data, we got it

We returned to active research in late June. Since then, progress has been truly outstanding. Five students (Rachel Webber, Megan Fraser, Lia Blackett, Laura Brady, Michelle Hodgson), working with 15 local have harvesters have collected 2500+ hours of underwater video of lobster foraging behaviours. Three students (Katherine Purvis [tech, actually!], Lexie Trevors, Allanique Hunter) have collected 4000+ images of biofouling for two studies, one a collaboration with Graphite Innovation & Technologies, and the other a new test of how ultraviolet light can be use for antifouling. Other fantastic work: hundreds of electrophysiological recordings of snail chemosensory responses (Carmen Ucciferri), neuroanatomy of both Lymnaea and Tritonia (Donica Larade), plus plenty of progress on manuscripts (Emmerson Wilson) and analysis and writing for MSc theses (Ella Maltby, Areej Alansari). Not much to say other than handing out massive kudos to the awesome group working in the Wyeth Lab this summer! Also, a special thanks to our Research Group at StFX for helping us get restarted, and our local community for keeping the pandemic situation manageable in our neighborhood.


A new first for the Wyeth Lab: a publication as a direct consequence of a conversation at the Canadian Society of Zoologists meeting.  We (Shelby Brown [Wyeth Lab alumn] and RCW) have helped out Laura Eliuk and Jillian Detwiler with some video analysis of snail behaviours.  The primary result: some interesting changes in how attractive one species of snail is to another species of snail, depending on whether the first snail is infected by a parasite that is also a parasite of the second snail!  As you might expect: the parasite seems to make the first host more attractive to the second host. The implication, thus, is host-behaviour modification via a chemical cue!  Looking forward to more productive work in this collaboration!

Eliuk, L.K., Brown, S., Wyeth, R.C., and Detwiler, J.T. 2020. Parasite-modified behaviour in non-trophic transmission: trematode parasitism increases the attraction between snail intermediate hosts. Can. J. Zool.: 417–424. doi:10.1139/cjz-2019-0251.

Zoom + Jamboard talks

Great work from everyone in the lab last week. Methods and more presentations, but not using PowerPoint. Instead, we used Zoom + Google Jamboard (because whiteboard options in Zoom and Teams had limitations). Mock deployments, presenting graphs or activity heat maps, and nervous system structure were all covered. It was a great way to delve deeper into our advance prep for lab and field work (and also thesis defenses). Forcing the use of just a few images and some simple drawing helps foster a bit more of a story-telling approach, and was great at helping to spot gaps in planning.

An Empty Lab Doesn’t Stop the WyethLab!

It’s that time of year again, when we both welcome new faces into the WyethLab and our field research projects really ramp up. Although the pandemic restrictions mean we haven’t yet been able to actually do any lab or field work yet, lots of preparation is still happening as everyone works remotely. This summer, 14 lab members are making great use of MS Teams and working together on several different projects:

And also an extra thank you to Chelsie Hall, project manager working behind the scenes to help keep things on the straight and narrow!

Funding – several times over

A number of events have occurred this past year: a federal election, a horrific plane accident, and a pandemic. A completely understandable side effect of these has been that that many research funding announcements have not been made. THAT means that the typical embargoes on publicizing the funding have effectively been extended indefinitely. However, these successes are important for the research we do, and particularly, for supporting the students who do so much of the work. So, although I cannot directly acknowledge the sources, I would like to announce…

A huge thank you to the great work by past students who have led up to this. Obviously, this does not compare to the larger events in the world, but the funding is going to make a huge difference for how 13 students spend their time this summer, and many others over coming years in the Wyeth Lab and elsewhere in the Biology Dept.


Alex Young has published his second article from his MSc.   While working to adapt flourescent in situ hybridization (FISH) methods to work with Lymnaea stagnalis, two things became apparent.  There’s a fair number of published protocols out there, and no one has consolidated all the variants in one location to help anyone in our position.  So, he decided to do it himself – adding in the expertise of Dan Jackson, we’ve put together exactly what the title says it is: a technical review and guide to RNA FISH.  Hopefully others looking to work with FISH for the first time or adapt an established protocol will find this helpful.

Young, A.P., Jackson, D.J., and Wyeth, R.C. 2020. A technical review and guide to RNA fluorescence in situ hybridization. PeerJ 8: e8806. PeerJ Inc. doi:10.7717/peerj.8806.

