Pacific whiteleg shrimp. The small clear box in which the shrimp sits is the treadmill at the College of Charleston and the Hollings Marine Laboratory. (Photo by Lou Burnett)

Several years ago Republicans seized on a National Science Research-funded research project of a shrimp jogging on a miniature treadmill as a prime, and ridiculous, example of wasteful government spending.

Various critics said it cost taxpayers anywhere from $500,000 to $3 million. And scientists have tried (futilely) for years to explain the significance of testing an exercising shrimp.

Now David Scholnick, a professor of marine biology at Pacific University in Oregon, who takes credit for the study, is trying again to set the record straight with an article this week in Chronicle of Higher Education where he introduces himself like someone at an AA meeting.

“My name is David, and I am the marine biologist who put a shrimp on a treadmill—a burden I will forever carry,” he writes.

But Scholnick goes on to defend the study, and belittle his critics. He says the treadmill itself was made from spare parts that cost him $47 out of pocket to assemble. Another scientist on the study told NPR in August 2011 that the federal research grant money went to a lot of different studies and the treadmill was a “small part of it.”

In this latest defense, Scholnick explains that the study was intended to see how well shrimp could fend off infection.

“Given that every teaspoon of seawater can contain millions of bacteria, it does not take a mental giant to understand that the health of marine organisms and the safety of the seafood we eat are closely related,” he wrote.

He then offers to sell the treadmill for one-third of the $3 million price tag some cited.

“For the bargain price of $1-million (shrimp not included)—that’s 67 percent off the price listed by Forbes.com—a lucky individual, perhaps Rep. Lamar Smith (the Texas Republican and chairman of the House science committee), can literally put their money and their shrimp where their mouth is,” he concludes.

Then you, too, could do this at home: