We are a research lab in the School of Ocean Science and Engineering at The University of Southern Mississippi. Our research focuses on plastic behavioral and physiological responses of marine organisms to environmental change and environmental stressors. This research lies at the intersection of behavior, ecology, and physiology, and integrates field- and lab-based experimental work with analyses of long-term observational datasets to better understand the functioning of the organism and interactions between the organism and its environment. In particular, our recent work has focused on (1) life history plasticity in response to environmental variability, (2) plastic behavioral mechanisms underlying migration across environmental gradients, (3) interactions between sexual and natural selection driving morphology and behavior, and (4) abiotic and biotic modulation of behavioral tradeoffs. Our work also has a strong applied focus, addressing management and conservation questions from an organismal biology perspective.


5/19/2021: Graduate (M.S. and Ph.D.) fellowship opportunity available in USM's Division of Coastal Sciences. Click here for details, and contact Dr. Darnell if you are interested in joining The Craboratory.

7/20/2020: New paper just accepted in Animal Behaviour: Balancing risk and reward: mating opportunity influences thermal refuge use in fiddler crabs.

5/26/2020: New paper just accepted in Fishery Bulletin: Distribution, relative abundance, and reproductive output of spawning female blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, in offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

4/17/2020: Former M.S. student Lennah Shakeri published her thesis work in Estuaries and Coasts: Shakeri, L.M., K.M. Darnell, T.J.B. Carruthers, M.Z. Darnell. 2020. Blue crab abundance, biomass, and survival in a fragmenting coastal marsh system. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI: 10.1007/s12237-020-00738-9. Full text available here.

2/28/20: The Craboratory was awarded a grant from Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant: Abundance, Distribution, and Fishing Mortality of the Mississippi Blue Crab Spawning Stock. Sampling will begin in April, 2020.

2/1/20: New paper just published in JEMBE: Darnell, M.Z., P.R.Y. Backwell, P. Munguia. 2020. Frequency and latency of autotomy of a sexually selected fiddler crab appendage. Full text available here.

12/19/19: We are recruiting an undergraduate student to work with us during Summer 2020, investigating fiddler crab behavior and thermal ecology. This 10-week, paid internship is based at GCRL but includes field work in FL, NC, and NY. More information is available here.

9/5/19: The Craboratory was awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society, Balancing risk vs. reward: thermal risk-taking behavior in the pursuit of mating opportunities in fiddler crabs, which will fund field work in Darwin, Australia in December.

7/3/2019: New paper just purchased in JEMBE: Thermal and desiccation constraints drive territory preference in fiddler crabs. Full text available here.

1/29/2019: The Craboratory would like to welcome new Ph.D. student Talene Yeghissian!

1/4/2019: New paper just published in Journal of Crustacean Biology: Elevated temperature induces a decrease in intermolt period and growth per molt in the lesser blue crab Callinectes similis Williams, 1966 (Decapoda: Brachyura: Portunidae). Full text available here.

Press coverage of our research: