The National Science Foundation awarded a grant to two professors from LSU and a professor from Florida Southern College to research the effects of climate change on the Florida stone crab.
Assistant Professor Dan Holstein and Associate Professor Zuo “George” Xue of the College of Coast and Environment, as well as Assistant Professor Philip Gravinese of the Department of Biological Sciences at FSC, received $ 922,033 from NSF to study. one of the most unique and popular crustaceans.
The Florida crab is widely known for its delicious claws, which are pulled out by workers before the crab is put back into the water. Stone crab claws are one of the most expensive seafood products and the industry supports more than 800 workers.
The stone crab fishery has seen a 30% reduction in catches over the past two decades.
“It’s unclear whether this is due to climate change, natural fluctuations in population, or increased efforts to catch these crabs and it’s finally starting to affect their abundance,” Holstein said. “We don’t understand how sustainable fishing is. “
An important part of the study will be to determine how the different populations of stone crab are connected. As they migrate in the larval stage, Holstein said the decreased migration due to increased temperature and acidification could force populations to become more self-sufficient.
Gravinese and his team at FSC will collect biological data on stone crab larvae, which Holstein and Xue will integrate into a simulated environment that accounts for changes in ocean temperature and years of acidification in the future. The results of this study may provide insight into other fisheries such as Atlantic blue crab and Caribbean king crab.
“This will be the first study that will take all the data that we have accumulated and place it in a context that the fishery could potentially use,” Gravinese said. “They can make informed decisions about which habitats need to be protected and focus on climate change. “
Part of the NSF grant includes elements of educational outreach, which he says will be incorporated into K-12 lesson plans.
“The model we’re creating is going to be incorporated into an open-access high school lesson, so it will hopefully enrich the high school curriculum with knowledge of the oceans and climate,” Gravinese said. “It’s also going to be associated with student film festivals that focus on climate change.”
Professor Xue uses supercomputers to build models of the Gulf of Mexico based on data from past years and future projections of climate change.
“We want to replicate the conditions of the past and compare the models to make sure that our own can produce the conditions in the ocean,” said Xue. “We will predict ocean conditions in future climate scenarios. It’s like the weather forecast.
Ocean temperatures and acidity will increase in the years to come due to increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The three researchers underlined the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in bringing together biological data from the Gravinese with oceanographic data from Holstein and Xue.
“This is a really exciting opportunity to integrate high-resolution biological data on larvae into a simulation of how they move in the ocean,” said Holstein.