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.
Grace Walls just jumped another hurdle towards her PhD, (easily!) passing her comprehensive exam. Kudos Grace!
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.
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.
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!
For the 2nd year in a row, our first full lab meeting of the summer research season had to happen remotely. Still, it was fun just to introduce the new students to the full group (all 17 of us, this year!). Hopefully our 3rd wave will be short like our first two, we we can shift rapidly to data collection – big plans and new ideas for the lobster foraging, marine biofouling, and gastropod neuroethology and neuroanatomy projects!
Fully eight years less a month or two, since we did the 3 weeks of data collection on this project! Special thanks are needed for David McRae, skipper of the Kuroshio, for providing fantastic support of the field work, Louis Gosselin who, after I presented our stalled work at BMSC, suggested the paired analysis that solved so many problems, and alumnus Theora Holden who did the vast bulk of the slug tracking work.
The end result? Evidence that strong rare-earth magnets cause more erratic crawling paths as Tritonia exsulans move towards the magnets (yes the name T. diomedea is no more). The effect of the magnets led us to a new hypothesis for how the slugs (and maybe other animals) use a magnetic sense. For animals with no or poor spatial references because of either their environment or constraints of their sensory system, they may use the Earth’s magnetic field to simply help them move in straight lines – keeping movements efficient by avoiding unnecessary meandering.
Wyeth, R.C., Holden, T., Jalala, H., and Murray, J.A. 2021. Rare-Earth Magnets Influence Movement Patterns of the Magnetically Sensitive Nudibranch Tritonia exsulans in Its Natural Habitat. The Biological Bulletin: 000–000. doi:10.1086/713663.
Well, it’s official: I am now Professor. I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of the promotion, but the news was circulated on Friday and the various notes of congratulations have been nice to receive. The best consequence, though, was the (complete) surprise Zoom call this morning with 18 current and former students (including some who I haven’t had a conversation with for a long time). It was just a quick call organized by Ella Maltby (true to form, the Wyeth Lab social organizer) and it was very cool to see everyone, even if briefly. It was such a surprise (nice work, Carmen, asking for technical help with Zoom!) that I was pretty flustered.
So this post is to do what I didn’t do very well in the Zoom call… A massive THANK YOU to all my students, current and past, whose enthusiasm, dedication, creativity, tolerance, etc etc. has helped me along the way as well as my family, department, and colleagues far and wide. Thank you, I couldn’t have done it alone.
This past weekend, two Wyeth Lab students presented their work at this year’s (virtual) Science Atlantic Aquaculture & Fisheries and Biology Conference. Carmen Ucciferri presented her poster on the electrophysiology of chemosensation in the pond snail Lymnaea (video presentation here). Lauren Sobot gave a talk (and won first prize in the Biology section!) on DNA cruciforms in Vibrio spp. (RCW is internal honours supervisor for Lauren, who worked with Nik Thomas at Dalhousie.) Great work from both of them!