This summer, Kero continued our work testing the snail navigation behaviour towards food sources. His experiment focused how the animals performed in the dark but with water flow. That meant he had to first construct a cover in order to block any light from reaching the flow tank. Then 54 trials across 3 different treatments, comparing responses to tasty food (to a snail) to two control conditions. Then analysis of the video data began: transforming all the trials into videograms and tracking the different snails throughout out the trials.
Michelle Hodgson says: the beginning of the summer was filled with lots of reading and planning for the preparation of deployment. Katerina and I spent most of May and June in the Chemistry lab with Sophie preparing the siloxane-based surface treatments, while Sophie was away.
After the completion of our treatments, we were ready to assemble the frames that would house all 96 treatments. 1152 drilled holes and a countless number of zip-ties later, the assemblage was complete.
We initially planned to deploy our treatments on July 5th, but with a late mussel set, it was delayed until July 20th. While waiting to deploy, we had the opportunity to collect plankton samples in hopes to identify mussel larvae; which happens to be much more difficult than we had hoped!
Once all treatments were placed into the water, things merged into a regular schedule. Every week we traveled to the aquaculture farm to collect photos and monitor the progress of mussel fouling. Due to the late deployment, we will continue our collections until late September. After all the data is collected, we will be analyzing the photos to see which treatments are the most effective at minimizing mussel fouling.
This summer was jam-packed with lobster activities! Our field work consisted of lobster collections- both trapping by boat and SCUBA! In the lab Ella and Aaron prepared for future behavioural experiments with juvenile lobsters. This included preliminary tests (sometimes using infrared light and special GoPro cameras) recording lobster escape response (check out the great tail-flip below!), foraging, and predator avoidance behaviour. In anticipation of the incoming baby lobbies, Ella and Aaron also constructed a lobster hotel!
Russell spent most of July in Australia doing all sorts of science – snails, medusae, giant tritons, and Crown-of-Thorns seastars (and some fun encountering some southern biota outside of the lab, also). Much of the time was spent catching up with folks in the Cummins lab at the University of Sunshine Coast – working on manuscripts and providing advice to new students on their behaviour experiments. The International Congress of Neuroethology was also held in Brisbane, and our poster shared recent work by MSc students Areej Alansari and Alex Young on Lymnaea as well as earlier work on Tritonia that involved a whole crowd of past students.
Russell C. Wyeth, Areej Alansari, Shelby Brown, Jane Fletcher, Carmen Landry, Ella Maltby, Kieran Murphy, Patrick O’Brien, Hannah Stevens, Alex Young. 2018. Neuroethology of chemosensory-based navigation behaviour in the aquatic gastropods Tritonia and Lymnaea. Internation Congress of Neuroethology, Bribane, Australia. Poster Link
There was also time to sneak in trips to the Australian Institute of Marine Science to give advice on flow tank design and the new jellies research facility, led by Dr. Kylie Pitt from Griffiths University and developed as a partnership with the Gold Coast SeaWorld, to discuss experiments and analysis of behaviours in cnidarian medusae. Maybe new collaborations or projects in the future…
Congrats particularly to Kathryn Milligan, Nola Sheets and Emily Merlo, who started this off as course project at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre in the 2016 Marine Ecology class taught by Dr. Chris Neufeld and Tao Eastham. We were able to show that there were two species of Hermissenda present in Barkley and Clayoquot Sounds on Vancouver Island. One is supposed to be there, while the other is supposed to be in southern California. Telling them apart is fairly straight forward, when you know what to look for: northern Hermissenda crassicornis have white striped cerata (sticky up bits) while southern Hermissenda opalscens have white tips but no stripes on their cerata. With the help of Dr. Ángel Valdés and Ka’ala Estores-Pacheco as well as the Barcode of Life group, we confirmed the original morphological data with genetic analyses. The question now, of course is why? Perhaps climate factors? Other species were also found far further northwards than normal that year…
Check out the lay summary here, or the full publication here:
Merlo, E.M., Milligan, K.A., Sheets, N.B., Neufeld, C.J., Eastham, T.M., Estores-Pacheco, A.L.K., Steinke, D., Hebert, P.D.N., Valdés, Á., and Wyeth, R.C. 2018. Range extension for the region of sympatry between the nudibranchs Hermissenda opalescens and Hermissenda crassicornis in the northeastern Pacific. FACETS 3(1): 764–776. doi:10.1139/facets-2017-0060.
Jane will be studying novel ways to reduce methane gas production by cows, based on viral microbiome work. That seems a far cry from the sea slug navigation behaviour she studied in the WyethLab. But she has already been using some of the same analysis and data management tools learned with the slug work in her new lab. A great example of how research can take you down unexpected paths.
Just 6 months into her program, Ella has developed an ambitious plan to study the impact of contaminants on lobster. Her fieldwork has already started, which meant some very early mornings on some local lobster boats recently. She got a moment to rest after the proposal defense, but then it was right back to work on some extra sampling decided on during the committee meeting.
Everybody is pretty busy these days!
Here’s almost the whole crew – travel schedules didn’t mesh so we are unfortunately missing Katerina and Sophie, but otherwise we’re all in the line! From left-to-right…
And missing are…
WyethLab, going with the flow
I am a fourth year student working towards my BSc in Aquatic Resources and Biology. I have always been interested in animal behaviour and conservation so taking these programs at StFx seemed like a perfect choice for me. This summer I am working as a research assistant, mainly dealing with behavioural toxicology in the American Lobster. I am very excited to be working with Dr. Wyeth and Ella Maltby on this project and am excited to see what we can discover. After my undergrad, I hope to continue on with my studies in marine sciences.