For the 2nd year in a row, our first full lab meeting of the summer research season had to happen remotely. Still, it was fun just to introduce the new students to the full group (all 17 of us, this year!). Hopefully our 3rd wave will be short like our first two, we we can shift rapidly to data collection – big plans and new ideas for the lobster foraging, marine biofouling, and gastropod neuroethology and neuroanatomy projects!
Fully eight years less a month or two, since we did the 3 weeks of data collection on this project! Special thanks are needed for David McRae, skipper of the Kuroshio, for providing fantastic support of the field work, Louis Gosselin who, after I presented our stalled work at BMSC, suggested the paired analysis that solved so many problems, and alumnus Theora Holden who did the vast bulk of the slug tracking work.
The end result? Evidence that strong rare-earth magnets cause more erratic crawling paths as Tritonia exsulans move towards the magnets (yes the name T. diomedea is no more). The effect of the magnets led us to a new hypothesis for how the slugs (and maybe other animals) use a magnetic sense. For animals with no or poor spatial references because of either their environment or constraints of their sensory system, they may use the Earth’s magnetic field to simply help them move in straight lines – keeping movements efficient by avoiding unnecessary meandering.
Wyeth, R.C., Holden, T., Jalala, H., and Murray, J.A. 2021. Rare-Earth Magnets Influence Movement Patterns of the Magnetically Sensitive Nudibranch Tritonia exsulans in Its Natural Habitat. The Biological Bulletin: 000–000. doi:10.1086/713663.
Grace Walls is a first year PhD student in the St. FX and Memorial University joint program looking to unravel the mysteries of lobster foraging ecology. She completed her B.S. in Biology with minors in Natural Resource Conservation and Psychology from University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2013. From there she developed 6 different marine education programs for different NPOs and school systems of her native Cape Cod. Drawn to research, she went aboard the NOAAS Henry B. Bigelow which started off the adventure of hundreds of sea days spent on both fishing and research vessels around the globe. The majority of her time was spent with the Alaskan fishing fleets based the Aleutian Islands, sailing in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Migrating to the Baltic Sea for her masters in Biological Oceanography her thesis monitored the effects of changing environmental conditions on plastic ingestion and feeding ecology of benthopelagic fish. Now switching gears once again and settling benthically to work with invertebrates, Grace is excited to see where the next 4 years will bring her.
Well, it’s official: I am now Professor. I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of the promotion, but the news was circulated on Friday and the various notes of congratulations have been nice to receive. The best consequence, though, was the (complete) surprise Zoom call this morning with 18 current and former students (including some who I haven’t had a conversation with for a long time). It was just a quick call organized by Ella Maltby (true to form, the Wyeth Lab social organizer) and it was very cool to see everyone, even if briefly. It was such a surprise (nice work, Carmen, asking for technical help with Zoom!) that I was pretty flustered.
So this post is to do what I didn’t do very well in the Zoom call… A massive THANK YOU to all my students, current and past, whose enthusiasm, dedication, creativity, tolerance, etc etc. has helped me along the way as well as my family, department, and colleagues far and wide. Thank you, I couldn’t have done it alone.
This past weekend, two Wyeth Lab students presented their work at this year’s (virtual) Science Atlantic Aquaculture & Fisheries and Biology Conference. Carmen Ucciferri presented her poster on the electrophysiology of chemosensation in the pond snail Lymnaea (video presentation here). Lauren Sobot gave a talk (and won first prize in the Biology section!) on DNA cruciforms in Vibrio spp. (RCW is internal honours supervisor for Lauren, who worked with Nik Thomas at Dalhousie.) Great work from both of them!
The Biology Department at St. Francis Xavier University (Antigonish, Nova Scotia) is seeking a research technician to conduct weekly monitoring of pathogens in wastewater. As part of a province-wide project with several Nova Scotian universities, we will be applying a newly developed protocol that effectively and safely detects specific pathogens in wastewater. All work will be conducted in Antigonish, an on-the-job training for the sampling and measurement protocols will be provided.
Review of applications will begin Jan 4, 2021
This was a collaboration led by Jim Williams and his students Megan Fraser and Tyler Winsor. And it is the first ever botanical study RCW been part of. With our analysis and stats help, they showed that sediment from Boat Harbour that predates its conversion into an industrial waste treatment lagoon can effectively support the growth of both cord grass and eel grass. These are promising results for the planned restoration of Boat Harbour (or A’se’k to give its Mi’kmaq name) once the industrial sediment layer has been removed.
Megan R. Fraser, Tyler Winsor, Jim Williams, Russell C. Wyeth, and David J. Garbary. Assessing the viability of pre-industrial sediment prior to remediation using primary producer (Zostera marina and Spartina alterniflora) growth and survival. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. e-First doi: 10.1139/cjfas-2019-0415
We returned to active research in late June. Since then, progress has been truly outstanding. Five students (Rachel Webber, Megan Fraser, Lia Blackett, Laura Brady, Michelle Hodgson), working with 15 local have harvesters have collected 2500+ hours of underwater video of lobster foraging behaviours. Three students (Katherine Purvis [tech, actually!], Lexie Trevors, Allanique Hunter) have collected 4000+ images of biofouling for two studies, one a collaboration with Graphite Innovation & Technologies, and the other a new test of how ultraviolet light can be use for antifouling. Other fantastic work: hundreds of electrophysiological recordings of snail chemosensory responses (Carmen Ucciferri), neuroanatomy of both Lymnaea and Tritonia (Donica Larade), plus plenty of progress on manuscripts (Emmerson Wilson) and analysis and writing for MSc theses (Ella Maltby, Areej Alansari). Not much to say other than handing out massive kudos to the awesome group working in the Wyeth Lab this summer! Also, a special thanks to our Research Group at StFX for helping us get restarted, and our local community for keeping the pandemic situation manageable in our neighborhood.
A new first for the Wyeth Lab: a publication as a direct consequence of a conversation at the Canadian Society of Zoologists meeting. We (Shelby Brown [Wyeth Lab alumn] and RCW) have helped out Laura Eliuk and Jillian Detwiler with some video analysis of snail behaviours. The primary result: some interesting changes in how attractive one species of snail is to another species of snail, depending on whether the first snail is infected by a parasite that is also a parasite of the second snail! As you might expect: the parasite seems to make the first host more attractive to the second host. The implication, thus, is host-behaviour modification via a chemical cue! Looking forward to more productive work in this collaboration!
Eliuk, L.K., Brown, S., Wyeth, R.C., and Detwiler, J.T. 2020. Parasite-modified behaviour in non-trophic transmission: trematode parasitism increases the attraction between snail intermediate hosts. Can. J. Zool.: 417–424. doi:10.1139/cjz-2019-0251.