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Old 04-26-2015, 02:45 AM   #1
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Internship- Lobster parasites!

This isn't entirely aquaria related, but I like to think that the aquarium hobby is a part of the greater picture in marine science. Aquarists are some of the best amateur scientists in the world, as we have to integrate multiple levels of biology and chemistry in order to maintain our plants and animals, and we are constantly observing those plants and animals and learning things that often inspire scientific research. And most of the aquarists I have met are very interested in learning more science! So here, have some!

I wanted to share some information about the internship I just received for the summer, working at my university. It was recently found that there's a parasite that infects green crabs (an invasive species) off the coast of Maine that can also infect lobsters. This parasite's definitive host is seagulls, but it uses crustaceans as intermediate hosts (basically a stopover until that crustacean ends up in the belly of a gull).

We're gonna be researching that parasite in lobsters- it may even be linked to the mysterious lobster shell disease.

Some fun aspects of this: One of my fellow undergraduate interns has the glorious job of literally scaring the poop out of seagulls. When they're frightened and trying to take off fast, they poop to lose weight and escape faster. The poop contains the parasite, so he has to go scare seagulls and collect the poop. Isn't science wonderful?

I'm more of a lab rat, so I'll be doing a lot of running different analysis on samples from lobsters with the parasite- looking at gene expression in the lobsters infected by the parasite and such. Without going into too much detail, there's certain things you'd expect to see as far as how the lobster responds to the parasite on the cellular level- different RNAs coding for proteins that are involved in fighting the parasite- and we'll be looking for those kinds of things. We'll probably have tanks full of lobsters for this part. (Aquaria related, check!)

It's gonna be awesome, and it's also going to be paying for my existence over the summer so that I can continue to work on my thesis on discus! If you've got any questions (about the lobster stuff or my discus thesis) I'll try to answer them! Hope ya'll found this interesting!
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Old 04-26-2015, 02:51 AM   #2
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Old 04-26-2015, 09:58 AM   #3
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Very cool! Good luck! I know I'd be the one guy who would have to scare the poop out of seagulls.
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Old 04-26-2015, 05:53 PM   #4
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Very cool! Good luck! I know I'd be the one guy who would have to scare the poop out of seagulls.
Lol, I'm good friends with the guy who has to do it, he's actually looking forward to it. Sure scraping up bird poop sucks, but getting to scare birds for science is hilarious, and you get to be outside in the summer on the coast of Maine. Hard to beat that!

Plus, imagine putting that on your resume as lab experience; "Pippetting, PCR analysis, DNA extraction, scaring the poop out of birds..."
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Old 04-26-2015, 06:19 PM   #5
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I personally enjoy scaring birds, I chase pigeons like a 5 year old haha. Will the lobsters be wild caught?
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Old 04-26-2015, 06:34 PM   #6
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I personally enjoy scaring birds, I chase pigeons like a 5 year old haha. Will the lobsters be wild caught?
I believe so. A lot of the reason for this research is that lobsterman have been using green crab as cheap and readily available bait, so the parasite might be infecting wild lobsters through that and lobsterman want answers about it. Plus lobster aquaculture hasn't advanced far enough to even make a dent in the Maine lobster fishery- which is fine by me, since it's one of the most sustainable (one of the ONLY sustainable) fisheries in the world.
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Old 04-26-2015, 06:50 PM   #7
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I believe so. A lot of the reason for this research is that lobsterman have been using green crab as cheap and readily available bait, so the parasite might be infecting wild lobsters through that and lobsterman want answers about it. Plus lobster aquaculture hasn't advanced far enough to even make a dent in the Maine lobster fishery- which is fine by me, since it's one of the most sustainable (one of the ONLY sustainable) fisheries in the world.
Good point, my friend.

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Old 04-26-2015, 06:54 PM   #8
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Yep, don't feel guilty eating Maine lobster. It's one of the best-managed fisheries in the world. In fact, it's so well-managed that recently there's been a glut of them, so eat MORE Maine lobster
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Old 04-26-2015, 06:58 PM   #9
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If anyone wants to know more about it, I highly recommend the book "The Secret Life of Lobsters". It's about the biology of lobsters, the history of Maine lobster fishing, and how scientists and lobstermen have worked with each other to best take care of the lobster population. I had to read it for my Marine Policy class, and it was prettymuch the only part of that class I liked. If anyone is really interested I'll even personally mail you my copy
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Old 04-26-2015, 07:09 PM   #10
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Im down for a good read.

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