Emily Grason, graduate of UW Biology's Ph.D. program, and Crab Team volunteers are on a mission to protect the Salish Sea from one of the world’s worst invasive species. She can’t help but respect invasive European green crabs that are arriving on Washington state’s interior coasts.
“They’re charismatic,” says Grason, aquatic invasive species specialist at Washington Sea Grant, part of the College of the Environment. “There’s a real visceral impact when people see the way they can change an ecosystem.”
Grason is the only person in Washington state working full-time on the European green crab problem. She manages the Crab Team program, where over 200 partner agencies and citizen-science volunteers scour local shorelines for the troublesome crustaceans. Crab Team volunteers come from a range of professional backgrounds — no science experience required. Each small team monitors a site from April through September. Over two days, they set and check traps for European green crabs, and survey sites for molts: the exoskeletons (hard shells) that crabs shed as they grow.
No one knows exactly how European green crabs might impact Washington’s inland waters, but their destructive track record calls for action. In 2015, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife entrusted Washington Sea Grant with leading a multi-partner monitoring effort to protect the Salish Sea.
Many local marine habitats are vulnerable. European green crabs can thrive in conditions that are less hospitable to native crustaceans like Dungeness crabs. Their adaptability to varying levels in temperature, oxygen and salinity makes the species almost perfectly suited to colonize new environments.
Read the full article from the College of the Environment.