Congrats Aaron

Congratulations to Wyeth Lab alumn Aaron Cogger, accepted into the Master’s of Marine Management program at Dalhousie University. Aaron worked on a couple different lobster projects. First, with collaborator Jim Williams on juvenile-adult interactions, and then helping Ella Maltby with her MSc research on toxicology of lobsters. Aaron completed his undergraduate in the Aquatic Resources program at StFX and also an Eleuthera internship in the Bahamas before taking this next step in his career.

Wanted: research technician to help coordinate studies of environmentally-safe antifouling technologies.

We are seeking a research technician to work as part of the Centre for Biofouling Research.  Our fundamental and applied research program explores both marine biofouling (the growth of unwanted organisms on marine infrastructure) and novel low-toxicity approaches to antifouling (the mitigation of biofouling). The technician will help coordinate and participate in several ongoing research projects with respect to biofouling and environmentally-friendly antifouling. The technician will work under the supervision of Dr. Russell Wyeth, helping with many aspects of the CBR’s activities.  The technician’s primary role will be to support the successful completion of the projects, working with both the supervisor and students to plan lab and field work, undertake sampling, and, once completed, prepare oral and written communications about the various projects.  Administrative tasks in support of the supervisor will also be involved, as well as opportunities to engage with other active research projects.

This position is offered through the CleanTech Internships program, so more details and applications are available here: Environmentally-Safe Antifouling Research Technician

Wanted: PhD student to study lobster foraging behaviour

Are you interested in:

  • aquatic animal behaviour or fisheries biology?
  • foraging cues and adaptive social behaviours?
  • blending of basic research with practical,
    real-world relevance to real people? 

Do you want to build expertise in:

  • community collaboration with a diverse group of people?
  • ethological video capture and analysis?
  • bridging the gap between ecology and individual responses to stimuli?

In collaboration with Dr. Iain McGaw at Department of Ocean Sciences (DOS), Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), I am now accepting applications for a funded PhD student position to start September 1, 2020 (or earlier).

what actually happened

Kieran Murphy just tweeted out a great thread sharing more of the adventure (and misadventure) behind his MSc research. He did indeed find something “really quite important” and deserves a ton of credit! Check it out on twitter, or the full thread here.
[Thanks to Darius Kazemi’s spooler for helping to put thread together here in one place.]

A thread by Kieran Murphy

We got it done, my first publication😄

Thanks to the sea gods! 🧜‍♀️🧜‍♂️

A lot goes into all peer reviewed work, so here’s a thread about some of the fun stuff, the grunt work, and mess ups behind the clean-cut read about an invasive sea squirt in Nova Scotia (…)

The Hard Graft

Location, location, location!

We monitored an invasive sea squirt called the vase tunicate on the coast of Nova Scotia and tested if its variable abundance was related to water conditions (i.e. temperature, salinity and pH)


Settlement collectors!

To monitor sea squirts, one needs settlement collectors, many, many settlement collectors!


Trusty steed!

You need a solid vehicle (StFX Biology truck RIP) or many flashy rental cars to fill up with gear and to drive all around the coast of NS (approx 3,500 km) once a month from May to October in 2014 and 2015


Deploying equipment

Attach all of the settlement collectors and environmental data loggers to floating docks at 15 different field sites. Also return to photograph the settlement collector plates, upload data logger info and calibrate loggers

The lows

When I locked the car keys in the trunk

Yeah, it’s a trunk because I was in Canada ae!

Or when the data loggers got biofouled (ironic right?) or inexplicably corroded

P.S. copper wire and mesh are your friends to counter pesky data logger biofouling!

Or when one of your floating docks goes missing!!!

Don’t worry, there it is



Good times!

Holy moly, did I see some heckin good sunrises and sunsets though!

And what aboot that wildlife (terrestrial………..EWWW!)

Aquatic (at least partially)………..CUTE!

I lived in a winter wonderland (hell) for three whole winters!

Crazy fall colours 🍁🍁🍁

Fall = Autumn


More graft!

Looked at settlement plate images like this for days….weeks….no, months, counting how many critters were where and when

Got to work, no matter the conditions.

Nothing could keep me from grabbing a hot cup of filter coffee that’s been simmering on the hotplate for hours and counting those squares of sessile invertebrate filth

And at the end of the day, we discovered something quite important:

while temperature and salinity are good predictors of vase tunicate presences/absence distribution, they do not predict the abundance of the species very well

This could have important implications for the monitoring and distribution modelling of other sessile marine invertebrates

If you can’t access the paper, please just DM me for a copy

And don’t forget folks, always be sun🌞and sea🌊 safe!