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.
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.
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!
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!
Our very own Dr. Gray was awarded the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching so CFAES interviewed her. Check out her interview here to find out more about her!
Congratulations to Richard Oldham who just had his first paper accepted in Current Zoology, “Behavioral differences within and among populations of an African cichlid found in divergent and extreme environments”. Richard performed this experiment as an undergraduate Research with Distinction project with The Gray Lab and The Pintor Lab!