At the age of five, I was bitten with marine biology when a crab pinched my toe. Ever since, I have sought justice by eating as many crabs as possible.
Fascinated by Jacques Cousteau, I became a scuba diver at thirteen, solidifying my desire to become a marine biologist. After earning my BS in Biology at the University of Cincinnati, I spent a year as a full-time rock-and-roll drummer, before deciding that it was time to go to grad school. At the College of Charleston, I studied reproductive physiology of the knobbed whelk, Busycon carica, and learned that I did not like being cooped up in a chemistry lab, but preferred spending time outdoors searching for whelks, observing their natural environment, and learning about the ecosystem in which they lived.
Upon receiving my MS in 1976, I began looking for my dream job, scuba diving on coral reefs, but discovered that, following creation of the 200-mile EEZ, the Federal Government was hiring fishery biologists by the dozens. Seeing the writing on the wall, I applied and was accepted into the PhD program in Fisheries at the University of Washington. My first advisor was Ken Chew, who had 30 grad students, literally everyone who wasn’t studying salmon. A summer job as a NMFS observer was my first professional job, where I learned to key out rockfish (all those spines!). After taking classes for two years, I still had no research funding, so I took a job with the Washington Department of Fisheries. That led me to Grays Harbor, Washington, where I began studying the impact of dredging on Dungeness crabs. In my spare time, I began writing grant proposals and eventually garnered a contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers for the amazing sum of $70,000 to support my PhD research. With grant in hand, I went back to the University, enlisted David Armstrong as my new advisor, and began my work, finally receiving my PhD in June 1982, with the thesis topic, “Distribution, abundance, and food habits of the Dungeness Crab, in Grays Harbor, Washington.”
After graduation, I landed a permanent job with NMFS in Kodiak Alaska, where I stayed for 22 years. During that time, I studied reproductive biology of snow, Tanner, and king crabs; spent a year in Japan learning aquaculture; and started a king crab aquaculture project. I also made over 60 dives in submersibles (including Alvin) to study deep-sea crabs and discovered the 1860 wreck of the Russian 3-masted ship “Kad’yak,” which is the subject of a book that I recently published.
Needing a change, I left NOAA in 2006 for academia, eventually coming to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where I am now a tenured full professor of Marine Science. My students and I still study reproductive biology of crabs, and I eat them at every opportunity.