Green Crab Monitoring

Crab Team Welcomes Zach Bengtsson as Student Assistant

May 23, 2024

This winter, WSG Crab Team was joined by a second graduate student assistant, Zach Bengtsson. Zach is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences researching stress responses of marine invertebrates. We asked Zach to share some of his story with us to introduce himself to the broader Crab Team community.

What brought you to Crab Team? What interested you in the position?

Teaching students about HEOR as a TA for UW’s Applied Marine Animal Physiology course. Photo: Andy Nutzhorn

My current graduate work is very technical and often has me sitting at a computer most days working with code. I’m learning so much about how to conduct computational research, but I’ve always been most passionate about working on applied issues with stakeholders and community members. I find the field of marine ecology fascinating, and I love having the opportunity to engage in this fascination with other people. Crab Team is a really unique opportunity for me to get back out in the world touching crabs, trudging around in the mud, and working with an amazing group of people on an issue I really care about.

What is some background on you that Crab Team monitors might be interested to know?

As a researcher, I work with many different species. I am a geneticist and ecophysiologist looking at what gene expression in corals and oysters can tell us about the health of coastal ecosystems under climate change impacts. I’m originally from landlocked Colorado Springs, CO, so I know how lucky we are to live so close to such amazing marine places. I’m always ready to talk about any and all invertebrates, and I’m an avid amateur entomologist.

Collecting water samples for sediment concentration analysis in Plum Island Estuary, MA as a part of a NASA DEVELOP project. Photo: Sydney Neugebauer

What other personal or professional experiences that you’ve had relate to what you might be doing as the student assistant?

I spent a lot of time between undergrad and grad school exploring what it looks like to work in applied science and natural resource management. I’ve worked in medical labs, with The Nature Conservancy, and with NASA Applied Sciences. Whether I was looking at satellite images of estuaries or DNA traces of invasive fish, I saw how important it is to work with community, state, and local organizations to address ecological issues. And I have to say it’s also a lot more fun.

What experiences you’ve had so far stand out to you?

I really enjoyed attending my first monitor training in Port Townsend. I was so impressed by the expertise and experience of Crab Team monitors. It’s one of the most wide-reaching and consistent monitoring networks I’ve ever seen and you can tell how much they all care about their coastal home. I also had an amazing time out in the field placing temp loggers with Lisa and Elyse. I had my Crab Team right of passage falling in the mud at two separate sites, so I feel like I really am a part of the team.

What are you particularly looking forward to as part of the program?

Zach, Lisa, and Elyse placing a temperature logger at the beginning of the 2024 field season. Photo: Lisa Watkins

I’m looking forward to getting to know Crab Team sites even half as well as the monitors. Each site has its own special identity. There is always something to see and feel connected with. I’m really excited to get to know the monitors better and hear all of their insider knowledge about each site. I’m particularly excited to be out and about during my first field season over the summer!

— Zach Bengtsson 

Header Photo: Zach in the marsh at Plum Island Estuary after completing vegetation extent mapping fieldwork. Photo: Zach Bengtsson