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Katie Mayer

Katie Mayer ’20

"Effects of Ocean Acidification on Social Hierarchies of Juvenile Lobsters"

Major: Environmental Science
Hometown: Mount Arlington, NJ
Project Advisor: Dr. Josh Lord

Briefly describe your project.

The purpose of this research project was to investigate social hierarchy structures of juvenile American lobsters. My experiments were aimed to understand if these animals do in fact establish social hierarchies and whether or not low ocean pH has any effect on these hierarchy structures. I used GoPro technology to record lobster interactions and I used an analysis method to document social ranks.

Describe the origin of your project.

The origin of this project came from the exciting news that Dr. Lord’s lab was receiving some juvenile lobsters from the New England Aquarium. It was up to me what kind of project I wanted to do however, I was excited to have the opportunity to work with lobsters. In addition, I came across some research about crayfish that sparked my interest in looking at social hierarchy structures in decapods.

What’s the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights have they brought to your project?

The best part about working with my faculty mentor was learning from them all the creative ways in which I could conduct my research project. My mentor is extremely innovative which allowed me to find the best and most efficient ways to run my experiments.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

The biggest obstacle for my project was figuring out the type of bin I would use to contain the lobsters while the experiments were running. I had to make sure the GoPro had enough light and that there was no glare on top of the water in order to make the video quality decent.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

The biggest takeaway from this experience for me was getting to understand the day to day workings of a lab and how to manage your time. Time management plays a big role in making sure your research project goes smoothly. I look forward to using better time management skills in my future scientific endeavors!

What was the result of your project? 

The result of my project was a heightened curiosity and the possibility of doing more experiments. My sample sizes weren’t large enough to draw big conclusions however, there was a general trend of low pH lobsters having less defined hierarchal structures than lobsters that were not under low pH conditions.

In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian College?

I’m extremely grateful that I was awarded this opportunity and I am very happy that I was able to complete the project. Other students should take advantage of the SOAR program because it helps to spark interest in students that are curious about the world around them. The research experience you gain as an undergraduate at Moravian College is invaluable.

Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, how?

Yes! Due to my experience with SOAR, I’m excited to say that I will continue to experiment in the same research area that I did over the summer, with an Honors project. I’m excited to continue to learn about Marine Ecology and lobsters!

Have you, or do you plan to present this research outside the SOAR presentations?

I would love the opportunity to present this research at the next Benthic Ecology Meeting or other local meetings that discuss environmental issues.