Author: Russell Wyeth

Summer research recap: lobster toxicology and behaviour

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!

Summer research recap: a trip down under

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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…

Publication! Opalescent nudibranchs marching northwards.

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.

Congrats to WyethLab alumn, Jane Fletcher – accepted into an MSc program at the University of Calgary.

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.

Congrats! Ella Maltby just successfully defended he MSc thesis proposal!

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.

almost the whole WyethLab

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…


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WyethLab, going with the flow

Aaron Cogger


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.

Kero Youssef

34308078_1517803748328419_4643162609674092544_nI am a second year student with a major in biology. Born in Egypt, I have lived in Montreal for 7 years before moving to Antigonish. I am very excited to start doing research this summer, as I will be able to learn new things and gain a lot of experience. I will be working with Alex, studying gene expression in the nervous system of Lymnaea. Doing this research will also help me prepare to do a master’s degree after graduating, in hope of applying to medical school in the future. My other hobbies include playing soccer, video games and watching anime.

Katerina Basque



I’m a second year student in the Bachelor of Business Administration Program, and I’m from We’koqma’q First Nation. I had not aimed towards going into science until I heard of this research project that was involving my own community. I’m honoured to take this position doing research for the summer involving anti-fouling. It’s amazing to be able to experience a different environment and also to be a part of this project because it’s beneficial to my community. I’m very glad that I got the opportunity to open a whole new world to me in the biology and chemistry departments. I’m really looking forward to spending the summer doing research, and will be testing anti-fouling materials in We’koqma’q with Michelle Hodgson.