Student Research on the R/V Pacific Storm

The Oregon Coast STEM Hub was awarded funding from Oregon Sea Grant to support a series of research cruises in 2018 on the Oregon State University research vessel Pacific Storm. This new program is designed to provide at-sea opportunities for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students to conduct their own research, as well as work with OSU researchers on a variety of nearshore research projects. Below is a report from Sonora Meiling, an OSU undergraduate student who used this opportunity to gather data for her research question about the use of zinc anodes in crab pots:


High School Students Help OSU Undergraduate With Her Research
By Sonora Meiling

Handling crabsGenerally, commercial crabbing boats along the Oregon coast put zinc anodes in their crab pots not only to alleviate corrosion issues, but also because of a long held belief that if they don’t, they won’t catch any crabs. Speaking to captains of commercial crab boats from the Newport area, they reported that crabs are deterred from pots without zinc anodes by the heat and charge generated by the corroding steel. A year ago, I looked into the scientific findings behind this, and found none. When added to the crab pots, the positive charge of the sacrificial zinc anodes ground the pot, creating a neutral charge. So I decided to set up preliminary lab trials in which crabs were given a choice of bait in a steel ring with or without zinc. To my surprise, there were a significant amount of crabs that chose the ring with zinc.

Sonora and crab potTo further investigate this phenomena, during the 2017-2018 crabbing season I went out on the F/V Winona J, a renowned commercial fishing boat on the Oregon coast, and also on the OSU research vessel, the Pacific Storm. On the Winona J, I simply observed the deckhands work and recorded data from the few pots that they had removed the zinc from. On the Pacific Storm, I was able to collect my most valuable data yet. Over the course of a week, I went out to sea on three day trips in which I deployed paired pots with and without zinc.

The first day we deployed all of the pots at two different depths and two different longitudinal locations. Three days later, I was joined by juniors from Toledo High School to retrieve and redeploy the pots. Once on board, the students determined the sex, counted, and measured the carapace width of the crabs. Some already knew how to determine the sex of the crabs, and the ones who hadn’t, quickly learned. With three roles (recorder, crab holder and crab measurer), every student was able to participate in a job they were comfortable with. They did an awesome job recording data and interpreted, without provocation, there to be no difference in abundance of crabs between the pots.

Collecting data on the R/V Pacific StormThe second day of data collection, I was joined by juniors from the IB Biology class at Newport High School. Unfortunately, there were only three students healthy enough to help out. Fortunately, these select few were eager to dive into the pots. One student had clearly handled crabs before and was able to determine their sex on their own. Another student helping was promptly able to sex the crabs on her own once I showed her a few examples.

I am very grateful for the help with days at sea through funding from Oregon Sea Grant and data collection assistance from the Toledo and Newport high school students. My hope is that engaging in a real research project led by someone that they can relate to who is not much older than they are, will encourage the high schoolers to pursue their own research interests.



The Oregon Coast STEM Hub regularly shares opportunities for students to participate in STEM experiences. For example, the Hub is currently recruiting high school students to participate in a four day research cruise on OSU’s R/V Oceanus. The research cruise, which will be led by OSU researchers who study marine mammals and plankton, will take place on September 24-27, 2018, departing from Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Only students from the Oregon Coast who will be seniors for the 2018/19 school year are eligible to apply. Application materials are due by June 18. Download a flyer with details.