the data is starting to flow

Projects are really starting to roll this summer…

Ella Maltby and Meg Davies are recording tail flip, foraging and shelter use behaviours in lobsters exposed to contaminants.

Rachel Webber and Michelle Hodgson are recording lobster behavioural responses to prey and baits in the field (with great help from Grace, Dan and others).

Carmen Ucciferri (with some help from Areej Alansari, when she’s not writing her thesis!) are recording snail navigational responses to crayfish.

And finally, our work with We’koqma’q First Nation continues, with Katerina Basque (who is from Waycobah!) and Meaghan MacDonald (and some help from Amelia MacKenzie) starting get their first images of fouling for a number different surveys and tests of fouling and antifouling relevant to the We’koqma’q aquaculture operation.

Publication!

Amelia MacKenzie and Ella Maltby have their first peer-reviewed article. This project started as NSERC Engage with AML Oceanographic, and Ella working at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre testing how much (actually how little) ultraviolet light is needed to deter marine biofouling. With Amelia and Ella working together here at StFX, it grew into a 3 part study of UV light, showing it can stop development of three different fouling communities. Congrats again to both!

MacKenzie, A.F., Maltby, E.A., Harper, N., Bueley, C., Olender, D., and Wyeth, R.C. 2019. Periodic ultraviolet-C illumination for marine sensor antifouling. Biofouling TBA: 1–11. doi:10.1080/08927014.2019.1616698.

A belated welcome.

Lots of change in the Wyeth lab… New students have joined the crew, each working with another more experienced student to help learn the ropes of research. Carmen Ucciferri is working with Areej Alansari on snail navigation behaviour, Meaghan MacDonald has joined Katerina Basque and Amelia MacKenzie on the biofouling and antifouling projects, and Meg Davies is working with Ella Maltby on lobster behavioural toxicology. Meanwhile, Rachel Webber has started an MSc studying lobster behavioural responses to bait, and Michelle Hodgson will complete her Honours thesis alongside that project.

Finally, Emmerson Wilson is off doing other things for the summer, but will back in the fall for her honours (probably on snail sensory systems), and Alex Young is doing a last stint on that same project in Roger Croll’s lab at Dalhousie University before he starts to his PhD on the molecular mechanisms of neurogenerative diseases.

Carmen Ucciferri

My name is Carmen Ucciferri and I am from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I am going into my second year at StFX University, with the hopes of graduating with a Joint Honors in Biology and Math. I was always interested in participating in some type of research before I was done my undergraduate degree, and so this summer, I decided to become a part of the Wyeth Lab and to take on the task of studying the behavioural response to predator odours in the species of snail Lymnea stagnalis. I will be testing the snail’s responses in both flow and no flow condition using crayfish, which are a natural predator to this species of snail. While snails may not sound very exciting to some, I can’t wait to spend the summer working with them to further understand their behaviour!

Meaghan MacDonald

My name is Meaghan MacDonald, I am entering my third year at StFX and working towards completing a BSc in biology with a math minor. This is my first summer on the research team and I will be working on testing antifouling treatments in the Bras D’or lakes. I am from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and grew up spending my summers by the ocean. I am excited that I can still enjoy spending time on the water through research. After my undergrad I plan to attend grad school with a focus in the medical field.

Meg Davies

I am a second year student, originally from Caledon Ontario, working towards my BSc in Biology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. I have embarked on a journey to become a veterinarian.  I enjoy sciences and since a young age I have been passionate about animals. In previous summers I have volunteered with Rowland Mobile Veterinary Services and Southdown Animal Clinic, both in Ontario. This summer I am studying behavioral toxicology in the American Lobster. I’ll be working as a research assistant with Ella Maltby on this project. Along with animals, my interests include the performing arts. Whether it be playing a musical instrument, singing, participating in the dramatic arts or dance, I have experienced and enjoyed it all.

Publication!

Published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, this is a collaborative project with Scott Cummins’ group at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. We contribute behavioural video analysis alongside “secretomics” to show parasitic schistisomes change their behaviour in the presence of peptides released by Biomphalaria snails.

Here’s our summary: In aquatic environments, where the vast majority of animals live in darkness, key relationships are often formed and maintained by chemical communication (including smell and taste). Parasites with an aquatic life phase rely on an exquisite sense of chemosensation to detect host biomolecules (kairomones), allowing them to locate and infect their host. Our study identifies the first kairomone released by the freshwater gastropod snail Biomphalaria glabrata, an intermediate host for the helminth blood fluke parasite Schistosoma mansoni. This is a key aspect of the Smansoni life-cycle that ultimately leads to human infection, causing the disease schistosomiasis (or bilharzia), which is considered the most devastating human helminth infection in terms of global morbidity and mortality. The kairomone we identify is a peptide that does not appear to share any similarity with any other known animal peptide. This information will be helpful as we explore methods to interrupt parasite infection, and therefore break the cycle of infection that causes a major human disease.

Citation: Wang T, Wyeth RC, Liang D, Bose U, Ni G, McManus DP, et al. (2019) A Biomphalaria glabrata peptide that stimulates significant behaviour modifications in aquatic free-living Schistosoma mansoni miracidia. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 13(1): e0006948. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0006948

Publication!

Image credits: Ian F. Smith, James A. Murray, Rhanor Gillette, Tom Kennedy, Coen Adema and Matthew Meier

Wyeth, R.C. 2019. Olfactory navigation in aquatic gastropods. Journal of Experimental Biology 222(Suppl 1): jeb185843. doi:10.1242/jeb.185843.

This was an invited review and the final outcome of last year’s Journal of Experimental Biology symposium and now part of a special issue from JEB: Linking brain and behaviour in animal navigation. The review covers what is known about the behaviour and neurobiology of aquatic slug and snail navigation – finding prey and mates and avoiding predators. Along side that in the special issue are other reviews of navigation research in insects, fish, bats, turtles, humans and more. Check out the journal’s summary here: Navigation: from animal behaviour to guiding principles (with Tritonia front and center yet again!). A big thank you to Ken Lukowiak, Dennis Willows and Marc Weissburg who were instrumental in sending RCW down the path that led here.