Carmen Ucciferri

My name is Carmen Ucciferri and I am from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I am going into my second year at StFX University, with the hopes of graduating with a Joint Honors in Biology and Math. I was always interested in participating in some type of research before I was done my undergraduate degree, and so this summer, I decided to become a part of the Wyeth Lab and to take on the task of studying the behavioural response to predator odours in the species of snail Lymnea stagnalis. I will be testing the snail’s responses in both flow and no flow condition using crayfish, which are a natural predator to this species of snail. While snails may not sound very exciting to some, I can’t wait to spend the summer working with them to further understand their behaviour!

Meaghan MacDonald

My name is Meaghan MacDonald, I am entering my third year at StFX and working towards completing a BSc in biology with a math minor. This is my first summer on the research team and I will be working on testing antifouling treatments in the Bras D’or lakes. I am from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and grew up spending my summers by the ocean. I am excited that I can still enjoy spending time on the water through research. After my undergrad I plan to attend grad school with a focus in the medical field.

Meg Davies

I am a second year student, originally from Caledon Ontario, working towards my BSc in Biology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. I have embarked on a journey to become a veterinarian.  I enjoy sciences and since a young age I have been passionate about animals. In previous summers I have volunteered with Rowland Mobile Veterinary Services and Southdown Animal Clinic, both in Ontario. This summer I am studying behavioral toxicology in the American Lobster. I’ll be working as a research assistant with Ella Maltby on this project. Along with animals, my interests include the performing arts. Whether it be playing a musical instrument, singing, participating in the dramatic arts or dance, I have experienced and enjoyed it all.

Publication!

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 Smansoni 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

Publication!

Image credits: Ian F. Smith, James A. Murray, Rhanor Gillette, Tom Kennedy, Coen Adema and Matthew Meier

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.

Presentations galore.

It’s been a really busy term for us, sharing our research with a variety of different audiences.

Emmerson and her poster

Lots of moral support for Areej before her talk!

Rachel Webber

I graduated from Oregon State University with B.S. degrees in wildlife science and psychology, interested in animal cognition and using wildlife behaviors to help solve conservation problems. I’ve worked on projects with wild rodents, mule deer, elk, tree swallows, violet-green swallows, captive gray wolves, drafting a Conservation Efforts Assessment Plan, and investigating canine understanding of probability.

 I have also worked for the US Forest Service as a summer wildlife technician for two seasons, USGS and BLM as a feral horse and burro research technician, and contracted with the Oregon Department of Forestry as a marbled murrelet surveyor. I was accepted into the StFX Biology MSc program, and will be investigating lobster bait preferences and behavior around food sources. After I complete my master’s degree, I hope to move on to a Ph.D. in wildlife behavior and conservation.

A fun discussion: RCW and Dr. Christopher Byrne shared a special seminar on the scientific method: patterns, mechanisms, hypotheses, deduction, induction and more.

It was was great to have a packed audience for this event on Fri Jan 18, 2019 sponsored by the Office of the Associate Vice President Research and Graduate Studies. Our thanks to Dr. Richard Isnor.

Abstract: In a recent article, “Patterns vs. Causes and Surveys vs. Experiments: Teaching Scientific Thinking,” The American Biology Teacher 80 (2018), 203-23, Prof. R. Wyeth (Biology, StFX) and Prof. M. Wonham (Biology, Quest Univ.,Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre) argue that the hypothetical-deductive method is a tractable view of the modern scientific method as it provides the basic structure for students to conceptualize experimentalinquiry. By contrast, Prof. Byrne argues that the basic structure of experimental inquiry is inductive, rather than deductive, does not always require an hypothesis to be tested, and is not hypothetical in any interesting sense of this term. In this discussion, Professors Wyeth and Byrne will present their views on the place of the hypothetical-deductive method in modern experimental science. They will also consider the recent history of the hypothetical-deductive method, particularly its connection to Karl Popper,as well as its application to teaching the scientific method to university students. Given its subject matter, this talk should be of interest to all faculty and upper-level students in the experimental sciences, whether natural, social or medical.

And the outcome? Well, we both learned more about each other’s perspectives and we agree on many aspects of how science works and how the formal description of the hypothetical-deductive method (as laid out by Popper) doesn’t fit science very well at all. But there are points of contention, particularly with regard to exploratory science – where is the boundary with non scientific observation and do exploratory surveys have implicit hypotheses or not?