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Matt Anderson working in the lab, holding a crab

Matthew Anderson ’21

"Interactions between juvenile blue crabs and Asian shore crabs"

Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Tabernacle, NJ
Project Advisor: Dr. Josh Lord

Briefly describe your project.

I would place the crabs into a container with a single piece of food in the center and a go pro attached to the top. This container was then placed inside another container with a red light on top, making it dark for the crabs (which can’t see red light very well) while keeping it bright enough for the camera to see what was going on. I would record the interactions between the crabs and then watch the footage, analyzing it and giving points for different behaviors such as acts of aggression, submission, and eating.

Describe the origin of your project.

I went to Dr. Lord and asked to do soar with a different idea, but later he suggested this idea as there isn’t any other research looking at how these crabs interact and I thought it would be neat to collect some novel data.

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

Dr. Lord was a blast to work with, he was able to challenge my thinking by being hands-off enough that I could really figure things out on my own without doing the project for me. He was always there to help and give advice, but at the end of the day he would leave it up to me to research past experiments and do what I think would work out best for my own methods. He also helped me analyze the data but would also ask why we would use the equations we used, in order to make sure I wasn’t just getting results but understanding them too. He also brought a good sense of humor to the lab and kept things enjoyable. It wasn’t just boring work; things were kept lively.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

My biggest obstacle was trying to find the best way to run my experiments. While I did have previous studies on crab interactions to base it off of, the descriptions could only do so much. I spent about 2 weeks trying out slightly different container sizes, shapes and what to put in them to most accurately judge that interactions were not because the container was so small or too large to let them interact. 

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest take away from this project is that I really enjoy doing research and talking to others about research. Going to different conferences and meetings and conversing with others about all the hardships and importance of not only what I’ve been doing, but what they’ve done as well. I got to spend my summer sharpening skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication as well as making a difference with research.

What was the result of your project? 

My project showed that when in a 1-on-1 situation, Asian shore crabs would tend to outcompete the blue crab in acts of aggression, yet when there was two of each species, that gap in their scoring began to decrease. The blue crabs were actually scoring higher and more on par with that of the Asian shore crab. This is good as in the wild there is more likely to be more than just one type of crab in any given area.

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 feel blessed to have been given this opportunity. To be able to spend the summer doing research (and being paid to do so on top of that) has been one of the greatest experiences of my time at Moravian. I gained so much experience, as well as made so many amazing memories with all the other programming that SOAR offers on top of it. Other students should take advantage of SOAR so that they can not only get involved with the world or research, but also grow personally from the experience.

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

I do plan to continue on with research at Moravian, although I do not anticipate continuing the exact project that I did during SOAR.

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

I do plan on presenting this research at scholars’ day, as well at a Tri-Beta meeting, in order to help spread the great opportunity of research towards many other students. Dr. Lord also mentioned possibly going to other Marine ecology-related conferences, although I’m not too certain on the specifics of those.