Professor-Student Research Studies Invasive Species in Local Waterways

July 28, 2022

As a biology major, Zach Craft ‘23 quickly realized that he was more interested in “outdoor biology” than working in the lab.

“I’m a huge fisherman,” Craft says. “I met Professor of Biology Dr. Mark Kuhlmann, and he loves studying crayfish. We put our ideas together, and I jumped right on board.”

Craft is spending his summer at the Pine Lake Environmental Campus, studying rusty crayfish – an invasive species currently taking over local waterways – and their natural predator, the smallmouth bass.

“When you look in the stomach of a smallmouth bass, they’re just full of these rusty crayfish,” says Kuhlmann. “They can’t eat enough of them.”

Kuhlmann has been studying the rusty crayfish for more than 20 years, observing as they replaced native species and become predominant. He’s often had student researchers join him for similar summer projects and incorporated their research into papers.

“I was interested in having this project done, and he took it on as his own,” he says.

Every Monday, Craft gets to go fishing for the bass, then on Tuesdays, begins the four trials they run simultaneously for six days. During that time, both Kuhlmann and Craft return to Pine Lake to take notes and check on the trials.

The findings will be the basis of Craft’s senior project, with a poster presentation at Student Showcase. Kuhlmann says their findings could also be the basis of a future paper.

“Depending on the kind of data we find,” says Craft. “Another student could pick up this project and continue it in the future.”

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