Fall Update!

Although the summer field season has come to a close, The Gray Lab is in full swing with lab work! Tiffany has begun swim performance trials on her cichlids reared under turbid and clear conditions. Richard, Bethany, and Chelsey have begun work on MSP (microspectrophotometry), looking at the cones of African Cichlid fish eyes. Chelsey is also diligently writing as well as looking at historic Emerald Shiners dating back to the 1920’s. Shib and Jeremy are busy with classes and being Teaching Assistants! Taylor’s undergraduate project has been going great, she even has a few brooders in her turbid and clear tanks! Stay tuned for updates happening this fall and check out our Twitter!

New Gray Lab Publication!

We are excited to finally get to announce our newest lab publication, “Visual detection thresholds in two trophically distinct fishes are compromised in algal compared to sedimentary turbidity” in Conservation Physiology!

Over the past few summers, as part of my Ph.D. research, I have had the opportunity to work with undergraduates Andy Oppliger and Caroline McElwain on a project focusing on the visual sensitivity, or ability to determine contrast, of Lake Erie fishes. We were able to utilize the optokinetic response, or the innate response of fishes to follow a moving stimulus, to determine at what level of turbidity at which fish can no longer see. One of our goals was to determine the differences between the effects of sedimentary and algal turbidity on the visual sensitivity of Emerald Shiner and Walleye. We found that visual detection thresholds, or the point at which the fish can no longer see, were significantly lower in algal turbidity compared to sedimentary turbidity for both Walleye and Emerald Shiner.

Read the full article here:


Chelsey Nieman


Jeremy Evans- Ponds Project

This summer was the start of a new project in the Gray Lab. I am the Graduate student heading up this research and so far, I have been assisted by Christian Bower, Chris McMahon, Taylor Hrabak and Brynne Drohan. Our fieldwork consists of monitoring water quality, macroinvertebrate community structure, and the general condition of fish populations across a gradient of managed and unmanaged ponds. We spent our summer collecting data and water samples in the field for one week and then running tests on the water samples in the lab the following week. The data we collected this summer will provide a solid baseline for further studies looking at the effects of pond management on the resident fish populations.



Visual Ecology of Lake Erie Walleye with Andy Oppliger

My name is Andy Oppliger, I was fortunate enough to spend my summer at Stone Laboratory studying how turbidity (i.e. suspended particulates in the water column) alters the visual ecology of Lake Erie Walleye (Sander vitreus). The ability of an animal to distinguish between an object and its background (i.e. visual sensitivity) is expected to be altered by increasing turbidity due to both decreased light penetration and a change in the color of light underwater. My objective is to determine if varying turbidity types – algal or sedimentary – differentially influence visual sensitivities of adult Walleye. To determine how visual sensitivity is impacted by turbidity, an optomotor response apparatus was constructed (see photos below) to establish visual thresholds. This study contributes to our understanding of how Walleye populations may respond to changes in Lake Erie’s turbidity.



Meet our new PhD Student- Bethany Williams

This summer I had the opportunity to spend a pre-enrollment field season in Uganda to prepare for my PhD in the fall. Our field station was set on stunning Lake Nabugabo, nestled against a rural fishing village. Days on the station were spent driving or boating to swamps where we collected a species of cichlid, known in the lab as Blue-Lips (Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor). This cichlid is easily recognizable by its namesake bright-blue lips and ability to survive in various extreme conditions. While on station I ran behavioral experiments testing whether water turbidity affects female mate choice when given the option of a male from her population or a male from a population with differing turbidity. My PhD will investigate the physiological and behavioral traits used by this species to survive in stressful environments.



AFS Buckeye Student Subunit Passport to Fishing Event

Over the weekend, the Gray Lab helped out with a passport to fishing event hosted by Wade Hall at Cowan Lake State Park in Wilmington, OH. It was calling for storms, so there wasn’t a huge turnout, but the children that did come all got to go home with new fishing knowledge and new fishing poles so they can continue to fish in their free time! Topics discussed were fish habitat, knot tying and rigging, casting and fish handling, as well as some useful information about local fish species and fishing regulations. The kids had a blast and we learned a lot too! Can’t wait until we can host our own AFS student subunit Passport to Fishing event in the spring!  

Gray Lab Summer REU Student- Harrison

My name is Harrison Fried, and I am studying the effects of algal turbidity on the swimming performance of Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides) and Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas). Agricultural runoff leads to large amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen that enter the Lake Erie watershed, which can create massive algal blooms. Fine particles from the algae can enter the gills of fish and cause gill abrasion, making it difficult for the fish to respire. The swimming performance tunnel, as shown in pictures, is used to measure the critical swimming speed of a fish (the maximum speed that a fish can swim for a set period). The goal of my study is to determine whether swimming performance is different in algal blooms than in clear water.


13th International Congress on the Biology of Fish

Come out and see the Gray Lab if you are headed to the ICBF Conference this upcoming week! Dr. Suzanne Gray presents her research on the visual detection thresholds in walleye and their prey in algal and sedimentary turbidity in MacEwan Hall A on Tuesday, July 17th at 2:40 pm. Followed by Chelsey Nieman at 3:00 pm in MacEwan Hall A discussing her research on visual performance being impaired by elevated sedimentary and algal turbidity in Walleye (Sander vitreus) and Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides).  Tiffany Atkinson discusses the role of turbidity and diet on the reproduction traits of an African cichlid fish during her talk in the Bianca presentation room on Thursday, July 19th at 10 am. And lastly, Richard Oldham gives his talk on divergence in visual performance and morphology in an African cichlid found in divergent environments on Thursday, July 19th at 2:20 pm in the Bianca presentation room. Come out and listen!

Water Across the World 2018- A note from Tiffany

One of my favorite parts of visiting Uganda is getting to work with local primary schools with our Water Across the World project. This project aims to teach students the importance of wetlands, forests, and aquatic organisms, and the role they play in water quality. This year we worked closely with the students and teachers from both St. Hildegard Primary School and the Lake Nabugabo Community Learning Center. They were all very excited to have us back to explore their water sources. We have also arranged the program to continue throughout the year, not just while we are there doing our fieldwork. Our amazing field staff, Mutebi, Kiberu, Ssegoya, and Geoffrey, will be working with these schools frequently so that they can begin to compile longer-term data from their local water sources. Some of the data they collect include: temperature, flow, water color, turbidity, and aquatic macro-invertebrates. I hope that by engaging students in this experiential learning process, I might be able to inspire some to become future scientists!

-Tiffany Atkinson