Noah Ruscica

My name is Noah Ruscica and I’m from Aurora, Ontario and I just finished my first year at StFX pursuing an Honours in Biology with a minor in Chemistry! I am extremely excited to be working with the Wyeth Lab and cannot wait to develop and strengthen all my skills throughout this summer, and hopefully many more. As a member of the Gastropod Neuroanatomy team, I will be studying the nervous system of pond snails and performing electrophysiological experiments with the goal of gaining insight on how this organism’s behaviour is influenced by its sensory organs. With my true passion of understanding and learning more about the crossover between the central sciences, this project presents the perfect opportunity for me to develop, demonstrate and learn new and interesting skills that will benefit me in both my research and academic fields!

Kristyn Boutilier

My name is Kristyn Boutilier and I am from Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I recently graduated from StFX in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with Distinction. I’m excited to begin my second summer working with the Wyeth Lab on the biofouling project; doing research on environmentally friendly antifouling treatments for marine vessels. I love spending time outside and near the ocean, and I’m very interested in pursuing a future research career in marine biology or ecology. Working with the Wyeth lab has given me the amazing opportunity to learn and experience research in a hands-on setting, and I’m very grateful for the insight into future career paths it has provided.

Integrative Aquatic Chemosensory Biology Graduate Student Position Available

Interested in aquatic animal behaviour or integrative fields such as neuroecology or neuroethology?

Interested in building expertise at more than one level of inquiry in biology, from field studies, through behavioural experiments, neurophysiology and microscopy, to gene expression and bioinformatics?

Dr. Russell Wyeth in the Biology Department at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) is accepting applications for an MSc student position to start January 1, 2023 (or earlier).


Biofouling Graduate Student Position Available


Are you interested in developing technology that supports coastal communities? Are you interested in sustainable solutions to global economic challenges? Would you like to collaborate with a diverse group of specialists toward a common goal?

The Canadian federal government has invested in the development of sustainable anti-biofouling technology through the provision of an NSERC Alliance Missions grant for a partnership of Atlantic Canadian academic researchers and industry. Researchers at Cape Breton University have partnered with teams at Dalhousie University, St. Francis Xavier University, and Memorial University of Newfoundland Grenfell Campus to form a multi-institutional research network to coordinate graduate training, research outcomes and deliverables, intellectual property development, and market translation of novel sustainable marine coatings. We are collectively recruiting three graduate students who will work synergistically towards our overall goals. More information on the overall partnership is here.

The fully funded graduate position in the Wyeth Lab is focused on experimental approaches for evaluating anti-biofouling activity during high-throughput and field testing of coatings and/or UV-C irradiation. The candidate will be registered in a Master of Science program at St. Francis Xavier University and will interact with the Center for Biofouling Research, but also participate in the multi- institutional team including some travel to do experimental work at Cape Breton University. The target start date for this project is January 1, 2023.

Read more: Biofouling Graduate Student Position Available

For questions regarding the Wyeth Lab graduate project research please contact Dr. Russell Wyeth at

Submitting an Application

NEW Deadline for Submissions: June 17, 2022

Please submit a cover letter and a résumé or curriculum vitae detailing your experience and any peer-reviewed publications, an unofficial transcript, a writing sample (for example, your undergraduate thesis or other relevant work), and a statement of interest indicating the project(s) that you are interested in to (note the underscore) using the subject “Graduate Opportunities”. For works with multiple authors please indicate your specific contributions.  

We invite applications from all eligible applicants, with preference given to Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Applicants from under-represented groups, including women, visible minorities, transgender individuals, those with disabilities, etc., may choose to identify themselves in their correspondence.

Outstanding, Ella Maltby!

Ella Maltby has received the St. Francis Xavier University Outstanding Graduate Research Award! Ella finished her MSc in fall 2021, and her research has been judged to be the top graduate work of the year. Here’s an excerpt from her nomination package:

Maltby’s thesis plays a crucially significant role in the science that will surround the complicated historical, societal, economic, and political issues related to Boat Harbour, its remediation, and the knock-on effects in both the fishing and forestry industries. Maltby’s first chapter surveyed contaminants at three different sites in Northumberland Strait, across three different age classes of lobsters.  Maltby found that overall, contaminant levels were low across the three sites and all age classes.  The only contaminant of concern was Arsenic, which, as has been found in a range of studies of both marine and terrestrial studies, tends to be elevated in and around Nova Scotia, linked to our underlying geology. Any future assessments of the effects of remediation of Boat Harbour will rely on Maltby’s baseline study as a comparison prior to remediation or prior to effluent release.

Maltby’s second chapter reports the first attempt at developing a behavioural bioassay for lobster.  Maltby found effects of the common contaminant Cadmium on several aspects of behaviour.  This proof of principle supports the notion that such behavioural bioassays could be used for future testing of pollutant effects on lobsters.  On the other hand, the relatively subtle behaviour effects combined with some effects on mortality, suggest that behaviours are relatively robust to the toxic effects of Cadmium at least, and thus there is a relatively narrow window in which behavioural effects could be detected before the pollutant becomes lethal. 

Congrats again Ella!


Photo by M Gerhartz

Congratulations to Emmerson Wilson and Kieran Murphy for this review of the ecology of Ciona. Four closely related species have been recently recognized, but no one had fully parsed out how all the past studies of ecology apply to the different species. About 8 years ago, Kieran began this process as part of his MSc, and then Emmerson picked up the project more recently. Hopefully this proves useful for those continuing to work with this widely studied species.

Wilson, E.R., Murphy, K.J., and Wyeth, R.C. 2022. Ecological Review of the Ciona Species Complex. The Biological Bulletin. doi:10.1086/719476.


Congratulations to Alex Young, now alumnus from lab, working on his PhD at Dalhousie University. This project drew together work with Dan Jackson in Germany, as well as Roger Croll and Griffin Beach at Dalhousie University. Quite simply, we’ve (finally) solidified the evidence that the antibody used extensively to study putative dopaminergic neurons in gastropods for decades is in fact labelling what we think it is. Moreover, Alex has given an example of how switching to in situs will be important in future work studying the neuroanatomy of gastropods.

Young, A.P., Beach, G.A., Croll, R.P., Jackson, D.J., and Wyeth, R.C. 2022. Tyrosine hydroxylase messenger RNA corroborates protein localization in the nervous system of the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. Invertebrate Biology e12367. doi:10.1111/ivb.12367.

We are in the news!

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.

Elise Collet

My name is Elise Collet, and I am from Upper Kingsclear, New Brunswick. I am going into my fourth year at StFX with plans to graduate this year with an Honours in Biology and a minor in Psychology. I love all things nature and I particularly enjoy hiking and kayaking. I am fortunate to have had early research experience with the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick and volunteering on other projects. This summer I have been working on my Honours thesis research with Dr. David Garbary, looking at the ecological factors and population dynamics of black ash trees. In the fall, I am excited to start a directed study in the Wyeth Lab comparing paired trawls that form part of this year’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Fall Survey. Upon graduation, I hope to continue my studies in biology and eventually pursue a career in academia.