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!
Congratulations 2021 Graduates
A huge set of congratulations to Michelle Hodgson, Laura Brady, Ally Hunter, Lia Blackett, Lauren Sobot, Donica Larade, and Carmen Ucciferri, who all just graduated! A massive achievement to be proud of, especially given the disruptions of the pandemic over the last 12+ months.
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.
promotion and a surprise
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.
Lauren and Carmen at Science Atlantic
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!
Job Posting: Wastewater Monitoring Technician
The Biology Department at St. Francis Xavier University (Antigonish, Nova Scotia) is seeking a research technician to conduct weekly monitoring of pathogens in wastewater. As part of a province-wide project with several Nova Scotian universities, we will be applying a newly developed protocol that effectively and safely detects specific pathogens in wastewater. All work will be conducted in Antigonish, an on-the-job training for the sampling and measurement protocols will be provided.
Review of applications will begin Jan 4, 2021
This was a collaboration led by Jim Williams and his students Megan Fraser and Tyler Winsor. And it is the first ever botanical study RCW been part of. With our analysis and stats help, they showed that sediment from Boat Harbour that predates its conversion into an industrial waste treatment lagoon can effectively support the growth of both cord grass and eel grass. These are promising results for the planned restoration of Boat Harbour (or A’se’k to give its Mi’kmaq name) once the industrial sediment layer has been removed.
Megan R. Fraser, Tyler Winsor, Jim Williams, Russell C. Wyeth, and David J. Garbary. Assessing the viability of pre-industrial sediment prior to remediation using primary producer (Zostera marina and Spartina alterniflora) growth and survival. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. e-First doi: 10.1139/cjfas-2019-0415
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.