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Congress allocates funding for horseshoe crab research center

Blacksburg, Va. Congress has allocated $630,000 for horseshoe crab research funding to Virginia Tech's Horseshoe Crab Research Center (HCRC) in Blacksburg. Jim Berkson, who is an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife science, leads the research partnership.

"The congressional grant will be used to conduct research critical to the sustainable management of this essential species," explains Berkson. Horseshoe crabs are an important species at the center of a major controversy. Their eggs are a major source of energy for migrating shorebirds, they are harvested commercially for use as bait, and they are bled by biomedical companies to produce a chemical critical to protecting public health.

Virginia Tech's HCRC is the largest horseshoe crab research institution in the country. "Congress has requested that new research be conducted to improve horseshoe crab management, and the federal government has asked Virginia Tech's center to do it," says Berkson.

The new funding will support research being conducted by Berkson and other researchers in the fisheries and wildlife department, including Jim Fraser, David Hata, and Marcella Kelly; Randy Wynne, associate professor of forestry; and Jeff Waldon and Scott Klopfer of the Conservation Management Institute in the College of Natural Resources.

Research will include a trawl survey (counting the number of crabs in a given area) to estimate population size; a study to identify historic, current and probable future spawning habitat through geographic information systems; a study to determine the feasibility of using aerial photography to expand the coverage of spawning surveys (how often and where the crabs are laying their eggs); and a study to investigate the dynamics between horseshoe crabs and shorebirds.

Funding came through the efforts of Senators John Warner and George Allen of Virginia, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, and Representatives Rick Boucher and Frank Wol
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Contact: Lynn Davis
davisl@vt.edu
540-231-6157
Virginia Tech
21-Nov-2003


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