began analyzing samples in CFER’s lab under Best’s supervision. The girls are researching the anatomy, life cycle and trends in catch rates from different areas in Placentia Bay, as well as the salinity in those areas.

“This experience will provide them with a good taste of field and laboratory work, which will help them decide what areas they want to pursue in the future,” said Ms. Best.

Following methods and safe areas suggested by Ms. Best, the young women are also conducting field work with their parents in Placentia Bay in an attempt to collect their own live samples.

During the school science fair earlier this month, Ms. Bowers and Ms. Moulton claimed a gold medal in the Senior Life Science category as well as best in fair. The girls will be moving onto the regional science fair in April at Bishops College High School in St. John’s.

Ms. Bowers and Ms. Moulton plan to continue their green crab research for the 2013 science fair. They will continue to conduct sampling into the spring and summer with Best training them under their parent’s and teacher’s supervision.

“It’s cool to get out there and get your hands dirty,” said Moulton. “We don’t know what we want to do yet, but trying new things is better than not doing anything at all. If we find something we don’t like then we can rule that out. It we find something we like, we can pursue it.