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LaSSO Project Makes a Surprising Discovery

A LaSSO-funded undergraduate research project made a bombshell discovery about ocean acidification,

Yusra Soorya, the student researcher at Nicholls State University, and Enmin Zou, professor in Nicholls’ Department of Biological Sciences, found that CO2 acidification of seawater speeds up the hardening of blue crab shells. “This discovery is contrary to our initial working hypothesis,” said Zou.

Photo: Crab Shedding

“We hypothesized that CO2-induced acidification would forestall postmolt shell mineralization, disrupting post-molt shell hardening. But our key finding was that CO2 seawater enrichment speeds up shell hardening in blue crabs through increased shell mineralization,” he said.

Zou and Soorya worked on the LaSSO-funded project – Impact of Carbon Dioxide Enrichments in Seawater on Post-Ecdysial Shell Calcification in the Blue Crab, Callinectes sapidus – for nine months. A peer-reviewed article about their findings was recently published in the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’s journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

The Louisiana Space and Sea Grant Opportunity (LaSSO) program is a Louisiana Sea Grant/Louisiana Space Grant (LSG/LaSPACE) collaboration modeled after similar, long-established undergraduate research programs at both LSG and LaSPACE. Each nine-month project receives $4,000 in funding. LaSSO is directed at science and engineering students who are working on projects in research areas deemed a priority by both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The intent of LaSSO is to supplement and enhance the undergraduate academic curriculum by providing science/engineering students with a hands-on, mentored research experience relevant to space, earth, coastal and/or marine sciences.

“The LaSSO program is wonderful for those wanting to fund their research to expand on horizons that are untouched or understudied in science,” said Soorya. “From this grant, I was able to have funding for my project, which allowed us to make this discovery. We expected detrimental effects from the decreased pH, but instead found something completely different. None of it would be possible without the funding from LaSSO,” Soorya added.

For more information on LaSSO, visit