Wyeth lab alumn Kieran Murphy has just published his first two peer-reviewed articles. The first documents his (massive) efforts during his MSc to survey both abundances of the invasive vase tunicate Ciona intestinalis and potentially corresponding environmental conditions. His goal was to test whether temperature, salinity, etc. could explain variations in the abundances of this species around Nova Scotia. The result? No clear links between abiotic conditions and population growth patterns, which has implications for predicting and managing the spread of this nuisance species. The second is an exciting new collaboration that developed as an offshoot from his MSc. Ping Ni from Aibin Zhan‘s group used Ciona collected by Kieran and his temperature data to discover temperature-linked epigenetic changes in an invasive species. Congrats to Kieran and Ping!
A huge thanks to Michelle, Areej and new volunteers Sarah and Sam. We wrapped up this year’s data collection on our biofouling and antifouling projects. Eight separate surveys spread across 3 sites meant an 11 hour day and trailer full of deployment frames by the end of it. Fantastic weather offset the stinkiness!
Projects are really starting to roll this summer…
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.
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.
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 S. mansoni 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
Not much more to say than… Wow! Check out the StFX News article on Alex Young‘s very impressive MSc. His work on the molecular genetics of gastropod sensory systems continues for a few more months this summer, in collaboration with Roger Croll now, as well as Dan Jackson.
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.
It’s been a really busy term for us, sharing our research with a variety of different audiences.
- Emmerson Wilson presented her directed studies work on testing antifouling options to reduce mussel growth on aquaculture nets (with Michelle Hodgson, Katerina Basque, and Amelia MacKenzie as equal co-authors) at no less than three places: the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia Seafarmers Conference, the Science Atlantic Environment Conference, and StFX student research day.
- Areej Alansari also presented her work on snail navigation behaviour at StFX student research day.
- RCW shared a whole smorgasborg of student research in the WyethLab at the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia Seafarmers Conference as well as departmental seminars at St. Mary’s University, Acadia University and the Ocean Sciences Centre at Memorial University.