Author: Russell Wyeth

Outstanding, Ella Maltby!

Ella Maltby has received the St. Francis Xavier University Outstanding Graduate Research Award! Ella finished her MSc in fall 2021, and her research has been judged to be the top graduate work of the year. Here’s an excerpt from her nomination package:

Maltby’s thesis plays a crucially significant role in the science that will surround the complicated historical, societal, economic, and political issues related to Boat Harbour, its remediation, and the knock-on effects in both the fishing and forestry industries. Maltby’s first chapter surveyed contaminants at three different sites in Northumberland Strait, across three different age classes of lobsters.  Maltby found that overall, contaminant levels were low across the three sites and all age classes.  The only contaminant of concern was Arsenic, which, as has been found in a range of studies of both marine and terrestrial studies, tends to be elevated in and around Nova Scotia, linked to our underlying geology. Any future assessments of the effects of remediation of Boat Harbour will rely on Maltby’s baseline study as a comparison prior to remediation or prior to effluent release.

Maltby’s second chapter reports the first attempt at developing a behavioural bioassay for lobster.  Maltby found effects of the common contaminant Cadmium on several aspects of behaviour.  This proof of principle supports the notion that such behavioural bioassays could be used for future testing of pollutant effects on lobsters.  On the other hand, the relatively subtle behaviour effects combined with some effects on mortality, suggest that behaviours are relatively robust to the toxic effects of Cadmium at least, and thus there is a relatively narrow window in which behavioural effects could be detected before the pollutant becomes lethal. 

Congrats again Ella!


Photo by M Gerhartz

Congratulations to Emmerson Wilson and Kieran Murphy for this review of the ecology of Ciona. Four closely related species have been recently recognized, but no one had fully parsed out how all the past studies of ecology apply to the different species. About 8 years ago, Kieran began this process as part of his MSc, and then Emmerson picked up the project more recently. Hopefully this proves useful for those continuing to work with this widely studied species.

Wilson, E.R., Murphy, K.J., and Wyeth, R.C. 2022. Ecological Review of the Ciona Species Complex. The Biological Bulletin. doi:10.1086/719476.


Congratulations to Alex Young, now alumnus from lab, working on his PhD at Dalhousie University. This project drew together work with Dan Jackson in Germany, as well as Roger Croll and Griffin Beach at Dalhousie University. Quite simply, we’ve (finally) solidified the evidence that the antibody used extensively to study putative dopaminergic neurons in gastropods for decades is in fact labelling what we think it is. Moreover, Alex has given an example of how switching to in situs will be important in future work studying the neuroanatomy of gastropods.

Young, A.P., Beach, G.A., Croll, R.P., Jackson, D.J., and Wyeth, R.C. 2022. Tyrosine hydroxylase messenger RNA corroborates protein localization in the nervous system of the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. Invertebrate Biology e12367. doi:10.1111/ivb.12367.

We are in the news!

Both applied research projects in the Wyeth Lab are in the news! Our collaboration with Graphene Innovation & Technologies, studying biofouling and fouling-release properties of non-toxic, graphene-based coatings for ship hulls got some coverage on the StFX News feed (linked to our recent funding success through the MITACS Accelerate program). Meanwhile, our work studying lobster responses to potential alternative baits was highlighted by Oceans North.

Elise Collet

My name is Elise Collet, and I am from Upper Kingsclear, New Brunswick. I am going into my fourth year at StFX with plans to graduate this year with an Honours in Biology and a minor in Psychology. I love all things nature and I particularly enjoy hiking and kayaking. I am fortunate to have had early research experience with the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick and volunteering on other projects. This summer I have been working on my Honours thesis research with Dr. David Garbary, looking at the ecological factors and population dynamics of black ash trees. In the fall, I am excited to start a directed study in the Wyeth Lab comparing paired trawls that form part of this year’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Fall Survey. Upon graduation, I hope to continue my studies in biology and eventually pursue a career in academia.  

Congratulations Ella!

The second successful MSc defense of the summer! Ella Maltby did a fantastic job presenting her work (to a huge Zoom audience) on contaminants in local lobsters and the potential for using behavioural bioassays to do future monitoring for contaminants in lobsters. Both were initiated as part of the effort to remediate Boat Harbour, and will inform future science helping to return it to its natural state. Thanks also to co-supervisor Jim Willliams, committee members Tony Walker and Ken Oakes, and external examiner Rita Mroz who helped guide her to this end point.

Gavin Hiltz

My name is Gavin Hiltz, I am from Pictou, Nova Scotia. I am going into my third year at StFX pursuing an honours degree in Biology with a minor in Mathematics. I assist with research on the lobster foraging project with Wyeth lab where we explore bait effectiveness and behavior of Homarus americanus. Eager to continue learning, I am very engaged and motivated to this project and hope to continue to work with Wyeth lab throughout my undergrad. I love all things biology; marine biology, ecology, mycology, and genetics being of greatest interest to me. Always willing to try new experiences and learn as much as I can with everything I do, I am very excited to see what the future holds with Dr. Wyeth and beyond.


Fig. 3

This one was a real team effort, with six different students contributing collectively to data collection, analysis and or manuscript prep. So, congrats to Amelia, Katerina, Ella, Michelle, Alexa, and Emmerson! The findings were really straight forward. We worked with We’koqma’q First Nation aquaculture, and tested the effectiveness of a various commercial options for non-toxic antifouling on aquaculture netting against the crazy mussel fouling that occurs at their site. We found little or no performance enhancement over standard (control) nylon netting. Done.

MacKenzie, A.F., Basque, K., Maltby, E.A., Hodgson, M., Nicholson, A., Wilson, E., Stuart, R., Smith-Palmer, T., and Wyeth, R.C. 2021. Effectiveness of several commercial non-toxic antifouling technologies for aquaculture netting at reducing mussel biofouling. Aquaculture 543: 736968. doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2021.736968.

Congratulations Areej!

Areej Alansari has defended her thesis, studying the navigation behaviour of the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. The short version is that she discovered that the snails can cope with quite a variety of flow conditions while seeking out odour sources. It’s taken a bit longer than planned because of hiccups from foreign relations and pandemic, but a fantastic achievement. Thanks also to commiteee members Jim Williams and John McKenna, and external examiner Tim Rawlings.

Way to go Areej!