NSERC Supports UPEI Students to Research Green Crabs and More

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In the late 1990s, Prince Edward Island was invaded by more than just tourists. Like other marine invasives, such as the tunicates now infesting many island mussel farms, the green crab is suspected to have travelled in ship ballast water. Originally from Europe, the green crab has crept westward from Eastern PEI, inlet by inlet, feeding on mussels and clams, and rivalling native crab species, the mud and rock crab, for habitat.

What does such an invasion mean for PEI, ecologically and economically? At the University of Prince Edward Island three students, led by Dr. Pedro Quijon, are conducting fundamental research supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) to find out.

"It is important we understand the green crab because it could impact the Island fisheries and aquaculture industry," says Andrey Malyshev, who is researching the feeding habits of green crabs under the guidance of Dr. Quijon. He is one of 15 UPEI undergrads supported by the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award. These awards allow UPEI students like Andrey to experience hands-on research that may ultimately inspire or guide their careers. "My NSERC award gives me the opportunity for the first time to put forth my own ideas and be part of a research program that's relatively unexplored. It is helping me to develop skills essential to continue on with graduate studies," he says.

A poster session at UPEI's W. A. Murphy Student Centre on August 7 showcased this and other NSERC-supported student research.

"These students are doing research that has direct implications on PEI, such as the impact of invasive green crab on our coastal communities. NSERC undergraduate research awards also give students the benefit of working with NSERC discovery grant holders like Dr. Quijon," says Dr. Donna Giberson, NSERC Liaison at UPEI.

Other NSERC-supported research projects include whether bioactives in blueberries and cranberries can reduce stroke and act as antioxidants in the body, the mapping of wetland habitats at Deroche Pond Natural Protected Area, using sea lettuce as a renewable bio-fuel, new ways to monitor the effect of heavy metals on trout nutrition, increasing the amount of information we can store on computers, the genetics of clam immune systems, understanding leaf complexity, and statistics that allow the use of infra-red spectra for medical diagnosis.


Lauranne MacNeill
Science Communications