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Teens hit Maryland beach to study crabs

Wednesday - 7/23/2014, 3:34pm  ET

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Anders Hartmark and Addison Dowd at Baltimore's "Crab Lab" at IMET. Both head to Baltimore's Polytechnic in the fall. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

WASHINGTON -- While some teenagers spend their summer relaxing on the beach, others spend it studying some of the creatures that live there.

For one week this summer, a group of teenagers is studying marine life at what's often referred to as Maryland's "Crab Lab," where Dr. Sook Chung, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, will walk them through the study of the effects of the environment on Maryland's best-known crustacean; the crab.

Chung recruited students from Baltimore area schools and now four rising 9th graders have the chance to study marine biology in one of the country's premier laboratories. Elizabeth Wolf, 14, who will go to the Institute of Notre Dame in the fall, was excited to get the chance to study at IMET.

"I don't see why anyone would not want to spend a week of their summer in a lab," says Elizabeth.

Anders Hartmark, who'll be attending Baltimore Polytechnic in September agrees.

"I'm into science, yeah. Marine biology is definitely really cool -- and computer science is really cool, but there's so much out there to pick from."

Addison Dowd, a 13-year-old who, like Hartmark, will go to Baltimore's Poly in the fall, likes crabs -- under his microscope and with a little Old Bay.

"They're cool animals, but I also like eating them a lot. They're really good."

On the third day of study, the teenagers were examining the state of the microscopic crabs in trays of water with varying degrees of salinity.

"They will check the molting, the mortality and the food consumption" of the little crabs, said Chung.

A molt is a crab that's shed its outer shell.

"Sort of likethe way a snake sheds its skin," says Wolf.

The lab experience is made available, in part, through a grant from the National Science Foundation, says Chung.

The theme of the week's study is "Adapt or Die in a Changing Environment." The students will look at the impact of the changing marine environment while exploring possible career choices. All three say they have a strong interest in science. Chung says the week-long experience will give them a chance to sample one field within a broad area of study that could give them a leg-up as they tackle increasing academic demands as they head into high school.

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