NAHCOTTA - One of two researchers at the Willapa Bay Field Station whose positions were scheduled to be eliminated July 1 will be able to stay on into the new biennium.
"I'm still here," said fisheries research scientist Brett Dumbauld, whose position was in danger due to the state's budget shortfall. Although Dumbauld's director assured him that his job is safe, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife isn't yet sure where his paycheck will come from.
Andrea Randall's part-time position studying ways to monitor and control the invading European green crab population will end by July 10. During Randall's last days with the field station, she will be removing green crab traps from north Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, according to Dumbauld.
With Randall's departure, the lab will not have research personnel dedicated to studying green crab, which is a voracious eater and threatens native species in the bay.
"We won't be doing green crab work," said Dumbauld, whose primary duty is managing oyster stocks in the Washington State Oyster Reserves. "I'm interested enough to trap once or twice a year. I would like to keep tabs on what's going on."
The original invasion of green crab into Willapa Bay began in 1998, with the small crabs carried north by El Nino currents, Dumbauld said. The following year, Randall trapped 131 green crab in Willapa Bay and in other bays. In 2002, she captured 81. This year, she has caught 11.
Green crab numbers have declined because the older crabs have died, and few new crabs - or "recruits" - have taken their place. In the numbers that Randall has found, green crab is probably not a big threat to Willapa Bay, Dumbauld said.
However, Dumbauld said, the numbers may grow more substantial without a control mechanism. Dumbauld predicts that the crabs would threaten clams first because the invaders are often seen high in the intertidal areas near spartina marshes.
Green crab wiped out eastern softshell clams on the East Coast, according to Dumbauld.
While trapping the crabs, Randall has found new recruits each year.
"We've caught no little recruits yet," Dumbauld said. "We have found females with viable eggs. Whether the larvae survived, we don't know."