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Teens help aquarium remove invasive species

A group of students hit the marshes from Essex to Newburyport last Thursday, pulling out 24 traps filled with European green crabs, an invasive species threatening the health of the ecosystem.

The students were from the New England Aquarium’s “live blue” ambassadors program, a service learning program focused on the coastal environment.

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“The program gives them the opportunity to really get their hands and feet wet, taking direct action to support the health of the ocean,” said Heather Deschenes, manager of youth development programs at the aquarium.

In other years, students have worked on eelgrass restoration in Beverly, the removal of invasive plants at the Middlesex Fells Reservation and Boston Harbor Islands, and other projects. This week, a group will be in Medford and Somerville to clear water chestnuts — another invasive species — from the Mystic River.

Among the eight students were three from communities north of Boston: Katherine Burns, 15, of Andover; Heresa Guerrier, 16, of Malden; and Abigail Muscat, 14, of Ipswich.

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They removed traps from throughout the Great Marsh, the contiguous salt marsh running along the shoreline North of Boston, and recorded data about the crabs. The information will be used for a project headed by research scientist Alyssa Novak of the University of New Hampshire, working with several partners including the town of Essex, Merrimack Valley Planning Commission/Massachusetts Bays Program, and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

“Our data indicates that the Green Crab population poses a potential threat to this system’s natural resources (eelgrass and soft-shell clams) because it is hyper-abundant,” Novak wrote by e-mail. The monitoring efforts will “increase our understanding of the structure of the green crab population.”

David Rattigan may be reached at DRattigan.Globe
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