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Bill Bigelow

 

Bill is a graduate student at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Growing up in Syracuse, New York, the importance of environmental protection was a lesson he learned early on. A once vibrant freshwater ecosystem, the Onondaga Lake watershed became the most polluted lake in the US following a century of industrial waste dumping and poor wastewater treatment. His first job in environmental science came through the Onondaga Environmental Institute, where he monitored local waterways to study the abundance of macroinvertebrates and the recovery of fish populations such as trout and bass. Following his undergrad, Bill shifted his focus to coastal ecology, which would introduce him to a whole new world of scientific inquiry.

 

Today Bill is based out of The Island School in The Bahamas, where he works as a science educator using his graduate research as a vehicle for learning about the scientific process. Bill’s current research focus is on the adaptive behavior and physiology of land crabs. To study these cryptic crustaceans, one must enter their world under cover of darkness.

 

Challenging to traverse yet undeniably beautiful, the coastal forest is home to a wide variety of native trees such as pigeon plum, mahogany, and mastic. As your flashlight pierces the darkness, you may find yourself in the web of a golden silk spider or staring down the length of a 2-meter-long boa constrictor. Only after the sun sets and the conditions become favorable will the land crabs emerge from their subterranean burrows, but you’d better be quick because these crabs can run!

 

During their active season, the crabs are harvested in a widescale artisanal fishery which acts as an important source of protein and a small-scale economic driver throughout the Caribbean region. Given the paucity of peer-reviewed literature surrounding the crabs and the fishery, the importance of traditional knowledge for their conservation becomes ever more apparent. Join Bill as he takes us into the secret life of land crabs, from their larval origins in the sea to beneath the forest floor. Hear how incorporating field, laboratory, and social science have interfaced to support the conservation of this iconic Caribbean fishery.

Presentation: Friday, October 21st