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.


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.


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.

Presentations galore.

It’s been a really busy term for us, sharing our research with a variety of different audiences.

Emmerson and her poster

Lots of moral support for Areej before her talk!

A fun discussion: RCW and Dr. Christopher Byrne shared a special seminar on the scientific method: patterns, mechanisms, hypotheses, deduction, induction and more.

It was was great to have a packed audience for this event on Fri Jan 18, 2019 sponsored by the Office of the Associate Vice President Research and Graduate Studies. Our thanks to Dr. Richard Isnor.

Abstract: In a recent article, “Patterns vs. Causes and Surveys vs. Experiments: Teaching Scientific Thinking,” The American Biology Teacher 80 (2018), 203-23, Prof. R. Wyeth (Biology, StFX) and Prof. M. Wonham (Biology, Quest Univ.,Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre) argue that the hypothetical-deductive method is a tractable view of the modern scientific method as it provides the basic structure for students to conceptualize experimentalinquiry. By contrast, Prof. Byrne argues that the basic structure of experimental inquiry is inductive, rather than deductive, does not always require an hypothesis to be tested, and is not hypothetical in any interesting sense of this term. In this discussion, Professors Wyeth and Byrne will present their views on the place of the hypothetical-deductive method in modern experimental science. They will also consider the recent history of the hypothetical-deductive method, particularly its connection to Karl Popper,as well as its application to teaching the scientific method to university students. Given its subject matter, this talk should be of interest to all faculty and upper-level students in the experimental sciences, whether natural, social or medical.

And the outcome? Well, we both learned more about each other’s perspectives and we agree on many aspects of how science works and how the formal description of the hypothetical-deductive method (as laid out by Popper) doesn’t fit science very well at all. But there are points of contention, particularly with regard to exploratory science – where is the boundary with non scientific observation and do exploratory surveys have implicit hypotheses or not?

Congratulations to Alex Young – today was MSc thesis submission day!

Alex wrapped up all his revisions yesterday, and submitted his thesis today.

Expression Patterns of Neural-Specific Genes in the Pond Snail, Lymnaea stagnalis

Two and a bit years of hard work culminated in 5 total chapters – 3 of which are destined for publication. He used bioinformatics, quantitative PCR and in-situ hybridization to find patterns of gene expression, focusing on neurotransmitter-related genes in Lymnaea.  Congratulations Alex on a fantastic achievement. Next up for him: some more work wrapping up those publications, and then hopefully off to start a PhD.

A temporary farewell to Areej – back to Saudi Arabia with a thesis to write

Areej Alansari has gotten caught between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Canada.   She has to head home very soon.  Fortunately, she has just enough data collected for her MSc on snail navigation behaviour, so she can now focus on writing up the thesis from a distance.  We are all looking to give her as much support as possible so she can finish up her degree after investing so much into it over the last couple years.  It was a fun send-off party (for biologists).

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