Chuck Denney-Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
The population of the blue crab is in serious decline along our Atlantic and Gulf shores. But you’ll find a few growing in a surprising place - this “crab lab” in UT’s Ag Engineering building. Senior Jay Bevington and other classmates designed this system to raise crabs. Here a female can lay her eggs in peace without the threat of predators disturbing them.
Jay Bevington (UT Biosystems Engineering)
“In the wild, typically one in a million eggs makes it from the egg state to the adult stage. So what we’re doing is trying to increase that.”
The students built several engineering aspects of this project. There’s what’s called a refugium tank which houses microbes, and grows sea lettuce which removes harmful compounds from the water.
They also designed a filtration system which allows for the right blend of salt and fresh water. In short, the students created a realistic home for the crabs. No final grades have been passed out yet, but their Prof is impressed.
Dr. Paul Ayers (UT AgResearch)
“They basically started from scratch, designing the tank system, the pump system, and then learned a lot about the biology of the crab, and water quality issues, feeding, and so it was a project that started small and then grew.”
Funny story. Remember that cobra that escaped from the Bronx Zoo in New York? Same deal here, though not as scary or dangerous. A renegade crab crawled away for about 36 hours of freedom. It was found and returned to the tank. Barring any future escapes, the crabs should do well here. The idea is that someday crabs can be grown in artificial surroundings, raised to a certain size, and then set free in the ocean. It could even happen in some Tennessee aqua-culture operations.
Dr. Paul Ayers
“These crabs have been able to produce in low salinity areas, and so there’s some opportunity, I think, in some of the local farm ponds.”
Ayers is proud of his students for their engineering design. This is why students choose a major and future vocation - to do something important. And as for the crabs in the lab, this new kind of home could mean a better future for the entire species.