Emily Dombrowski, College of Charleston
Reflections: In my first and second posts, I discussed how horseshoe crabs are very important to human health and ecosystems and how I evaluated relative levels of stress in horseshoe crabs. Over the course of 10 weeks, I had the opportunity to explore this project and determine findings. My research questions and methods brought me to the following findings:
- As temperature increases…
- Horseshoe crab heart rate increases
- Healthy immune cells increase
- In younger crabs, as temperature increases…
- Horseshoe crab amebocyte (blood cell) density increases
Some of my results were expected. We hypothesized that as temperature increased, so would horseshoe crab heart rate. This can indicate higher responses tp stress. The results about blood cells and immune cells were interesting. These indicate that as temperature increases, crabs may be having an immune response. More studies will be needed to confirm these findings, but now we will have a baseline for continued research about horseshoe crabs, age, temperature, and stress!
Overall, this project taught me a lot about the behind the scenes aspects of research. I had thought about all of the work that goes into maintaining research organisms, but I never considered how much time is required to take care of animals. I would spend hours each week feeding and taking care of the horseshoe crabs, and I had 26 pages of notes about water quality that we needed to maintain the crabs. This information was barely mentioned in any presentation or manuscript. The time that I put into this project gives me a lot more respect for other scientific studies with bigger sample sizes and organisms that require more care.
Additionally, this summer showed me how scientists work together to get their results. My fellow lab members were instrumental to my research process. I needed help collecting horseshoe crabs, gathering data, and practicing my presentation skills. I also had the opportunity to help my peers in the REU program with their projects. I really enjoyed the collaborative nature of our projects. It makes me more confident to continue with science and enthusiastic to see all the work that goes into my peers’ studies.
I would like to thank all members of the Beers Lab: Dr. Jody Beers, Jessica Daly, Augustus Snyder, and Jacob Cashour. Special thanks to Dr. Daniel Sasson and the Department of Natural Resources for collaboration during this project, and to Dr. Robert Podolsky for overseeing the 2021 Fort Johnson REU. This research was supported by the Fort Johnson REU Program, NSF. DBI-1757899.