August 5, 2019

Three Centenary students conducting summer research into invasive shrimp specie from Japan that has invaded New Jersey waterways.

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J., Aug. 5, 2019—Three Centenary University students—Tess Horvath of Easton, Pa., July Schomp of Newton, N.J., and Pier Semanchik of Great Meadows, N.J.—are spending their summer conducting field research on a shrimp specie from Japan that has invaded New Jersey waterways. Working under the direction of Lauren Bergey, Ph.D.,  professor of biology and dean of special academic programs, the trio devised individual research projects occurring at several locations around the state to determine ongoing invasion population numbers and locations, as well as behavior of the shrimp and their impact on native New Jersey species.

The shrimp, Palaemon macrodactylus, hails from Japan and was discovered six years ago in New Jersey waters by Dr. Bergey and two Centenary University students. Prior to the discovery, Dr. Bergey had attended a lecture by James T. Carlton, Ph.D., a world-renowned expert in marine biology invasions, who later helped to guide Dr. Bergey’s work. The discovery of the invasive shrimp in New Jersey waters was recorded at the Smithsonian Institution.

While no one knows how the invasive shrimp got to New Jersey, it is theorized that they arrived via ballast water in shipping vessels. Now, Dr. Bergey and her students are dedicated to exploring how their arrival and spread will affect New Jersey’s waterways. “Invasive species are a puzzle because you don’t know what they’re going to do,” Dr. Bergey explained. “They could do ecological and economic damage to the existing ecosystems or they could have no impact at all.”

Senior Tess Horvath is examining food preferences of the shrimp and their behavior in the presence of food. A biology major with a pre-vet concentration, Horvath previously conducted research with therapy dogs under Dr. Bergey’s direction. “Identifying different species and examining how they react to each other is really interesting,” said Horvath, who plans on attending veterinary school.

Fellow senior July Schomp hopes her summer research on how the shrimp specie acclimates to the lab setting will help to advance her future career in the wildlife, fish, and game industry. While attending Centenary, she completed an internship at the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center, which is operated by the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife. “I’m very interested in invasive species, not just marine life, but wildlife and plant life, too,” explained Schomp, an individualized studies major with concentrations in biology and environmental science. “Why are they thriving better than native species? Why are they killing off our native species?”

Junior Pier Semanchik is studying two areas of interest: the effects of parasites and exoskeleton trauma on the shrimp.  She is also conducting water quality analysis on the collection sites under the guidance of Julie LaBar, Ph.D., assistant professor of enivironmental science at Centenary.  “This work really sparked my interest in water quality,” said Semanchik, an animal health major with a minor in chemistry. “One of our locations, in Tuckerton, seems to have more parasites. Water quality may have a tie to that. The ‘cleaner’ the water, the more parasites present.”

While Schomp will complete her degree in December, Bergey said Horvath and Semanchik will present their research findings at Centenary University’s annual academic symposium next spring. She is also submitting the students’ work for presentation at an international conference of the Crustacean Society in Austin, Texas.

Dr. Bergey said opportunities to conduct original research and present findings helps to position Centenary students for future success: “This summer research opportunity allows students to design their own projects and work through the process, providing real insights into the scientific method. Often, it’s the first time that they’re in charge of their own experiment.”

Photo ID

Centenary University students, from left, Tess Horvath of Easton, Pa., Pier Semanchik of Great Meadows, N.J., and July Schomp of Newton, N.J., are conducting research this summer into an invasive shrimp specie from Japan that has invaded New Jersey waterways.


Founded in 1867 by the Newark Conference of the United Methodist Church, Centenary University’s academic program integrates a solid liberal arts foundation with a strong career orientation. This mix provides an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in the increasingly global and interdependent world. The University’s main campus is located in Hackettstown, N.J., with its equestrian facility in Washington Township. The Centenary University School of Professional Studies offers degree programs at two locations, Parsippany and Edison, as well as online and at corporate sites throughout New Jersey.

Skip to content